‘Are you a fan of fantasy fiction? Or are you simply curious as to why the fantastic can be found all around us in the twenty-first century, from video games and films to poetry, songs, television, novel series, and so-called ‘mainstream’ fiction? This programme allows you to engage with one of the most vibrant literary genres of the last two centuries – and a major cultural phenomenon of our time.’
The MLitt in Fantasy at the University of Glasgow was founded in 2015 by Dr Rob Maslen, and dedicates itself to the study of one of the most vibrant literary genres of the last two centuries, whose presence has become ubiquitous in film, television, video games, songs and comics as well as in the literary ‘mainstream’.
The need for such a programme became apparent as interest in the area grew among students, scholars and fans across the world. An undergraduate course at Glasgow called ‘The Fantastic History of the Twentieth Century’ has been popular for about a decade; the number of graduates writing PhDs on fantasy-related topics has risen steeply; applicants to the creative writing programme have increasingly focussed their attention on varieties of the fantastic, from secondary world fantasies to Gothic horror and magic realism. More and more people, including prominent academics, have confessed to spending their time reading the work of Terry Pratchett, J. K. Rowling, Anne Rice and Frances Hardinge, or to watching The Lord of the Rings, Once upon a Time, movies set in the Marvel Comics Universe, and Game of Thrones. It began to seem no less than irresponsible not to investigate what is attracting us in such large numbers to the art of the impossible: films, stories and other media that depict what could never happen.
The MLitt programme concentrates on fantasy fiction from the revolutionary era of the late eighteenth century to the present. The questions we ask ourselves are these: what is it that impels writers to represent the world in terms of impossibilities – things that could never happen, creatures that could never exist, lands and worlds that defy the laws of physics and biology as we know them? What would happen to your view of the past if you were to consider it through the lens of the fantastic – if you were to read fantasy as telling us something crucial about the time in which it was written? What would a fantastic history of the world look like? Or, to put it more simply: what is it with elves and dragons?