Mastering the Game of Thrones

Essays on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire


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About the Book

George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series is a worldwide phenomenon, and the world of Westeros has seen multiple adaptations, from HBO’s acclaimed television series to graphic novels, console games and orchestral soundtracks. This collection of new essays investigates what makes this world so popular, and why the novels and television series are being taught in university classrooms as genre-defining works within the American fantasy tradition. This volume represents the first sustained scholarly treatment of George R.R. Martin’s groundbreaking work, and includes writing by experts involved in the production of the HBO show. The contributors investigate a number of compelling areas, including the mystery of the shape-shifting wargs, the conflict between religions, the origins of the Dothraki language and the sex lives of knights. The significance of fan cultures and their adaptations is also discussed.

About the Author(s)

Jes Battis is an associate professor of English at the University of Regina. His teaching and research focus on intersections between fantasy and sexuality as they occur across a number of historical periods, including the middle ages and the eighteenth century. He is also the author of the Occult Special Investigator series, with Ace Books.

Susan Johnston is an associate professor of English at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada, where her courses include George R.R. Martin, J.K. Rowling, and literary historiography and theory.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Jes Battis and Susan Johnston

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 308
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliographies, index
Copyright Date: 2015
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9631-0
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1962-0
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi

A Note on Editions ix

Introduction: On Knowing Nothing (Susan Johnston and Jes Battis) 1

Language and Narration

The Languages of Ice and Fire (David J. Peterson) 15

“Sing for your little life”: Story, Discourse and Character (Marc Napolitano) 35

What Maesters Knew: Narrating Knowing (Brian Cowlishaw) 57


“Just songs in the end”: Historical Discourses in Shakespeare and Martin (Jessica Walker) 71

Dividing Lines: Frederick Jackson Turner’s Western Frontier and George R.R. Martin’s Northern Wall (Michail Zontos) 92


“All men must serve”: Religion and Free Will from the Seven to the Faceless Men (Ryan Mitchell Wittingslow) 113

“Silk ribbons tied around a sword”: Knighthood and the Chivalric Virtues in Westeros (Charles H. Hackney) 132


Cursed Womb, Bulging Thighs and Bald Scalp: George R.R. Martin’s Grotesque Queen (Karin Gresham) 151

“A thousand bloodstained hands”: The Malleability of Flesh and Identity (Beth Kozinsky) 170

A Thousand Westerosi Plateaus: Wargs, Wolves and Ways of Being (T.A. Leederman) 189


Sex and the Citadel: Adapting Same Sex Desire from Martin’s Westeros to HBO’s Bedrooms (David C. Nel) 205

Beyond the Pale? Craster and the Pathological Reproduction of Houses in Westeros (D. Marcel DeCoste) 225


The Hand of the Artist: Fan Art in the Martinverse (Andrew Howe) 243

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies”: Transmedia Textuality and the Flows of Adaptation (Zoë Shacklock) 262

About the Contributors 281

Index 285

Book Reviews & Awards

“Battis and Johnston have assembled a volume that stands on its own both as rigorous criticism and as an accessible way for rabid fans to lose themselves in Westeros all over again…recommended”—Library Journal