Fantasy in series: Who am I? Construction and Evolution of Identity in Fantasy Television Series

study day fantasy in series: call for papers

Who am I ? Construction and evolution of identity in the television series of fantasy

For the first time since its creation and that of Fantasy Art and Studiesthe association the imaginary heads join the podcast History in series to organize an online study day devoted to the construction and development of characters in TV series from fantasy.

This study day will be held on February 3 and 4, 2023 (2 p.m.-6 p.m.).

The fantasy gives a prominent place to stories of formation and stories of coming of age (” coming-of-age stories “), in which a young hero grows, forms and evolves as he discovers the world around him and is regularly called upon to save. Of Mr. Merlin (1981-1982) to Locke and Key (since 2020), via Goblin: The Lonely and Great God (2016) and The Legend of Vox Machina (since 2022), the quest entrusted to the heroes goes hand in hand with a discovery of themselves. The characters thus never emerge unscathed from their adventures, certainly gaining in maturity but also undergoing over the trials a series of challenges to their values, their status and, more generally, their identity. This evolutionary dimension of the heroes, and more generally of the different characters of fantasyfinds its place in television series, whose long time offers the narration a breadth that has nothing to envy to literary sagas.

The identity crisis, or more generally the quest for oneself, is in fact at the heart of many series of fantasywhere both main and secondary characters see their certainties waver, involving a sometimes slow reconstruction that is not limited to childhood or adolescence: in buffy the vampire slayer (1997-2003), the heroine seeks to reconcile the banal daily life of a high school student and a supernatural mission involving life and death issues; in Lucifer (2016-2021), the devil like his psychotherapist must redefine their social role from the moment their value system is shaken; in The Wheel of Time (since 2021), adapted from the saga of Robert Jordan, the young protagonists question their own identity by discovering the reincarnation of the Dragon; in 2022, the series Umbrella Academy has integrated Elliot Page’s transition into its narrative, proposing in the fiction an in-depth reflection on the quest for the self; and the examples could thus be multiplied.

If identity, in the sense of status, name, gender or even image, is very often presented as obvious at the start of episodes, the series of fantasy show to what extent it can be a moving criterion. The course of the characters is based on the attempt to reconcile their personal aspirations and the roles that one seeks to impose on them, whether it is a question of predestination, designation, prophecy or inheritance. Therefore, how to define one’s personal identity when it is imposed by family conventions? This is, among dozens of examples, the case of the sisters of Charmed (1998-2006 and its reboot since 2018) and brothers from supernatural (2005-2020), forced to accept a heavy heritage of fighting against the forces of evil, and therefore to forge their identity with regard to a family tradition. This definition of self in the lineage of his parents is not the prerogative of childhood, as shown by the chaotic journey of Shadow in American Gods (2017-2021), adaptation of the novel by Neil Gaiman, or that of James in taboo (2017). The obligations imposed on the heroes also go beyond the personal framework, and can turn out to be political, as for all the characters called upon to reign, including against their will: Arthur in the series Kaamelott (2005-2009), Elena in Elena of Avalor (2016-2020), Bean in Disenchanted (since 2018), etc.

The question of identity, its construction and its evolution over a long period of time and in a setting where magic plays a decisive role will be the central subject of this study day. This will focus on how the fantasy serial, especially in long fiction, questions and (de)constructs the identity of the characters.

Proposals may relate to specific case studies, or to more global analyses, taking into account the articulation of questions of identity and representation of fantasy. Proposals may address, but not be limited to, the following areas of research:

the passage from childhood/adolescence to adulthood in the series of fantasy,

self-discovery, including vis-à-vis gender and sexuality issues,

the (de)construction of identity vis-à-vis external obligations (prophetic, political, family, etc.),

the (de)construction of identity with regard to personal and social relationships,

the (de)construction of identity with regard to supernatural issues (heroes of Good or Evil, etc.).

The study day will take place online on the afternoons of Friday 3 and Saturday 4 February 2023. Proposals from young researchers are particularly welcome.

Communication proposals (.doc or .docx)in French or in English, about 2000 characters, will clearly present a research question, a theoretical and methodological framework as well as the main axes of analysis envisaged. They will be accompanied by a short biobibliographical presentation, and will be addressed jointly to and for the November 14, 2022 at the latest.

Scientific committee

Viviane Bergue, editor of the journal Fantasy Art and Studies

Florian Besson, historian, member of the Current Middle Ages collective

Justine Breton, University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne, Treasurer of Imaginary Heads

Nicolas Charles, co-founder of the podcast History in series

Claire Cornillon, University of Nîmes.

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Fantasy in series: Who am I? Construction and Evolution of Identity in Fantasy Television Series

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