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From East to West

The Portrayal of Nature in British Fantasy and its Projection in Ursula K. Le Guin’s Western American "Earthsea"


Martin Simonson and Jon Alkorta Martiartu

The portrayal of nature in the genre of fantasy fiction, from the Middle Ages to more modern times, has been conditioned by the diverging social, political and historical contexts. This book seeks to disclose how the natural world has been depicted within this genre during different periods, drawing a comparison between the British tradition of fantasy literature and Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea cycle. Le Guin adheres to the general traits of the genre up to a point, but as a woman of the 20th century living in the American West, her works also deviate from the received tradition in many significant ways.

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II Edwardian Reconfigurations of the Poetics of Nature and Fantasy


The Victorian fin de siècle was crucial as a catalyst for the complex marriage between the celebration of the natural world and literary versions of fairy stories that would shape so much of the fantasy literature written in the twentieth century. In Britain, the emphasis falls on an Englishness with roots that lie in the country, not the city, and a desire to rekindle wonder and explore Otherness in a familiar setting just around the corner—which, after a deeper scrutiny, turns out to be awe-inspiring and hold the essential and primal stuff of which myths are made.

The late Victorian and the Edwardian periods were in many ways a confusing and contradictory moment in history, as so many are. The Edwardian times used to be seen as a period of perpetual golden summers and garden parties, in which Siegfried Sassoon would spend leisurely hours playing golf or, in moments of greater zest, hunt foxes, while the Stephen sisters, later known as Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell, would receive brilliant intellectuals in their home in Bloomsbury, and Kenneth Grahame would retire from his public office as the Secretary of the Bank of England to his Oxfordshire cottage, finally enjoying the adult version of countryside bliss he had written so much about in his books for children.

However, from the 1960’s on, this picture of the times was contested, notably by historians like Samuel Hynes, who in his influential 1968 study The Edwardian Turn of Mind...

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