As If: Modern Enchantment and the Literary Prehistory of Virtual Reality

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Product Details
Oxford University Press, USA
Publish Date
6.1 X 9.1 X 0.9 inches | 0.9 pounds

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About the Author
Michael Saler is Professor of History at the University of California, Davis.

"Saler's argument is clearly laid out and readily accessible: he finds a wide range of sources and delivers them cogently to the reader. ... As If is a very welcome contribution to the unfolding challenge of seeing how our newfound age of vituality changes what we notice about the potential and actual virtuality woven into earlier forms of realist and fantastical fiction, in all their multifariousness." --Victorian Studies

"This is the best cultural study of fantasy I have ever read. A powerful, liberating argument, woven together from an impressive array of sources, all treated well and fairly. Saler routs the assumption that enchantment and reason oppose one another." --Edward Castronova, author of Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games

"If modernity can be called an 'iron cage, ' as it was by Max Weber, the para-modernity explored by Michael Saler is an Escher staircase. Composed of oxymoronic juxtapositions--animistic reason, detached immersion, ironic faith, and enchanted disenchantment--it transports us nowhere, but the journey is filled with such wonders that we keep moving along. As If is itself a triumph of imagination and wit, as well as an exemplary exercise in cultural history." --Martin Jay, author of Songs of Experience: Modern American and European Variations on a Universal Theme

"Michael Saler's dazzling book adds a new historical dimension to our understanding of imaginary worlds and literature; through As If a surprising illumination of our modernity becomes possible." --Simon During, author of Modern Enchantments: The Cultural Power of Secular Magic

"Saler's book uncovers and identifies precursors to the shared imaginary worlds of our time. His argument is clear, his examples entertaining; the cumulative effect is startling and ultimately very useful, in that we are given a new and positive way to understand not only several currently emerging art forms, but also our entire cultural moment. I now see my kids' activities in a new light; it even seems as if our future could be good." --Kim Stanley Robinson, author of Galileo's Dream

"[Saler's] book should be essential reading in every graduate school of the humanities. But it's much more fun than that recommendation suggests...Mr. Saler's insights could be developed in many directions." --Wall Street Journal

"Brilliant...'As If' reminds us that, through real play in imaginary gardens, we can enhance the lives we lead in this alienated modern world." --Washington Post

"Riveting stuff...Open[s] up a new vision not just of the literature of the fantastic, but of us as well."

"[A] thoughtful book." --Reason

"Demonstrates that such imaginative spaces are not merely aesthetically pleasing but culturally important." --Science Fiction Studies

"A rich, densely packed cultural study that distills a remarkable amount of literary criticism and aesthetic, psychological, and sociological theory into its arguments...You will find much in its pages to enjoy." --LOCUS

"This wonderfully enlightening and terrifically well-written book finally makes the philosophical point that the practice of indulging in fictional worlds 'as if' they were real is not a mere act of escapism but also the consideration of the ever-changing, contingent, and subjective nature of the 'real' world that constantly eludes the attempt to describe it as 'just so." --The American Historical Review

"With its accessible but equally authoritative prose, Saler's book enriches discussions of fan cultures, media technologies, and public pedagogies across the periods he discusses, from the Victorian era to our own. Those working with fandoms and convergence culture will want a copy for their own bookshelves, and all scholars of the fantastic will find the book a useful resource in their own work and in their classrooms." --Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts