The Politics of Genre Fantasy: Roleplaying Games as a Case Study

Speaker Bio:
Prayag Ray is an Assistant Professor, and Head of the Department of English at St. Xavier’s University, Kolkata. He completed his BA and MA from Jadavpur University, his MPhil from Jawaharlal Nehru University, and his PhD from Queen’s University, Belfast. His MPhil research was on Indian speculative fiction, while his PhD research was on British and Irish representations of Hinduism in the eighteenth century. His research interests include fantasy fiction, culture studies, religion and literature, and postcolonial literature. He has published critical work with Routledge and Springer, including a chapter in Critical Posthumanism and Planetary Futures (2016), and has published creative writing in Poetry Ireland Review.
The talk will begin by attempting to define fantasy fiction–a difficult proposition, given the imaginative nature of the genre. Taking the cue from Colin Manlove, who sees fantasy as a literature of wonder, containing a substantial and irreducible element of the supernatural, it shall go on to discuss the politics of the genre. Is fantasy, as some leftist critics have tended to see it, a literature of escape that prevents its audience from critiquing its social reality–thereby perpetuating the status quo? Or is it, on the other hand, a subversive literature that reveals our desires and questions the limits of society? The final section of the talk shall take up the case of fantasy MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Roleplaying Games), and demonstrate a left critical approach to the genre by tracing the relationship between MMOs and the economic reality, as well as the cultural and philosophical underpinnings of contemporary global capitalism.
Date: March 4, Friday; Time: 5:00-6:30 pm