What is Escapist Literature

Before analyzing what escapist literature is, let’s first see the meaning of the word escapist. An escapist is a person who seeks distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially in the form of entertainment or fantasy. The term escapist literature also stems from this word. In this article, we’ll examine,

  1. What is Escapist Literature
  2. What are the Connotations associated with Escapist Literature
  3. What are the Genres that belong to Escapist Literature

What is Escapist Literature

The term escapist literature refers to fiction that provides a psychological escape from depressing and grave realities of every day by immersing the readers in a fantastical or imaginative situations and events. Thus, the main aim of escapist literature is providing an imaginative entertainment for readers rather than provoking serious and critical thoughts and addressing social issues. The term escapist literature is often used in contrast to classics, which deals with serious subject matter.

Most of the genres that belong to popular fiction fall under escapist literature. These genres include,

So many popular fiction authors such as Agatha Christie, Enid Blyton, Barbara Cartland, Stephen King, Sidney Sheldon, J.K. Rowling, and Danielle Steele fall under this category of escapist literature.

What is Escapist Literature

It is important to note that the term escapist literature is often used in a derogatory sense that implies that is far less inferior to classical literature. In this sense, escapist literature has no true purpose, and there are no benefits from reading this type of literature.

However, it can be argued that this so-called ‘escapist literature’ offers relief from the stress of real day life, thereby serves a psychological purpose. In addition, escapist fiction can also improve the imagination and creativity of the readers.

Some Views about Escapist Literature

The following two quotes present the views of two authors about escapist literature. Both these authors speak against the popular view that escapist literature is shallow and superfluous.

“If you were trapped in an impossible situation, in an unpleasant place, with people who meant you ill, and someone offered you a temporary escape, why wouldn’t you take it? And escapist fiction is just that: fiction that opens a door, shows the sunlight outside, gives you a place to go where you are in control, are with people you want to be with (and books are real places, make no mistake about that); and more importantly, during your escape, books can also give you knowledge about the world and your predicament, give you weapons, give you armour: real things you can take back into your prison. Skills and knowledge and tools you can use to escape for real.”

– Neil Gaiman

“Stories of the sort I am describing…they cool us…hence the uneasiness which they arouse in those who, for whatever reason, wish to keep us wholly imprisoned in the immediate conflict. That perhaps is why people are so ready with the charge of ‘escape’. I never wholly understood it until my friend Professor Tolkien asked me the very simple question, “What class of Men would you expect to be most preoccupied with, and most hostile to, the idea of escape?’ and gave the obvious answer: jailers.”

– C.S. Lewis

Summary:

  • Escapist Literature refers to fiction that provides a psychological escape from depressing and grave realities of everyday life by transporting the readers to an imaginary world. 
  • Romance novels, thrillers, fantasy novels, detective and spy novels, horror novels, science fiction, etc. are considered to be genres of escapist literature. 
  • The term escapist literature is associated with a pejorative since the term implies the literature involved is shallow and superfluous. 

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About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.


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