The conceptualization and aesthetic treatment of Slavic culture and folklore in young adult fantasy literature

Victoria Bovalino

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


In his paper “Incredible geographies: Orientalism and Genre Fantasy,” Myles Balfe writes, “Genre fantasy texts often problematically draw upon pre-existing cultural discourses to construct their ‘incredible geographies’” (Balfe 2007). An ongoing trend in the young adult fantasy market presents Russian and Slavic culture reimagined as fantastical settings. Utilizing anthropological and historical investigations of Slavic regions as well as folkloric interpretation, this thesis addresses the conceptualization and simplification of Slavic culture by genre authors. This reimagining usually allows for a cultural disconnect in which the outer concepts and imagery of the culture is presented but the context is misrepresented or changed. The novels consistently contain religious duality, quickly evolving militaristic characters, and settings based around Imperial cities and harsh winter landscapes. The question of the author’s responsibility to present cultural representations of a non-Western society without appropriation, and the consequences of presenting a fantastical account of a historically inspired setting persists through the reduction of cultural touchpoints to a blanket aesthetic. Using folklore as a cross-cultural medium, this paper examines interpretations of stories to examine the changing landscape of Slavic-inspired fantasy literature as the trend continues to grow.

The creative project utilises the ideas presented in the critical thesis, primarily the integration of folklore into fantasy literature, in the form of a novel. In the novel, the main character, Katya, finds that she has been tricked into marriage by a demon. The critical thesis interrogates transnational identity, which is presented through Katya in the creative project.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Roberts, Adam, Supervisor
  • Bussey-Chamberlain, Prudence, Supervisor
Award date1 Nov 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2023

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