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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Presentation Details

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Fantasy and Terrorism

Ken Gelder.

This paper will look at Tolkein's 'Lord of the Rings' (the novel and the recent films) and the Philip Pullman Dark Materials trilogy in the context of prevailing discourses about global terrorism. It sees fantasy as a terroristic genre: concerned with global alliances and moral universalism; spectacular, nostalgic for a non-porous space (middle earth), always nervous. yearning for and in endless deferral of 'the end'; configuring evil as both remote and proximate, as over there (somewhere) and already here. The paper looks at New Zealand as an emblem of middle earth, a post-S11 Oxford, a fantasised non-terroristic space; at New York's twin towers and Tolkein's two towers; and at fantasy's interest in both the forging of global alliances (a 'coalition of the willing'...) and an 'heretical' mode of unilateralism. In this respect, it argues that fantasy is more 'real' than, say, literature (or literary fiction), which reduces terrorism to a matter of ethics.


Ken Gelder  (Australia)
Reader in English
Department of English
University of Melbourne

Ken Gelder is a Reader in English at the University of Melbourne. His books include 'Reading the Vampire' (1994) and, with Jane M. Jacobs, 'Uncanny Australia: Sacredness and Identity in a Postcolonial Nation' (1998). He is editor of 'The Horror Reader' (2000) and co-editor of 'The Subcultures Reader' (1997), both published by Routledge.

  • Ffantasy
  • Terrorism
  • Lord of the Rings
  • Twin Towers
  • Global alliances

(Virtual Presentation, English)