Negotiating the real : culture and fantastical fiction, 1843-1973
This dissertation examines the growth and practice of two distinct reading techniques, with reference to fantastical fiction from і 843 to 1973. While acknowledging that specific reading practices are not exclusive to particular groups or individuals, it is proposed, broadly, that readers fall into two categories: those who tend to be distanced from the text and approach it analytically; those who tend to embrace the text and immerse themselves in its narrative. These two groups, critical readers and experience readers, have their reading habits determined by basic philosophical assumptions. One aim of the dissertation is to explore the link between this division and divisions within the literary hierarchy, articulating a methodology/typology of reading. Criticism of texts in this dissertation involves discussion of the above hypothesis, assessing the value assigned to literary works by each group of reader and considering how the texts themselves investigate the hypothesis. Various theories and critical concepts are engaged with, including those of Marxist aesthetics, psychoanalysis, liberal humanism, cultural studies, and postmodernism. The aim is to demonstrate the practice of both reading techniques and to draw conclusions concerning their respective psychological and social significance. The dissertation argues that fantastical fiction is often a site of interaction between such binary opposites as realism/fantasy, high/popular, ideas/escape, and polemic/amusing. The struggle between these opposites may provide a dialectic of ''critical'" and ''experience" reading.