Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

A delusion leads a person to believe the world is other than it is. Delusions may arise spontaneously or may be induced; the imposition of delusions is a standard trick of literary and stage hypnotism (see Mesmerism). Delusory spells used by Femmes Fatales to attract victims may be subsumed under the heading of Glamour. Delusions are akin to Dreams, but delusional fantasies and Visionary Fantasies have quite different effects. Whereas visionary fantasies frequently leave the realm of the real far behind, delusional fantasies remain anchored to reality. The juxtaposition of mundanity and delusion is used to dramatize the limitations of the former and the vaulting optimism or misfortunate treachery of the latter; for this reason delusional tales resist classification as works of fantasy.

The archetypal delusional fantasy is Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote (1605-1615), which assaults the ideals of Chivalry. Notable modern delusional fantasies include The Man with the Black Feather (1904) by Gaston Leroux, The Return of Don Quixote (1927) by G K Chesterton, Mr Blettsworthy on Rampole Island (1928) by H G Wells and Nile Gold (1929) by John Knittel (1891-1970). A rich tradition of cinematic delusional fantasies extends from Harvey (1950) through The Ruling Class (1972) and The Fisher King (1991) to Don Juan DeMarco (1995).

Psychoanalytic literature is less rich in accounts of delusion than anecdotal wisdom supposes, but its concerns are reflected in numerous fictitious case-studies. Robert Lindner's "The Jet-Propelled Couch" (1955) and Rona Jaffe's Mazes and Monsters (1981) are examples in which imaginative fiction is charged with generating delusions. [BS]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.