Fantasy

The history of fantasy in the realm of children’s literature has been one of forceful contradictions: on the one hand, fantasy is criticized as being fraudulent, irrational, and overly imaginative; on the other, it is criticized for being formulaic, escapist, and not imaginative enough. The seeds of this debate lie in early uses of the word, which seem to have little to do with literature per se, but nevertheless powerfully influenced the activity of imagination over centuries. Fantasy’s potency in relation to children’s literature reflects its potency in relation to literature in general: it takes us into the heart of story-making—imagination and reason.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the origin of the word “fantasy” lies in the Greek word fautasia, literally “a making visible,” “to make visible,” or “to show.” It begins its career in English as both “fantasy” and “fancy” (derived from its …

This essay may be found on page 79 of the printed volume.

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