Without prior background knowledge on the fantasy genre and without ever truly indulging in the genre itself, I found myself struggling to get through Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, as well as Armitts disorganized (emphasis on disorganized) and intensely opinionated critical analysis of the fantasy genre.
When picking up the 35 dollar copy of Fantasy Fiction: An Introduction at the bookstore, I figured that I would be getting an "introduction" to something that I really knew nothing about. Perfect! Now, granted I am a newbie at this type of reading, but to me an Introduction would have been worth the 35 dollars (especially if it at least taught me some interesting aspects or literary elements of fantasy). However, after reading the seven lengthy chapters in which Armitt twists and turns every fantasy novel to fit her criticism, I gained from it only one thing; a headache.
I feel that half the problem with my reading of this particular criticism, is that I cannot relate to anything that Armitt discusses. I have never read Gulliver's Travels, Animal House, and I had never owned (or planned on owning) a copy of Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring until I registered for this class. Now, I will say for anyone who is actually reading these things, that I did enjoy The Fellowship of the Ring with a little help from the movie :)
Apart from my unknowledgeable self (at least on this topic), I felt that Armitt presented her views and opinions in a way that was particularly hard to understand. She was very disorganized, presenting a term and discussing it for one to two paragraphs, then leaving it in the dust. Other times, Armitt would bring up such opinions in one chapter, only to rediscuss them again in a chapter later in her analysis. This typically annoyed me because I am used to reading in chronological order. Any story has a beginning, middle and an end, but Armitts was all over the place.
The one aspect of Armitt's criticism that left me hanging and far more confused then ever was her topic of Utopia in fantasy. Her establishment of the 'Utopia' definition was first 'the desire to go beyond' and a page later it was 'no place'. This was confusing to me because she gives two definitions that are dratstically different, and she doesn't support either with examples from the 'best known fantasy texts' she uses as resources for all of her 'critical information'.
I do believe that fantasy fiction is a type of genre that questions what happens beyond the horizon, do these thing really happen beyond earth? Probably Not. But in Lord of the Rings The Fellowship of the Ring, Tolkein creates 'Middle Earth', a place that cannot be found on any map (besides the one in the book). Along with the creation of such a place, Tolkein creates languages, monsters, 'superhuman characters' and a powerful plot that lead us to a place of no return for thousands of pages. The interesting thing that Armitt claims is that fantasy is reaching for blue sky. I think it is a good way of characterizing fantasy, because when I think of it, I think of What if? What if these things could really happen? But that is all part of how I read fantasy, fantasizing about the story an author creates for you.
I cannot say that I completely disagree with Armitt, because I simply didn't understand half of the things she was saying. However, for me as a reader, I would have appreciated a more rigid structure to her writing. This POSSIBLY would have helped me in wanting to read her work, and maybe could have pushed me along to understanding and connecting with it.
Hopefully there are others out there that feel the same?