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Sympathy for the Orcs: Evil in Urban Fantasy

Sympathy for the Orcs: Evil in Urban Fantasy

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Title: Sympathy for the Orcs: Evil in Urban Fantasy
Author: Ashton, Cassandra
Abstract: This dissertation argues that urban fantasyfantasy set in citieshas a more nuanced conception of evil than high fantasy, which favours pastoral settings, and which was heavily influenced by the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Tolkien wrote his Lord of the Rings trilogy in part as a critique of the effect of industrialism on the English countryside and on human lives in general. His work has been so influential that the effect has been an anti-urban tradition in high fantasy, and his portrayal of absolute good versus absolute evil has carried forward into many other fantasy works. The factors that create compelling and satisfying stories do not necessarily reflect or shed light on human behaviour, and it is useful to be able to distinguish what Robert Ellwood calls moral evil and mythical evil, and to understand when each is being deployed, to what end.
The urban fantasy genre arose in the early 1980s, and derives from its setting a greater level of comfort with multiplicity, uncertainty, and ambiguity. In short, the urban setting itself affects how evil is portrayed. This argument is supported with close reading and content analysis of twenty-four novels by four authors of urban fantasy: Charles de Lint, Mercedes Lackey, Kelley Armstrong, and China Miville. My analysis asks about the nature and source of evil in each text, the values that are associated with evil and set in opposition to it, the texts handling of moral and mythical evil, and the role of the urban landscape.
Subject: Modern literature
Keywords: Literature
20th century literature
21st century literature
Fantastic literature
Fantasy literature
High fantasy
Urban fantasy
Evil in fiction
Cities in fiction
Worldbuilding in fantasy
Narrative constitution
Cultural studies
Charles de Lint (author)
Mercedes Lackey (author)
Kelley Armstrong (author)
China Miéville (author)
China Miville (author)
Type: Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Rights: Author owns copyright, except where explicitly noted. Please contact the author directly with licensing requests.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10315/34976
Supervisor: Weiss, Allan
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Program: Humanities
Exam date: 2018-01-05
Publish on: 2018-08-27

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