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Fantasy and Global Cities, 1830-1930

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Organizer: Klaudia Lee

Co-Organizer: Sharin Schroeder

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Despite the claims of critics such as Rosemary Jackson and Stephen Prickett that modern fantasy is, in part, a reaction to industrialization, few projects have explored nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century fantasies’ engagement with the urban, and fewer still have attempted to address the intertwinement of fantasy and the city across cultures.


In this seminar, we hope to open a new line of inquiry in the study of fantasy and the city by focusing on the various ways in which the fantastic allowed writers to imagine, re-imagine and critique the urban condition across cultures from 1830–1930, a period that witnessed an enhanced global connectedness due to wars, advancement in technologies of transportation and communication, and other socio-economic initiatives. We seek to re-map the literary-cultural landscape of the period by choosing a timeframe that allows scholars to move beyond traditional Anglo-American periodization and framework of analyses. By emphasizing cross-cultural and interdisciplinary approaches to the study of literary texts that were produced, read and circulated in different socio-cultural and historical contexts, we seek to expand our understanding of fantasy, or the fantastic mode, in different literary traditions while at the same time rigorously examining the intersection between fantasy and the city.


Contributions should explore the relationship between cities and fantasy across cultures, investigating how fantastic literature can put different cities in conversation—in metaphorical, physical or symbolic terms. Presenters may consider how writers make use of the fantastic mode to confront new urban realities, or to negotiate their sense of (cultural) identity in the ever-changing metropolitan spaces. Other questions that they can consider include the following:
  • How did fantasy, or the fantastic mode, shape, mediate, and imagine the urban form and the city across cultures?

  • How did the fantastic imagine or project alternative cityscapes, or express perilous or liminal states of existence?

  • How was the fantastic used as a strategy in literary texts that seek to critique inequalities or injustices in modernizing and increasingly multicultural cities?

  • In what ways was fantasy that addressed the urban condition used to maintain the status quo or to hold onto a romanticized past?

  • How did the urban fantastic contribute to constructions of national or transnational identities?

  • How might the fantastic be read as a form of resistance against imperial rule, or as a response to new urban conditions in colonial cities?

  • How did writers invoke the mythic and the fantasized characters from their own literary and cultural tradition when representing or negotiating urban spaces?

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