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Urban fantasy: Theorising an emergent literary subgenre

Mannolini-Winwood, Sarai (2016) Urban fantasy: Theorising an emergent literary subgenre. Masters by Research thesis, Murdoch University.

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Fantasy literature in the 1980s underwent a revisionist change, which resulted in the emergence of a number of subgenres that challenged the dominant Tolkien model of fantasy writing. One such subgenre, which continues in popularity today, is urban fantasy (UF). UF is distinguished by real-world urban settings unsettled by the presence of the supernatural and the non-rational. The exemplary writers in this genre are Emma Bull (War for the Oaks, 1987), China Mieville (King Rat, 1998) as well as Laurell K. Hamilton (in her prolific series: Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter), Patricia Briggs (Mercy Thompson Series) and Suzanne McLeod ( Series), among others. The classification of UF has predominantly been commercial or industry-based, with little critical or theoretical evaluation undertaken to define or establish its parameters. Within a limited frame of reference this thesis aims to fulfil a twofold purpose: first, to explore the evolution of UF from its roots in fantasy, urban realism and other antecedent genres so as to better establish its inherited characteristics; and, second, to offer a classificatory framework that identifies the distinctive elements of UF’s thematic concerns and protagonists. An exploration of UF highlights that it is a unique subgenre that comments on our inherent fears and anxieties of contemporary urban life. Furthermore, UF draws attention to culture’s disturbing fascination with the brutal, monstrous, facets of human life and, as a femalecentric subgenre, challenges us to rethink our received perceptions of the female hero.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Research)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Arts
Supervisor(s): Mishra, Vijay and Surma, Anne
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