Category Archives: Books

Top Ten Fantasy Titles

[Last semester my colleague Matt Sangster challenged me to list my top ten fantasy titles (or, to be precise, my top ten works of fantasy literature written in the English language in the twentieth century). I’ve tried this exercise before, and the … Continue reading

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Utopia, Laughter and Reformation: Erasmus, More and Rastell

For some time now I’ve been thinking about writing a book about English comic fiction and the Reformation – no doubt one of those many lost books that will never get finished. It’s an odd combination, certainly: a religious crisis … Continue reading

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Mervyn Peake and the Poetics of Piracy

[This is the text of a keynote I gave recently at a terrific conference in Edinburgh, ‘Deeper than Swords: Fear and Loathing in Fantasy and Folklore’. It’s also a rough sketch, I hope, for something larger. Warm thanks to Anahit … Continue reading

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Marlowe’s Ghost: The Second Report of Doctor John Faustus (1592)

[This essay was first published in Airy Nothings: Imagining the Otherworld of Faerie from the Middle Ages to the Age of Reason: Essays in Honour of Alasdair A. MacDonald, eds. Karin E. Olsen & Jan R. Veenstra (Leiden: Brill, 2014), 1-24. … Continue reading

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Frances Hardinge, Fly by Night

[This post contains many spoilers. Sorry.] Can we count as fantasy those texts in which nothing impossible actually happens? There are plenty of books in the fantasy section of my mental library about which this could be said: G K … Continue reading

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Inward Exile in Frances Browne’s Granny’s Wonderful Chair (1856)

Frances Browne (1816-1879) is a writer I’d like to know much more about. Born the daughter of the Postmaster of Stranorlar in Donegal, known in her lifetime as the ‘Blind Poetess of Ulster’, she made herself a voyager of the … Continue reading

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W. W. Tarn, The Treasure of the Isle of Mist

Here’s a charming oddity: a children’s book published in 1919, written before the outbreak of the Great War by the celebrated classical scholar Sir William Woodthorpe Tarn for the entertainment of his only daughter. In later life his daughter became … Continue reading

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Kazuo Ishiguro, The Buried Giant

Different readers have had different experiences of The Buried Giant (2015), some finding it too crude an allegory, others enraged by its refusal to tell a straight story, still others engrossed and moved by its account of married love and … Continue reading

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Michael Levy and Farah Mendlesohn, Children’s Fantasy Literature: An Introduction

In their new book Michael Levy and Farah Mendlesohn have provided a crucial road map to the rapidly expanding territory of children’s fantasy fiction from the nineteenth century to the present. It’s easy to underestimate the importance of an ‘introduction’ … Continue reading

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Fantasies of Complicity in the Second World War

This essay was first published in the Edinburgh Companion to Twentieth-Century British and American War Literature, ed. Adam Piette and Mark Rawlinson (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012), pp. 516-23. After the bombing of Guernica in April 1937, many novelists of the … Continue reading

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