Phantasmagoria; Collected Essays on the Nature of Fantasy and Horror Literature
Author Roger C. Schlobin
Dr. Roger C. Schlobin is a retired Professor Emeritus of Purdue Universty, among other credits. He has written six scholarly works and edited over fifty, including “The Literature of Fantasy: a Comprehensive, Annotated Bibliography of Modern Fantasy Fiction” (1979). The essays in this self-published collection span over thirty years of his career. “The original purpose of this collection”, he says in the Preface, “was to publish it with a prestigious university press as a study of the invaluable place that secondary, archetypal characters hold in literature. However, teaching four classes of first-year writing a semester stalled my research in 2006. The working bibliography is published here in an appendix for someone, hopefully, to build upon. Then, retirement and back surgery made the tedious steps of publishing with a university press superfluous.”
These essays have been published previously in such scholarly reviews and books as “Survey of Modern Fantasy Literature”, “J. R. R. Tolkien and His Literary Resonances: Views of Middle-earth”, and “The Celebration of the Fantastic: Selected Papers from the Tenth International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts”. Sample titles are “The Irrelevancy of Setting”, “Prototypic Horror: The Book of Job”, and “In Search of Solitude: The Fascination with Evil”.
“Phantasmagoria” is divided into four broad sections. The centerpiece is “Secondary Characters”; the study of the hero’s “spear carriers” in fantasy literature. Schlobin breaks this down into seven types: the Nixie or supernatural sprite such as Shakespeare’s Puck, especially in the fantasies of Thomas Burnett Swann; the Femivore such as Don Juan (“… he infatuates and seduces women and leaves them berift of spiritual and often physical life.”), who is sometimes the hero himself; the Fool; the Artisan; the Shaman; The Double: Toad and Mr. Hyde; and the Sidekick. Schlobin’s “Secondary Characters: Working Bibliography to 2006” runs 13 pages.
Other sections are “General”, which is a catchall (presumably Schlobin meant this to include all of his essays which he considered significant that were not published elsewhere), “Settings”, and “Horror”. His “Children of a Darker God: A Taxonomy of Deep Horror Fiction and Film and Their Mass Popularity” is an analysis of horror movies more than literature.
This collection is meant for the academic scholar rather than for the average reader. Schlobin has studied modern fantasy (including science-fiction, which is a subset of fantasy) from when it was considered to be “trash literature” by most academic scholars, and his considerable expertise shows. Authors cited include Poul Anderson, Ray Bradbury, Robert E. Howard, Stephen King, C. S. Lewis, Andre Norton, Roger Zelazny, and others. Each essay has an extensive Notes and/or Works Cited.
This 290-page collection is published in a large 8 ½” X 11” format. There are both trade paperback and Kindle editions. This is a recommended purchase for academic libraries and for teachers of classes of science-fiction.