This bookblog in The Guardian - "Let's stop sneering at fantasy readers" - disappointed me a little. Mostly because my reaction was: "we still have to tell people to stop sneering at fantasy readers?" Part of the problem of working in genres like fantasy is that everyone feels they have to apologise or defend the work being studied. Why? People don't apologise for studying Joyce or Beckett. I'm an advocate of not apologising and focussing on the study at hand. After all, I've not found any particular stumbling blocks for students embracing a study of fantasy, beyond the lack of critical resources (hence the need for putting our heads down and getting critical writing out). I'm not altogether sure people really do sneer at fantasy readers in general. No one has sneered at me recently. Mind, my experience is not everyone's.
One of the problems in the blog, though, I felt, was that it again privileged a kind of fantasy that, yes, often is sneered at. The "elves, witches, swords etc" branch of fantasy. It's just a little too easy to skewer. The pointy ears and buxom warriors give it away. The trick, I believe, is to fully embrace and promote the diversity of the genre.
Not that I would sneer at a good epic about elves. I've read quite a few.
And, let's face it, if you're going to accuse fantasy of harbouring a great deal of dreck, you could just as readily stop by the literary fiction shelves and also locate more than a fair share. Perhaps it's just a little easier to identify in the fantasy genre? And that may be a good thing.