The Influence Of Rowling And Tolkien On Fantasy Genre

To classify under what genre a literary work fits means to state exactly the formal and thematic features of the work and to choose a relevant genre label. It seems to be easy. Probably, it is so because the definition supposes there is acertain set of rules given for each genre as well as a set of distinct features easily observed in every literary work. However, in practice, there are no clear-cut boundaries in literary genres or art in general. Categories and definitions are fluid and merge together. No work of art originates from a perfectly clean mind because nobody is a pure tabula rasa. The same system of interconnections works between author’s experience and existing art works and given structures and patterns of the genres. It is natural to react to those elements in some way. And the effect of the interaction is a new work of art. The results of this genre confusion can be seen in the bookshops – the useless effort to bring order into the shelves. Apart from the practical selling and marketing categories, such as new books or bestsellers, the books are organized according to their content (e.g. Horror stories, science fiction), or the target audience (e.g. books for children, women). This thesis deals with the vague sphere of genre classification as well.

Its significant part is formed by a genre analysis. The genres discussed are romance, fantasy and novel, and their connection to two works of popular literature – J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and J. R. R. Tolkien’s trilogy The Lord of the Rings. The theoretical part of the thesis focus on the definition of a term ‘genre’; then it covers brief summaries of definitions, typical features, and history of the relevant genres – formulaic literature, romance, fantasy, and novel. It also mentions the theoretical background of fairy stories given by Tolkien’s essay ‘On Fairy-Stories’ which is of great importance here. The analysis itself concerns both formal and thematic features of Harry Potter books and The Lord of the Rings, and their relationship to the theoretical genres mentioned above.

Due to the recent popularity of the fantasy genre, the literary qualities of both works are often discussed in terms both of form and content. Judging according to the structural features of the works, they are among novels. However, in the novelistic tradition they stand for a low brow branch because of the schematic plot, flat characters and unoriginal motifs. In light of high-brow and low-brow literature, the literary fiction vs. genre fiction distinction is also relevant here. Some of the research questions discussed in this thesis are: Is there any widely accepted definition of the fantasy genre? Is fantasy genre only a form of a low-brow popular literature, or a part of literature for children design to entertain the audience, stressing the moral message and leaving no enduring imprint in reader’s emotional development? Do the characteristic features of fantasy place the genre in the novelistic or pre-novelistic literary tradition? Does fantasy literature have something to say for the future as well or is it already a worn-out genre? The comparative method is used for dealing with the topic - particular features of the fantasy genre will be compared with formulaic types of literary works and features of the novel.

The thesis deals with Tolkien’s and Rowling’s works predominantly in terms of formal analysis. However, the works are considered to be a part of popular culture which is to a great extent shaped by its audience; therefore the possible impact of this aspect and their position within a cult fiction will be briefly taken into account. The Lord of the Rings has become one of the key books which teachers and librarians recommend to young adults to lead them towards adult literature; but it was not always so. The making of the book was a series of accidents, and, once published, young people insisted on reading it despite the hostility of literary critics and some educationalists, and the then difficulty of obtaining all three installments in the right order.

Professor J.R.R. Tolkien made up the story of The Hobbit for his children, without intending to publish it. While Tolkien was advising the publishers George Allen and Unwin on a translation of the Old English poem Beowulf, an editor read The Hobbit in manuscript and recommended it for publication. Tolkien had not even written the final chapters. After The Hobbit was successfully published in 1937, Stanley Unwin, Tolkien's publisher, asked him for a sequel. After beginning a supposed companion piece for children, Tolkien's creativity led him on an unexpected journey. 

16 August 2021
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