Negotiating genre: magic, ecology and sexual violence in contemporary Australian fantasy fiction

Laurie Ormond

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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[Truncated abstract] This thesis considers the ways in which contemporary fantasy fiction involves genre-specific reading strategies in complex negotiations between a privileged originality and an authorising tradition of mythic narrative which is re-imagined, without historical context, as “Story”. Fantasy fiction draws upon notions of what is appropriate to its genre in order to negotiate the roles of non-human nature and the role of magically empowered female protagonists in the fantasy narrative. The text’s sense of what is appropriate and specific to genre often masks the more powerful and insidious expectations of contemporary popular culture.

The thesis applies its analysis of the operations of genre to a critique of the didactic and ideological practices of contemporary Australian fantasy fiction. It considers, in separate chapters, how the theme of magical power is deployed in representations of non-human nature and in representations of sexual violence. Magical power is a convention of the genre that changes over time and yet remains a recognisable marker of genre, offering a site for critical examination of generic practices of writing and reading. This inquiry into the ideology of magical power in fantasy fiction is also organised around a critical investigation of the genre’s representations of ecology and sexual violence. The thesis examines representations of the relationship between humans and non-human nature in Alison Croggon’s four-part The Books of Pellinor (2002-2008). It also examines Sara Douglass’s Wayfarer Redemption sextet (1995–1999) and its accompanying trilogy DarkGlass Mountain (2007–2010). Douglass’s work both offers and simultaneously retreats from a critique of the way in which the epic fantasy narrative depends upon the victimisation of its female protagonists. Fiona McIntosh’s Trinity, The Quickening, Percheron and Valisar series (2001-2010), complement my study of Douglass and allow me to analyse further connections between women’s experiences of magic and sexual violence in contemporary fantasy.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2011


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