A Perspective on the Unfamiliar: Epic Fantasy in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire
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This dissertation is an examination of George R.R. Martin’s ongoing book series A Song of Ice and Fire (1996 - ) and how its polyphonic narrative questions several of the conventions within the epic fantasy genre. This portrays the difficulties the genre has had in defining itself since its conception, while also indicating that this debate is far from over. The foundation for this suggestion is based on Mikhail Bakhtin’s text "The Epic and Novel" (1941). Bakhtin’s terms will be used to explain how Martin’s narrative questions several of the structures found in epic fantasy, by the use of a high amount of varied and interacting perspectives. This will be compared to how the conventions in epic fantasy imply a dominant and authoritative portrayal of linear storyline. J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings (1954-55) will be used as an example of an epic fantasy text that inhabits these structures. It starts by looking into how the modern fantasy genre has evolved since its conception in the mid twentieth century and how this created a highly debated field of study. Looking closer at epic fantasy today, one can see that this debate is still highly relevant. The focus on formulaic structures is still emphasized within this subgenre, which are the structures that Martin’s series deviates from. The theoretical focus in this essay will be on John Clute’s definition of fantasy and especially the functions that define the structures found within such texts. To create a full picture of the epic fantasy genre today, other theorists will be included to provide a sound definition of the important conventions that are still used. These theorists include: Brian Attebery, Brian Stableford, Farah Mendlesohn, among others. After establishing a foundation for recent and accepted theory regarding epic fantasy, the rest of the discussion will show how Martin’s use of multiple interacting and diverse perspectives refuses to be bound into such strict structures.