Fantasies of Contemporary Culture was the title of the conference held at Cardiff University on the 26th May 2016. I wrote a paper entitled Identifying Universal Qualities of Folklore to make Culturally Inclusive Illustration for Picture Books. My talk was on my research into the symbolism and archetypes present in fairy tales and how stories can be portrayed visually to focus on these elements of the story rather than specific characters and places. This research is based on Vladimir Propp’s structuralist analysis of fairy tales, although it has been critiqued for over-simplifying folk tales, Propp does discern a narrative structure of the quest, redemption and ‘making it in the end.’
My paper was part of a parallel panel of three speakers, though one delegate did not arrive, we still had a thought-provoking discussion at the end of the two presentations. From Grim Dark to Golden Dark: approaching a new aesthetics in Fantasy was the title of the paper by the novelist and PhD student Kevan Manwaring from the University of Leicester. This paper was about the dystopian nature of current fantasy writing and called for a move away from the current trend of ‘grimdark’ fantasy into a ‘goldendark’ fantasy – one with a hopeful possibility. The discussion at the end of the two papers centred around the ethical responsibility of being an artist and didacticism. Both practical outcomes correlated in that the books allowed the reader a liberty to imagine the end of the story and invent the many possibilities the ending could be: narratives are not tied up at the end and it’s up to the audience to make the meaning that fits their needs. This also allows for follow up narratives from the reader in an age of internet forums and fan fiction being easily circulated online. The event was a great opportunity to hear current discussion in literature and cultural studies.