Portals of Power

Magical Agency and Transformation in Literary Fantasy

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About the Book

Fantasy writing, like literature in general, provides a powerful vehicle for challenging the status quo. Via symbolism, imagery and supernaturalism, fantasy constructs secondary-world narratives that both mirror and critique the political paradigms of our own world. This critical work explores the role of the portal in fantasy, investigating the ways in which magical nexus points and movement between worlds are used to illustrate real-world power dynamics, especially those impacting women and children. Through an examination of high and low fantasy, fairy tales, children’s literature, the Gothic, and science fiction, the portal is identified as a living being, place or magical object of profound metaphorical and cultural significance.

About the Author(s)

Lori M. Campbell is a lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Pittsburgh, where she teaches courses on nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature.

Bibliographic Details

Lori M. Campbell. Series Editors Donald E. Palumbo and C.W. Sullivan III
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 226
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2010
pISBN: 978-0-7864-4645-2
eISBN: 978-0-7864-5655-0
Imprint: McFarland
Series: Critical Explorations in Science Fiction and Fantasy

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vi

Preface      1

Introduction      5

PART I

Women and Other Magical Creatures: Portals in Romance and Fairy Tale


1. Who “Wears the Pants” in Faërie? The Woman Question in William Morris’s The Wood Beyond the World      23

2. “For I am but a girl”: The Problem of Female Power in Ford Madox Ford’s The Brown Owl      44

PART II

Charms, Places, and Little Girls: Portals in Children’s Literature


3. E. Nesbit and the Magic Word: Empowering Child and Woman in Real-World Fantasy      63

4. Lost Boys to Men: Romanticism and the Magic of the Female Imagination in J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan and Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden      82

PART III

Haunted Houses and the Hidden Self: Portals in the Gothic, Low Fantasy, and Science Fiction


5. Confronting Chaos at the In-Between: William Hope Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland      103

6. The Society Insider/Outsider and the Sympathetic Supernatural in Fantastic Tales by Edith Wharton and Oscar Wilde      120

PART IV

Haunting History: The Portal in Modern/Postmodern Fantasy


7. One World to Rule Them All: The Un-Making and Re-Making of the Symbolic Portal in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings      143

8. Harry Potter and the Ultimate In-Between: J.K. Rowling’s Portals of Power      163

9. Portals Between Then and Now: Susan Cooper, Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones, Neil Gaiman, and Jonathan Stroud      183

Chaper Notes      203

Bibliography      205

Index      213