The Fantastic Sublime

Romanticism and Transcendence in Nineteenth-Century Children's Fantasy Literature

by David Sandner


Examines the ways in which Romanticism took part in the revolution of the view of fantasy literature, arguing that nineteenth-century children's fantasy cultivated a new image of children and the role of imagination.

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Cover image for The Fantastic Sublime

November 1996


Pages 168
Volumes 1
Size 5 1/2x8 1/4
Topics The Arts/General
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Many Victorian and Edwardian fantasy stories began as extemporaneous oral tales told for the delight of children and, like Alice in Wonderland and The Wind in the Willows, were written down by chance. These fanciful stories, told with child-like spontaneity, are analyzed here to argue their role in the revolution not only of children's literature, but of the general conception of childhood. In contrast to the traditional moral tales of the 18th century that were written with the express purpose of instructing children how to become adults, this literature that Sandner identifies as the fantastic sublime reveled in the imagination and the enjoyment of reading. By looking at the structure of the Romantic sublime and inventing and exploring the structure of the fantastic sublime, this work offers a completely new way to examine 19th-century children's fantasy literature, and perhaps, fantastic literature in general.

The study begins with a look at works by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, focusing on the 18th-century view of childhood and fantasy. This book expands on the notion that English Romanticism played a significant role in preparing adults to accept fantasy literature for children. Connections are made to the works of Kenneth Grahame, George MacDonald, and Christina Rossetti.

Table of Contents

Romanticism, Childhood, Fairy Tales and the World of the SpiritPuer Aeternus, the Divine Child"Old" Fairy Tales and the "New" Romantic ChildThe Moral Tale and the Fairy TaleThe Consubstantial World of FaeryThe Wind from Beyond the WorldThe "Correspondent Breeze"From the Romantic to the Fantastic SublimeThe Fantastic Sublime in Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the WillowsThe Fantastic Sublime in George MacDonald's At the Back of the North WindChristina Rossetti's Goblin Market and the Feminine Rereading of the Fantastic SublimeThe Price of Fairy Fruit in Goblin MarketThe Domesticated Sublime in FrankensteinThe Imagination Unbound in Goblin MarketDifference and Common GroundBibliographyIndex



Using close analysis of texts from George Macdonald, Kenneth Grahame, and Christina Rossetti, Sandner makes a compelling argument for the connections between Romanticism and children's literature...This is a worthwhile addition to any library collection with an emphasis on children's literature and its criticism.— Choice

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