02 Mar 2010

The Alarming Jewish Fantasy Gap

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Karen has forwarded to me a link to an article by Michael Weingrad undertaking a nerdworthy analysis of the lack of significant Jewish contribution to the Tolkienian fantasy genre.

[I]f Christianity is a fantasy religion, then Judaism is a science fiction religion. If the former is individualistic, magical, and salvationist, the latter is collective, technical, and this-worldly. Judaism’s divine drama is connected with a specific people in a specific place within a specific history. Its halakhic core is not, I think, convincingly represented in fantasy allegory. In its rabbinic elaboration, even the messianic idea is shorn of its mythic and apocalyptic potential. Whereas fantasy grows naturally out of Christian soil, Judaism’s more adamant separation from myth and magic render classic elements of the fantasy genre undeveloped or suspect in the Jewish imaginative tradition. Let us take two central examples: the magical world and the idea of evil.

Christianity has a much more vivid memory and even appreciation of the pagan worlds which preceded it than does Judaism. Neither Canaanite nor Egyptian civilizations exercise much fascination for the Jewish imagination, and certainly not as a place of enchantment or escape.

I’m not sure that his thesis is actually all that correct. If so, he would have to have to have a very specific kind of fantasy fiction in mind. Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale is a fantasy. Roger Zelazny’s Amber series ought to serve as a very successful example of Jewish-written fantasy. Neil Gaiman is Jewish. And so on.

4 Feedbacks on "The Alarming Jewish Fantasy Gap"


Jewish Fantasy Gap? Don’t they lean Socialist?


This puzzles me too, since long. The founding fathers of the banking system, of the loan with interest, the Gods of diamond and gold, of capitalism… chosing socialism as a way to govern people on their land. (?)

Such irony. It seems to be a joke (made with much Jewish humor, indeed). Don’t try to explain. No one could, ever.


Zelazny was Jewish? I never heard that.


Zelazny was born and raised Catholic but became agnostic as an adult and avowed that he observed no organized religions. How can you claim that the Amber series “ought to serve as a very successful example of Jewish-written fantasy”??? It would seem to require a Jewish author for that description to apply.


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