Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Irwin, W R

(1915-1996) US academic whose The Game of the Impossible: A Rhetoric of Fantasy (1976) usefully but narrowly defines Fantasy as "a story based on and controlled by an overt violation of what is generally accepted as possibility". Because of his emphasis upon an "overt" agreement between writer and reader that this "violation" must be gamelike (> Agon), his definition of fantasy cannot encompass, and indeed clearly excludes, most Secondary-World texts; the narrowness of the remit limits the practical use of such a formulation. In this, WRI's vision of fantasy performs the same limited though salutary function as Darko Suvin's definition of sf as "cognitive estrangement". [JC]

William Robert Irwin


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.