Department or Program



Tzvetan Todorov’s theory of the The Fantastic systematizes fantastic literature, binding it within a moment of hesitation. Todorov argues that when a seemingly supernatural event, object, or being enters a narrative, readers must decide whether this is to be explained by natural laws or not. Only before this decision is reached does the text sustain the fantastic; otherwise it falls into the categories of the marvelous or the uncanny. Yet the fantastic and the uncanny inherently contain tensions that play out best on a spectrum of ordinariness rather than separated by the strict boundaries in which Todorov places them. These tensions between uncertainty and closure break and reform boundaries between internal self and external self, between the fantastic mind of the reader and authorial words. The thesis, by examining the narratives of Kleist, Hoffmann, Gotthelf, Hauptmann, Hawthorne, Tieck, Chamisso, Márquez, and Banville, challenges Todorov’s restrictive terms to explain the fantastic and the uncanny and require it to conform to a genre. The critical writings of Freud, Adorno, Cavell, Jackson, Royle, Todorov, Frye, Chaouli, Kermode, and Foucault are queried and analyzed. Narratological explanations concerning uncertainty, boundaries, textual and readerly perceptions, and distortions function to clarify how or why the fantastic or the uncanny should be assigned or to judge when either of the two terms transcends the ordinary without breaking from it or remains a mere projection of it.

Level of Access

Open Access

Date of Graduation

Spring 5-2012

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf file

Open Access

Available to all.