• History and Precarity: Glen Cook and the Rise of Picaresque Epic Fantasy

    Author(s):
    Dennis Wise (see profile)
    Date:
    2019
    Group(s):
    Speculative and Science Fiction
    Subject(s):
    Fantasy literature, History
    Item Type:
    Article
    Tag(s):
    picaresque, epic fantasy, grimdark
    Permanent URL:
    http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/v25v-xw42
    Abstract:
    This article argues that Glen Cook’s The Instrumentalities of the Night seeks to drain epic fantasy of its characteristic “totality,” a concept first theorized by György Lukács. Cook accomplishes this by blending the epic fantasy structure with a picaresque plot. The Black Company books had already attempted to fracture totality through their unique first-person narrative framing device, but this experiment, I argue, only partially succeeds. By applying the picaresque, however, a literature of precarity, Cook achieves a vision of history and historical change as fraught with chance, accident, and randomness—a radical Heraclitean flux. While the series captures totality after a fashion, this totality comes emptied of larger epic meaning. In this regard, Instrumentalities bears some striking resemblances to Lyotard’s famous incredulity toward master narratives, but a low humanism better describes Cook’s approach. In the end, Cook’s experimental picaresque epic fantasy articulates an anthropocentric storyworld without metaphysical legitimations for human action.
    Metadata:
    Published as:
    Journal article    
    Status:
    Published
    Last Updated:
    3 years ago
    License:
    All Rights Reserved

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