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Magic as a Tool of Social Construction: Cultural and Gender Identity in Contemporary Fantasy

Contemporary fantasy is a genre that exists outside the boundaries of what consensus society constructs as socially normative. It re-appropriates and subverts facets of reality in order to place the reader in a position from which they can re-assess their own socially constructed identities, perspectives, and assumptions. Fantasy accomplishes this goal by expressing the familiar in a mode of hyper-exaggeration designed to highlight the ways in which the ideals and issues are constructed. In this way fantasy questions and critiques reality. This thesis examines how the contemporary fantasy genre uses magic as a tool to highlight the less visible social forces of reality such that the reader can gain insight into how and why social norms come to be established, as well as how they might be changed. It discusses the presentation of conflicting cultural and gender identities within fantasy worlds. Works by Brandon Sanderson, Robert Jordan, Jim Butcher, Peter V. Brett, and Patrick Rothfuss will be drawn on. By looking to the magic of the world as a focusing lens, these social conflicts and differences become clearer. The discussions undertaken in this thesis demonstrate an approach to contemporary fantasy literature that can be further utilised across a multitude of subgenres and social issues of contemporary reality.
Type of thesis
Elder, M. J. (2015). Magic as a Tool of Social Construction: Cultural and Gender Identity in Contemporary Fantasy (Thesis, Master of Arts (MA)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/9364
University of Waikato
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