By Michael Saler

ISBN-10: 0199711267

ISBN-13: 9780199711260

Named one of many "Best Books of 2012" by way of the Editors of The Huffington Post

Many humans through the global "inhabit" imaginary worlds communally and again and again, parsing Harry Potter and exploring on-line universes. those actions may appear irresponsibly escapist, yet historical past tells one other tale. starting within the overdue 19th century, whilst Sherlock Holmes grew to become the world's first "virtual reality" personality, readers started to colonize imaginary worlds, debating severe matters and viewing truth in provisional, "as if" phrases instead of via essentialist, "just so" views.

From Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos and Tolkien's Middle-earth to the realm of Warcraft and moment existence, As If offers a cultural background that finds how we will be able to stay enchanted yet no longer deluded in an age the place myth and truth more and more intertwine.

* First complete historical past of imaginary worlds within the West, facing a huge crew of fabric that levels from Sherlock Holmes to international of Warcraft
* makes a speciality of 3 of the genre's most well-liked authors: J.R.R. Tolkien, H.P. Lovecraft, and Arthur Conan Doyle.
* Will attraction extensively to the growing to be physique of students that now reviews sci-fi, delusion, and video games

"This is the easiest cultural learn of delusion i've got ever learn. a strong, freeing argument, woven jointly from a magnificent array of resources, all handled good and reasonably. Saler routs the belief that appeal and cause oppose one another." --Edward Castronova, writer of artificial Worlds: The enterprise and tradition of on-line Games

"If modernity might be known as an 'iron cage,' because it was once via Max Weber, the para-modernity explored by way of Michael Saler is an Escher staircase. Composed of oxymoronic juxtapositions-animistic cause, indifferent immersion, ironic religion, and enchanted disenchantment-it transports us nowhere, however the trip is stuffed with such wonders that we hold relocating alongside. as though is itself a triumph of mind's eye and wit, in addition to an exemplary workout in cultural history." --Martin Jay, writer of Songs of expertise: smooth American and eu diversifications on a common Theme

"Michael Saler's striking booklet provides a brand new historic measurement to our figuring out of imaginary worlds and literature; via as though a shocking illumination of our modernity turns into possible." --Simon in the course of, writer of recent Enchantments: The Cultural energy of Secular Magic

"Saler's booklet uncovers and identifies precursors to the shared imaginary worlds of our time. His argument is apparent, his examples exciting; the cumulative influence is startling and eventually very valuable, in that we're given a brand new and confident option to comprehend not just a number of at present rising paintings types, but in addition our whole cultural second. I now see my kids' actions in a brand new gentle; it even turns out as though our destiny might be good." --Kim Stanley Robinson, writer of Galileo's Dream

"[Saler's] ebook could be crucial examining in each graduate institution of the arts. yet it's even more enjoyable than that suggestion suggests...Mr. Saler's insights can be constructed in lots of directions." --Wall highway Journal

"Brilliant..."As If" reminds us that, via genuine play in imaginary gardens, we will be able to increase the lives we lead during this alienated sleek world." --Washington Post

"Riveting stuff...Open[s] up a brand new imaginative and prescient not only of the literature of the wonderful, yet folks as well."

"[A] considerate book." --Reason

"Demonstrates that such imaginitive areas are usually not basically aesthetically unique yet culturally important." --Science Fiction stories

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Extra info for As If: Modern Enchantment and the Literary PreHistory of Virtual Reality

Sample text

For example, the communal and persistent habitation of imaginary worlds is a form of vicarious existence enabled by the imagination. 3 Modern imaginary worlds emerged concurrently with notions of the virtual and the vicarious, as well as discussions about disenchantment and re-enchantment. Their popularity during the fin-de-siècle and after is thus a prism through which we can examine the centrality of the imagination to modern enchantment and its increasing sway over everyday life. ” This fictionalist turn is sometimes attributed to the postmodern emphasis on language as the constitutive basis of reality.

Chapter 5 underlines the importance of “as if ” narratives in the creation and reception of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Although Tolkien was a Catholic and often criticized modernity, he nevertheless intended to reenchant it by creating new myths compatible with rational and even secular outlooks. He was not only the premier theorist of the ironic imagination; he exemplified its double-minded orientation, which was reflected in his life and works. Tolkien believed in both essential truths and provisional fictions: his imaginary world was simultaneously a “just so” and an “as if ” account.

Finally, the early romantics’ hope that the imagination might restore enchantment to a disenchanted world was not widely shared by the middle classes in the first half of the century, whereas the ironic imagination of the latter half of the century became an important resource of enchantment for many. 33 The rise of evangelical religious movements in both Britain and the United States, as well as the increasing influence of utilitarian thought among elites throughout nineteenth-century Europe and America, made prolonged immersion in fictional worlds even more problematic for the middle classes.

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As If: Modern Enchantment and the Literary PreHistory of Virtual Reality by Michael Saler

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