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Psychical EES/EHES
Record Type: Review   ID: 265

Possible Worlds of the Fantastic: The Rise of the Paranormal in Literature

Traill, Nancy H.

This book is based on the author’s doctoral dissertation, which was abstracted in an earlier issue, and it is good to have it available in a more accessible format. From her reading of many fictional texts, in chapter 1 Traill classifies them into five modes, which she views as purely theoretical, as actual fiction can express more than one model, and the models keep changing with time, dependent in part on the reigning paradigms of what the natural world consists. In this book Traill concentrates on documenting and exploring the five modes in 19th-century fiction, but she makes it clear that this fantasy genre is still evolving.

The modes are the disjunctive, fantasy, ambiguous, supernatural naturalized, and the paranormal. These modes could also be viewed as ways of looking at EHEs of the psychical and death-related types. The most productive (i.e., potentiating) for EHEers is the paranormal mode in which "the natural domain is enlarged and encompasses a special region accessible to those with extraordinary perceptual capacities. Supernatural phenomena are reinterpreted and brought within the paradigm of the natural" (pp. 17-18). However, this definition of the paranormal is at odds with the EHE viewpoint, although it has the virtue of granting that exceptional experiences occur as natural events. However, she unnecessarily limits the paranormal experiences to the perceptual types and can only conceive of the experiences being integrated with the accepted paradigm so that it can accommodate these experiences. She does, however, introduce the term disauthentication for ways of explaining away exceptional experiences, which helps to elucidate the opposite, which is authentication. This keeps the argument within the realm of evidence, however, and not meaning, which is the approach the EHE Network has adopted. In terms of meaning, we use the terms potentiate and depotentiate. Perhaps these can serve as the basis for a new fictional mode based on illustrating how lives can be changed by paranormal and other anomalous experiences. In closing, Traill indicates that indeed, "the history of the fantastic has not yet been exhausted" (p. 141). When EHEs make it into fiction, the world will likely be well on its way to recognizing and valuing the Experiential Paradigm (EP), or what Aldous Huxley called the perennial philosophy, but with individuals entering the Experiential Paradigm based on their own experiences, the tenets of the EP will not only exist in their heads but will be etched in their hearts, changing their sense of identity and worldview. Numerous autobiographies pouring from the presses today indicate this is already happening. Fiction will have to hurry to catch up to reality!

Publisher Information:Buffalo, NY: University of Toronto Press, 1996. Pp. vii + 197. Bibl: 169-191; Chapnotes: 143-160; Ind: 193-197
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