initial 'R' eligious and mythological paintings, as well as those based on purely literary subjects, may have major elements of unreality; and yet because we accept them as conventional ways of embodying conventionally accessible ideas, we do not focus our attention upon their ontological status. For example, we do not react importantly to the potentially fantastic elements in Veronese's Mars and Venus United by Love in large part because we recognize both that mythological figures are a Renaissance painterly convention and that this particular image provides the artist with a culturally accepted way to make a statement about the way that love and fertility prevent conflict. This example suggests that fantastic art, art which is created to be perceived as fantastic, works under the great difficulty of employing conventions relied upon by nonfantastic art and yet it must in some crucial way appear as improbable or bizarre- in other words, as unconventional. Since the signals that artists use to inform the audience that a work is to be taken as fantastic themselves become conventions, they are always in danger of failing to achieve their intended effect, which is to stimulate in the reader that sense of wonder at encountering something delightfully or fearfully strange. One common response which is made by artist as different as Caldecott, Griset, Potter, and Sime, is to emphasize the element of whimsy.

From George P. Landow, "And the World Became Strange: Realms of Literary Fantasy", The Georgia Review 33 (Spring 1979): 10.


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Last modified: 12 October 2002