Thursday, 28 November 2013

ABC blog: F

See previous entries A B C D  E

F is for fantaseme. I am sure you have never seen the word. Don't google it because you will get all kinds of weird stuff. When I coined it in my PhD thesis, published as The Magic Code, I hoped it would become as established as mytheme, which I modelled it on. It didn't. And yet the book has sold 2,000 copies, and still today, after twenty-five years, I get requests from people all over the world to help them get a copy.

A fantaseme is the smallest identifiable element that makes fantasy what it is. A portal between the real and the magical world is a fantaseme. A magical ring that makes you invisible is a fantaseme. The Psammead is a fantaseme. The clock that strikes thirteen in Tom's Midnight Garden is a fantaseme. I cannot imagine why it didn't stick when it is so useful.

When I wrote my thesis, fantasy was more straightforward than today, and it was easier to identify and classify fantasemes and examine how they work. Yes I think the framework would still be helpful if you are interested in the structure of texts and in the characteristics of a genre.

F is also for food, that alongside death is the most pervasive topic in children's literature. I wrote extensively about food in my book From Mythic to Linear, but few colleagues outside Sweden know that I have also co-authored a whole book on food in children's literature, looking at various genres and kinds and contemplating what food was doing there. Since then there have been many studies of food in children's books, and I am looking forward to a student writing her doctoral thesis on the subject. 

Magical food is, by the way, a fantaseme. 

Ill. Ernest Shepard

1 comment:

- Mie - said...

Don't worry Maria, I use your term Fantaseme all the time in my papers and teaching :) It will happen!