Fantasy: Perspective, Plausibility, or Play?

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SUMMARY and COMMENTARY on Zipes, J. (2009). Why fantasy matters too much. The Journal of Aesthetic Education, 43(2), 77-91.

I’ve heard a narrator describe fantasy as “the plausible impossible” in Disney films.  This phrase provides a logical explanation for the draw and popularity of the fantasy genre among teens (Koelling, 2007, as found in Cart, 2011, p. 98).

Zipes’s discussion (2009) about the exaggerated significance of fantasy is also logical and includes reasonable points, as follows:  Fantasy is a form of commoditized speculation about social conditions (p. 77), sold to audiences and possibly dumbed-down (Anderson, as found in Shoemaker, 2004 and cited in Zipes, p. 89).  Fantasy is based in “understanding . . . reality” but contests it (Zipes, p. 78).  It has evolved from “utopian wishes” in classical fairytales (p. 78), to reflections on postmodern collapses of desirable social and cultural conditions (p. 86), to cautionary dystopian tales (pp. 87-89).  Zipes also discusses irony and imagination, presenting examples of fantastical works by Peter Sis (p. 84) and Neil Gaiman (pp. 85-86).  The article, however, suggests an imbalanced view of fantasy as a showground for socioeconomic commentary (p. 89) and predictions which are increasingly viscous and disturbing.  This is one level on which the genre can and should be explored.

Zipes’s discussion is missing the potential for fantasy to also provide a sprightlier level of fun and refreshment.  Just as dreams can, fantastic fiction can “reorganize . . . cognitive repertoire” (Hobson, 2002, location 1236) and produce plain-and-simple fascination, inspiration, or amusement.  Pierce comments, “Fantasy . . . is the pure stuff of wonder” (1993, as found in Cart, 2011, p. 102).

For further thought and discussion, consider Ursula K. Le Guin’s speech wherein she chides Amazon for trying to punish a publisher of science fiction and fantasy (Dwyer, November 20, 2014) and Mem Fox’s interest in “the beautiful possibilities and riotous excitement that literature can provide” (n.d.).


Cart, M. (2011). Young adult literature: From romance to realism. Chicago, IL: American Library Association.

Dwyer, C. (2014, November 20). Book news: Ursula K. Le Guin steals the show at the National Book Awards. The two-way: Breaking news from NPR. Washington, DC: NPR [National Public Radio]. Retrieved from

Fox, M. (n.d.) Learning from learning. Retrieved on November 21, 2014 from Mem Fox: Writing, teaching, learning, loving, living [website] at

Hobson, J. A. (2002, 2005). Dreaming [‘A Very Short Introduction’ edition]. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press; New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Zipes, J. (2009). Why fantasy matters too much. The Journal of Aesthetic Education, 43(2), 77-91.

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