About the Site

Sponsored by Cornell University's Institute for Digital Collections (CIDC) this image-bank provides a visual resource for the study of the Fantastic or of the supernatural in fiction and in art. While the site emerges from a comparative literature course on the topic at Skidmore College, it is also intended to open the door to consideration of some of the constant structures and patterns of fantastic literature, and the problems they raise. In this sense, the materials presented here may find a use among students in a variety of disciplines.

In order to take maximum advantage of the materials in the Cornell collections, it seemed best not to adhere to a strict definition of either the Fantastic or its predecessor, the Marvelous, as these have emerged in literary criticism and theory. It will be useful, nevertheless, to note some general markers which have informed the choices implicit in these pages. In the context of western literature of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, The Fantastic involves dread, fear and anxiety in the face of phenomena that escape rational explanation, or that reveal the notion of reality to be no more than a construct. A fantastic experience can therefore be likened to the breaking or shattering of a frame. While the literary fantastic is limited to the last 200 years, the Fantastic in art can be construed more broadly. This elasticity allowed us to choose images from works spanning a period from medieval manuscripts and printed incunabulae, to the early twentieth century.

How to use this site...

Images may be perused by theme via the links on the homepage and the "spheres" in the navigation bar at the bottom of each page. Click Book Search to search for a book or Image Search to find an image. To see all the records at once, click Complete Book List and View All Images.

When viewing a book record, a selection of the images available from that book will be displayed. Clicking on the thumbnail takes you to a detailed description and enlargements. There are three image sizes available: 300, 500, and 800 pixels for the longest dimension. Clicking on each image will take you to the next largest size. When viewing an image record, clicking on the book title will take you to the full record for that book with all associated illustrations.

For uestions or comments about the web site, send mail to: webmaster.

Images were selected for their intrinsic relationship to the topic, because they illuminated an important dynamic, or quite simply because they were unusually striking. Though, inevitably, some familiar pieces will be found in these pages, we have attempted to favor rare or unusual works that, to our knowledge, have not been reproduced before. Hence the concomitant emphasis on book illustration, and on a wealth of images that have remained more or less invisible in canonical art histories. Always, the goal has been to bring to light a body of material scholars were unlikely to have had the opportunity to study.

Because of its rich and varied modes of representation the Fantastic also lends itself quite easily to interdisciplinary approaches. Psychology and sociology, art and literary history, anthropology and folklore among other disciplines, can provide avenues of investigation useful in the study of such basic critical or analytical concepts for the Fantastic as repression, the uncanny, indeterminacy, or the postmodern. The image bank may thus also be useful for broadening discussions in areas of study quite removed from the Fantastic per se, and it is indeed our hope that it will do so.

Cornell's library holdings in several areas provide a deep well from which to draw for a project such as this one. The incomparable Witchcraft collection, the History of Science collection, a recent grouping of Russian Fables and Fairy Tales now on deposit in Kroch library and the serendipitous discoveries that seem so readily to occur once the search gets under way, have resulted in a data-base of nearly 300 images, distributed among several general rubriques or thematic clusters, with search and cross-referencing capabilities

The clusters are each accompanied by a text that provides an abbreviated introduction. A few bibliographical references point to avenues of study, as well as to literary texts having a particular aptness to the topic or theme. Such indications are intentionally brief, so that the user might in fact experience the images unfiltered by a priori readings of the designers. Illustrations are identified as to source (the work in which they appear, with attendant bibliographical data), and, when known, by author and technique. Cross referencing occurs when images or themes of similar or contrasting nature are available in the data-base.

Devils & DemonsDanse MacabreWeird ScienceBestiaryThe MarvelousThe GrotesquePossession & InsanityFantastic SpaceFreaks, Monsters & Prodigies

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