Macquarie University
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Negotiating selfhood: historical societies and identity in young adult fantasy fiction

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posted on 2022-03-28, 14:10 authored by Olivia Catherine Hartley
Fantasy literature has occupied an ambivalent position in literary criticism. Hunt describes it as having been either enthusiastically defended or seriously rejected. One of the most derided genres of fantasy is that of 'sword and sorcery', alternatively labelled 'high', 'immersive' or 'marvellous' fantasy; the genre is criticised for the nostalgia apparently typified by its 'historical' or 'pseudo-mediaeval' setting. This thesis seeks to re-examine 'immersive' fantasy that utilises pseudo-mediaeval settings through three modern young adult texts: Finnikin of the rock by Melina Marchetta, Rebel spring by Morgan Rhodes, and Touch of power by Maria Snyder. Of particular interest is the implicit claim that 'immersive fantasy' lacks sophistication and that the pseudo-historical setting is simply an expression of nostalgia rather than representative of any greater textual significance. Focussing particularly on the 'medieval' constructions of gender and class within the fantasy society, the thesis aims to demonstrate the way that these fantasy texts utilise historical motifs in order to articulate models of agentic subjectivity to their young adult readers. In doing so the thesis will attempt to contribute to the literary discussion of fantasy and further suggest the need for the re-examination and re-entry of 'immersive' or 'high' fantasy into critical discussion through examining the implications pseudo-historical settings have for the way that the genre models the construction of identity and the subject's interaction with society.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- Chapter 1. Mimesis without reality : the nature of 'historical otherworld' fantasy -- Chapter 2. Damsels, lords, knights and ladies : writing historical genders in 'otherworld' fantasy fiction -- Chapter 3. Serfs and lords : class systems and struggles in young adult 'historical otherworld' fantasy fiction -- Chapter 4. The rebel rises : developing agentic selfhoods in 'historical otherworld' fantasy -- Conclusion.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 54-56

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


MRes, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of English

Department, Centre or School

Department of English

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Victoria Flanagan

Additional Supervisor 1

A. (Antonina) Harbus

Additional Supervisor 2

Robyn McCallum


Copyright Olivia Catherine Hartkey 2014. Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource (iv, 56 pages)

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