Theseus’s infidelity, Phaedra’s jealousy
Racine’s Phaedra is infamous for her forbidden desire for her stepson Hippolytus, and for her jealousy when learning that he loves Aricia, the daughter of her husband’s arch-enemy (and brother). Imputed to her by Destiny as punishment, both the taboo love and the extreme jealousy are mythological themes. But at the same time, Racine gives them a psychological dimension: Phaedra has constantly been the victim of Theseus’s infidelity, and seems to experience his son’s resolute rejection of her overtures as an extension, or prolongation, of the King’s indifferent and faithless behaviour towards her. Even this behaviour, however, has a psychological as well as a mythological dimension in Racine’s tragedy, reflecting the jansenist view of sexual lust as fundamentally sinful, and therefore painful.
The custom of panegyrics was deeply embedded in the ceremonial culture of absolutist Denmark–Norway in the eighteenth century, including the world of print. Submissive praise of royals and people of higher rank flourished in dedications framing all kinds of publications, even the new spectator journals of the 1740s. But there was often more to these texts than conventional praise of a sovereign king. What can they tell us about social norms, literature, politics and the developing public sphere in eighteenth-century Denmark–Norway? This article explores the complex textual, social and political functioning of panegyrics by focusing on one particular spectator journal, La Spectatrice danoise, published by the young Frenchman Laurent de la Beaumelle in Copenhagen in the period 1748 to 1750. The journal is interesting because of its dedications, but also because it signals changes in the structure of the public sphere, experimenting in horizontal debate about literary, social and moral questions, making the rhetoric of panegyrics itself one of its favourite subjects.
Building Blocks to an Expanded Understanding of Fantasy
The current academic understanding of fantasy literature is lacking and suffers from a poorly developed concept of fantasy as a genre. Individual works and aspects of fantasy have been discussed, but the genre itself has largely evaded debate. This article is an attempt to provide an approach to fantasy as a popular genre and the foundation needed to discuss the genre. By regarding the modern fantasy genre as a product of different currents within the genre, certain developments can be highlighted, particularly a plurality of expression and an emerging ironic self-reflection. A genre aesthetic emphasises the popular aspect of the genre and the immersion it requires from the reader. A reading of Steven Erikson’s Toll the Hounds shows a genre which has developed metafictional traits. This self-reflective parody of the genre also legitimises it, by showing that modern fantasy is establishing an expression independent of the likes of J. R. R. Tolkien or Robert Howard. It indicates a need to revalue our understanding of the genre.