I have had the honor of contributing to the New Chaucer Society‘s Annotated Chaucer Bibliography, of which a version is online. It is a remarkably useful tool, one that allows for a synoptic view of the status of Chaucer scholarship, and so it is an immensely valuable scholarly resource. As such, it is also a useful model to follow, and I aim to follow it as I trace scholarship and commentary regarding the writings of Robin Hobb.
I do not mean to suggest that Hobb has or will come to have the level of influence of Spenser’s Well of English Undefiled or that my sole efforts will rise to the standards of the many excellent scholars who have contributed to the New Chaucer Society’s project. But I do hope that the work of identifying and offering summaries of scholarly pieces treating Hobb’s writing, as well as her own non-fiction pieces, will help to inform my own ongoing scholarship, offer easy surveys to others who might be conducting similar research, and present me as a service-oriented scholar.
As I am trained as a scholar of English language and literature, I tend to follow the Modern Language Association of America in terms of citation style and usage; the citations in this bibliography will adhere to that organization’s standards.Note Annotations will consist of relatively short summaries of the materials cited, with “relative” changing based on the nature and content of the piece being annotated, and explanatory passages as needed. In this, the various entries will be somewhat more expansive than those of the Annotated Chaucer Bibliography, but I can hope that they will prove all the more helpful for that.
Also, any support will be appreciated. Contributions can be made here.
- Bokne, Saga. Patriarchy under Scrutiny.
- Carroll, Siobhan. “Honor-bound: Self and Other in the Honor Culture of Robin Hobb’s Soldier Son Series.”
- Crane, Ralph, and Lisa Fletcher. “An Imaginary Water World: Robin Hobb’s The Liveship Traders Trilogy.”
- Crowe, Chris, Katherine T. Bucher, and M. Lee Manning. “Young Adult Literature: A Boy’s Alternative to Bodice-Rippers. Harry Potter Update: Is It for YAs?”
- Deszcz-Tryhubczak, Justyna. “Lessons of Tolerance in Robin Hobb’s The Assassin’s Quest and The Tawny Man Series.”
- Deszcz-Tryhubczak, Justyna. “‘…Sacrifice. To whatever was to the good of my land and my people.’: The Utopian Political and Social Perspective in Robin Hobb’s Fantasy Trilogies.”
- Duits, Iris. Translating Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Apprentice.
- Elliott, Geoffrey B. “Manifestations of English Arthurian Legend in the Farseer and Tawny Man Trilogies of Robin Hobb.”
- Elliott, Geoffrey B. “Manifestations of Medieval Religion in Robin Hobb’s Elderlings Corpus.”
- Elliott, Geoffrey B. “Moving beyond Tolkien’s Medievalism: Robin Hobb’s Farseer and Tawny Man Trilogies.”
- Elliott, Geoffrey B. “Sample Conference-length Paper: Searching the Hoard in Words like Coins.”
- Elliott, Geoffrey B. “Shades of Steel-Gray: The Nuanced Warrior-Hero in the Farseer Trilogy.”
- Elliott, Geoffrey B. “Sites of Memory in Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings.”
- Flegel, Monica, and Jenny Roth. “Legitimacy, Validity, and Writing for Free: Fan Fiction, Gender, and the Limits of (Unpaid) Creative Labor.”
- Freeman, Paula. Blood Ties and “‘Kings. What a good idea’: Monarchy in Epic Fantasy Fiction.”
- Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy. “Interview: Robin Hobb.”
- Hobb, Robin. “5000 Words about Myself.”
- Hobb, Robin. “A Bar and a Quest.”
- Hobb, Robin. “The Fan Fiction Rant.”
- Hobb, Robin. “Robin Hobb (Megan Lindholm).”
- Johnson, Jane. “How Megan Lindholm Became Robin Hobb.”
- Katavić, Goran. The Shift from the Traditional Feminine Role in Robin Hobb’s Characters in Her The Farseer Trilogy and The Tawny Man Trilogy.
- Kok, Marlies. The Boundaries of Imagination: Important Aspects of Fantasy Translation.
- Lagus, Timo. Toward Figural Fantasy: The Representation of Consciousness in Modern American Fantasy Literature.
- Melville, Peter. “Queerness and Homophobia in Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogies.”
- Mendlesohn, Farah. Rhetorics of Fantasy.
- Metsäpelto, Anna. Attitudes to Fat Characters in Fantasy Literature—Cases from The Soldier Son by Robin Hobb and A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin.
- Mohon, Keely. “Robin Hobb’s Fool and the Redefinition of the Fantasy Hero.”
- Nordlund, Sai Johansson. Narren som ögonöppnare: En karnevalisk analys av Berättelsen om Fjärrskådarna och Den Gyllene Mannen.
- Prater, Leslie. “Queering Magic: Robin Hobb and Fantasy Literature’s Radical Potential.”
- Räsänen, Heidi. “How do you politely explain to someone that you had always believed him a moron as well as a fool?” – Marginality, Transformations, and Identity in Robin Hobb’s Beloved.
- Roberts, Jude. “‘Circumcision: everyone’s talking about it’: Legislation, Social Pressure, and the Body.”
- Roth, Jenny, and Monica Flegel. “It’s Like Rape: Metaphorical Family Transgressions, Copyright Ownership, and Fandom.”
- Sanderson, Julia Hallgren. ”Such a thing to waste words on”: Genus, sexualitet och Beloved i Robin Hobbs The Realm of the Elderlings.
- Schouwenaars, Luke. Damsels in Drag: Crossdressing Adventures in Medieval Literature and Modern Fantasy.
- Stein, Louisa, and Kristina Busse. “Limit Play: Fan Authorship between Source Text, Intertext, and Context.”
- Tomio, Jay. “From Farseer to Soldier Son – Robin Hobb Interview.”
- Waumans, Michaël C., Thibaut Nicodème, and Hugues Bersini. “Topology Analysis of Social Networks Extracted from Literature.”
- Young, Cathy. “The Fan Fiction Phenomena.”
- Young, Helen. “Critiques of Colonialism in Robin Hobb’s Soldier Son Trilogy.”
Geoffrey B. Elliott
6 July 2021
Bokne, Saga. Patriarchy under Scrutiny: Tracing Feminist Discourse in Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings. MA thesis, Göteborgs Universitet, 2018, gupea.ub.gu.se/handle/2077/57888, accessed 28 October 2018.
Bokne reads most of Hobb’s Elderlings corpus–the Fitz and the Fool trilogy is excluded due to dates of composition–against such theorists as Sylvia Walby and Judith Butler, explicating the interactions of the various in-milieu social structures with patriarchal standards and interrogating the ways in which those interactions proceed. For Bokne, while Hobb works in some ways to move away from the typically patriarchal assumptions and tropes of fantasy literature, the work only goes so far, both because of in-milieu social constructions and because of broader, perhaps unwitting, alignments with the assumptions and tropes.
This Project is grateful to the author for notice of the work’s completion and pleased to have been of assistance in preparing it. The thesis can be found here: https://gupea.ub.gu.se/handle/2077/57888.
Carroll, Siobhan. “Honor-bound: Self and Other in the Honor Culture of Robin Hobb’s Soldier Son Series.” Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts 18.3 (Fall 2007): 308-18. General OneFile. Web. 13 June 2013.
Carroll argues that Hobb uses fantasy tropes to lay bare conflicts among and within honor systems. She posits that in so doing, Hobb effectively interrogates the “standard” ideas of appropriate conduct that appear in fantasy literature, offering instead a nuanced and therefore more authentic view of the interplay between public and private expectations of behavior. Carroll illustrates her point primarily through two examples from the first book of the Soldier Son trilogy, acknowledging the limitations imposed by the then-incomplete series on her conclusions; she nonetheless asserts that Hobb offers a potentially helpful analogy of the dealings of the United States in its contemporary conflicts.
This annotation is excerpted from one composed in my previous teaching materials, here.
Crane, Ralph, and Lisa Fletcher. “An Imaginary Water World: Robin Hobb’s The Liveship Traders Trilogy.” Island Genres, Genre Islands: Conceptualisation and Representation in Popular Fiction, Rowman & Littlefield, 2017, pp. 165-75.
In a piece pointed out to this project by Saga Bokne, Crane and Fletcher address the Liveship Traders novels’ figuration of their milieu as making manifest the ideas of such critics as Jon Anderson and Kimberley Peters and inverting the usual depiciton of land as busy and sea as empty. In the novels, instead, the interactions of sea, sky, and land are foregrounded–with sea taking preeminence. Crane and Fletcher connect Hobb’s depictions of the Cursed Shores to Philip Hayward’s aquapelagic concept and situate it in juxtaposiiton with such other island-bound works as Robert Louis Stevenson’s. They also pay significant atention to the overtones of one island that figures prominently in Hobb’s narrative, and they reiterate the centrality of water to Hobb’s Elderlings milieu. The chapter ends by identifying Hobb’s embedded call to reject insularity and consider small matters in broader contexts.
Thanks to Helen Young for assistance with this piece.
Crowe, Chris, Katherine T. Bucher, and M. Lee Manning. “Young Adult Literature: A Boy’s Alternative to Bodice-Rippers. Harry Potter Update: Is It for YAs?” The English Journal 89.4 (March 2000): 135-38. PDF file.
Within the context of editorial comments by Crowe detailing changed personal responses to fantasy literature as a viable young adult genre, Bucher and Manning briefly articulate the validity of fantasy literature as a genre for instruction. They note the utility of the genre at reaching adolescent and young adult male readers, despite prevailing bias against the genre on the part of educators. They also offer categories for assessment of fantasy literature (consistency, believability, originality, restraints, realism, and themes), citing Hobb’s Assassin’s Apprentice as a useful introduction to the genre.
Deszcz-Tryhubczak, Justyna. “Lessons of Tolerance in Robin Hobb’s The Assassin’s Quest and The Tawny Man Series.” Towards or Back to Human Values? Spiritual and Moral Dimensions of Contemporary Fantasy. Eds. Justyna Deszcz-Tryhubczak and Marek Oziewicz. Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars P, 2006. Print. 185-96.
Deszcz-Tryhubczak investigates the presentations of Otherness in FitzChivalry Farseer, presenting him as a vehicle for demonstrating how fantasy literature can serve as a useful lens through which to examine alterity. Scholars discussing the inherent Otherness of fantasy are cited to ground the article. FitzChivalry’s use of the Wit, interactions with dragons, friendship with the Fool (with markedly homoerotic overtones), and interactions with Thick each receive some attention; the Fool’s interactions with FitzChivalry receive more attention than any other. Deszcz-Tryhubczak concludes with comments linking the reflected-upon tension between self and Other to the contentment with which the Tawny Man series ends.
Deszcz-Tryhubczak, Justyna. “‘…Sacrifice. To whatever was to the good of my land and my people.’: The Utopian Political and Social Perspective in Robin Hobb’s Fantasy Trilogies.” To See the Wizard: Politics and Literature of Childhood. Ed. Laurie Ousley. Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars P, 2007. Print. 315-36.
Deszcz-Tryhubczak asserts that the Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies exemplify how fantasy literature can inform political utopianism amid prevailing totalitarianism and push for consideration of alternative forms of government. The chapter discusses utopian ideation and the interplay of individual and collective before arguing for the availability of fantasy literature to engage with social issues rather than serving solely as escapist release; it can provide a view of a reflective utopia that continually seeks to perfect itself, knowing that it can always be improved. The tension between the autocratic Six Duchies and the abnegatory rulership of the Mountain Kindgom’s Sacrifices (rulers) is framed as encoding dominant governing practices in opposition to more ethical and responsible leadership, the outsider Kettricken embodying governing ideas in many ways superior to those of other examples in Hobb’s texts. For Deszcz-Tryhubczak, Hobb’s provision of a utopian view opens the possibility that utopian, holistic government may someday arise.
Duits, Iris. Translating Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Apprentice. BA thesis. Utrecht U, 2012. PDF file.Note
In an English-language undergraduate thesis from Utrecht University in the Netherlands, Duits discusses the difficulties of translation, particularly as applies to fantasy literature, using Hobb’s Assassin’s Apprentice as a case study. After introducing the project, Duits notes prior engagement with and selection of the materials to translate, offers context for the novel and scholarly approaches to it, and treats concepts of translation practices. How those practices are deployed–poorly, in Duits’s assessment–in earlier translations of Hobb’s work is noted, their results contrasted with three explained new renderings on offer in Duits’s work.
Elliott examines deployment of Arthurian tropes and figures in the six novels of Robin Hobb’s Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies. While there are not one-to-one correspondences, Hobb appropriates a number of features of milieu, protagonist, and supplemental characters employed in the major works of Arthurian legend in English, notably Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur. The thesis ultimately argues, using Hobb as an example, that the medieval continues to merit study because it continues to inform the present.
This annotation is excerpted from one composed in my previous teaching materials, here.
Elliott, Geoffrey B. “Manifestations of Medieval Religion in Robin Hobb’s Elderlings Corpus.” ElliottRWI.com, 15 April 2020, elliottrwi.com/2020/04/15/manifestations-of-medieval-religion-in-robin-hobbs-elderlings-corpus/.
In a paper initially presented at the 2019 International Congress on Medieval Studies, Elliott argues that the in-milieu contexts of Hobb’s Elderlings corpus makes specific use of medieval religious constructions. The paper examines portrayals of organized religion in the milieu, tracing alignments with and divergences from medieval models, before pointing out that their inclusion aids readerly engagement with the text and concluding that more such study is needed, especially to work as a counteractive to prevailing exclusionary narratives.
Elliott, Geoffrey B. “Moving beyond Tolkien’s Medievalism: Robin Hobb’s Farseer and Tawny Man Trilogies.” Fantasy and Science Fiction Medievalisms: From Isaac Asimov to A Game of Thrones. Ed. Helen Young. Amherst, NY: Cambria UP. 2015. 183-98. Print.
Although Robin Hobb’s Tawny Man trilogy deploys a number of the “standard” features of the common modern fantasy literature setting (what may loosely be termed the Tolkienan tradition), it displays deviations from those features in several regards. Notable among them is the depiction of cultures deriving from other parts of the medieval than the most commonly evoked Continent of the Crusades, particularly that of the Out Isles. The society Hobb depicts therein initially appears, and can be argued, to appropriate the Nordic cultures frequently represented in Tolkienan-tradition fantasy literature (notably in the Rohirrim in Tolkien’s Middle-earth and the Greyjoys in Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire). Upon closer examination, however, the Out Islands echo more clearly the First Nations peoples of the Pacific Northwest region of the United States and Canada.
The detailed depiction of features of cultures from outside those employed by the Tolkienan tradition merits study not only in itself and in its offering a more nuanced and therefore more authentic vision of the medieval than many of Hobb’s contemporaries, but in terms of what it indicates about the readership of mainstream English-language fantasy literature. That the mention of a raiding island culture in a fantasy series immediately brings to mind traditional depictions of Vikings—and even prompts formal argument in favor of that impression— bespeaks a decidedly Northern- and Western-European-centric bias, one likely to be present also among other academic readers and the more general fantasy readership. Recognizing and negotiating that bias allows for a broader conception of what fantasy literature can do—and, as fantasy literature is often the avenue through which readers begin to investigate the medieval, it allows for a broader conception of what the medieval can be, helping to promote a cross-cultural understanding increasingly valuable in an increasingly interconnected and pop-culture-saturated world.
This annotation is adapted from the “Abstracts” page of this website, as well as from previous online materials.
Elliott argues that Hobb’s novella Words like Coins serves as a commentary on precision in language use. Framing the story as being, in part, a reaction to the dicta of traditional writing instruction, the piece asserts that the novella is a ringing condemnation of sloppy use. Implications of such usage are explored in the work, aligning with demands of writerly craft.
This annotation treats a piece composed for my previous teaching materials, here.
Elliott treats how Hobb nuances the warrior-hero trope in her Farseer novels’ protagonist, FitzChivalry Farseer. After establishing a working definition of the warrior-hero to use in the paper and asserting Hobb’s relative position in the fantasy genre of the time, Elliott argues that FitzChivalry both fits traditional definitions and deviates substantially, making the Farseer novels a more nuanced and thus more authentic fantasy series than is common to the genre leading up to the middle of the 1990s.
A copy of the paper, only lightly edited from its initial publication, appears here.
Elliott, Geoffrey B. “Sites of Memory in Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings.” Elliott RWI, 19 May 2021, elliottrwi.com/2021/05/19/sites-of-memory-in-robin-hobbs-realm-of-the-elderlings/.
In a conference paper, Elliott argues that Hobb deploys tropes regarding memorials and graveyards in ways that deviate from Tolkienian traditions in which she participates–not to a degree that makes them unrecognizable, but certainly to a degree that highlights the limitations and assumptions under which much Tolkienian-tradition fantasy literature operates. The alterations contribute to greater authenticity and verisimilitude in her work, allowing for the useful social messages contained in that work to emerge more powerfully for readers.
Flegel, Monica, and Jenny Roth. “Legitimacy, Validity, and Wriitng for Free: Fan Fiction, Gender, and the Limits of (Unpaid) Labor.” The Journal of Popular Culture 47.6 (December 2014): 1092-1108. PDF file.
After noting the uneasy dichotomy of “original” creative work and fan fiction as a way to broach the topic of what counts as “legitimate” creative endeavor, Flegel and Roth move through several sections of argument: “Fan Fiction and Illegitimate Labor,” which lays out the organized history of one fan collective and further ; “Fan Fiction: Hobby or a Different Kind of Work?” which interrogates the division between paid and unpaid work; “Fandom, Feminism, and the Gift Economy,” which treats the different economic models at work within fandoms and between them and more traditional conditions of creative production; and a conclusion reaffirming the feminist imperative of fan fiction and asserting a need to negotiate the tension between fan work and more traditional producers. A rant against fan fiction written by Hobb is used at great length as a representative opinion of published, professional writers regarding fan work.
The piece works in tandem with Roth and Flegel’s “It’s Like Rape: Metaphorical Family Transgressions, Copyright Ownership, and Fandom.”
In a dissertation supporting a Doctor of Creative Arts degree awarded in New South Wales, Freeman writes the first volume of a fantasy trilogy and gives synopses of the second and third volumes before investigating the use of monarchal hierarchies in fantasy works written by citizens of democratic nations. She identifies the tendency as deriving from long-standing literary and cultural tropes of sacral kingship, particularly chivalric romances such as the Arthurian and the works of Sir Walter Scott, working through a general introduction before investigating royalty in common folktales and noting specific types of kingship generally depicted. Major “literary” influences are traced, as are generic features, with reference to archetypes, sociological constructs, and reinforcements of “historical” work now known to be shoddy but accepted as valid by earlier generations of writers. Each is brought into consideration by Freeman’s writing process, as applied to the novel that comprises the first part of her thesis. Hobb is presented, along with Ursula LeGuin, as something of a counter-movement to the continued assertion of the maintained monarchy as exclusively masculine.
Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy. “Interview: Robin Hobb.” Lightspeed Magazine, April 2012, www.lightspeedmagainze.com/nonfiction/interview-robin-hobb. Accessed 7 November 2017.
In a piece originally appearing on a podcast, the interviewer reports a series of questions posed to Robin Hobb and her answers to them. Some of the questions touch on common talking points of Hobb’s biography, while others range into particular themes in her works (notably lower-socioeconomic-strata persons and the nature of magical selection), as well as a few other points of interest, such as a cat named John the Baptist. Although non-scholarly, the source does help to illuminate a bit more of the author, offering biographical criticism a bit more with which to work.
Hobb, Robin. “5000 Words about Myself.” Robin Hobb’s Home. 2004. Internet Archive Wayback Machine, web.archive.org/web/20050724083052/http://www.robinhobb.com:80/5000words.html. Accessed 14 January 2020.
After introductory comments establish context for the piece’s composition, Hobb offers a brief autobiography. Emphasized in it is her rural upbringing and the embedded understanding of working life it provides–which understanding influences her writing, affording it verisimilitude that makes for easier acceptance by readers of fantastical elements in her work. Also emphasized is her transition into adult genre fiction from earlier endeavors, as well as the choice of pseudonym.
After pointedly disavowing a scholarly identity and the presentation of a scholarly essay, Hobb relates the experiences of her first encounter with the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and her continued engagements with them. Their influence on her own writing philosophy and practice is noted, as is her continuing love for Tolkien’s works and that body of work that has grown up around them and their author.
Hobb, Robin. “The Fan Fiction Rant.” Robin Hobb’s Home. 30 June 2005. Internet Archive Wayback Machine, web.archive.org/web/20050630015105/http://www.robinhobb.com/rant.html. Accessed 22 September 2016.Note
An informal piece of writing no longer hosted on the author’s primary website, the “Fan Fiction Rant” serves as a focal piece of writing for several scholarly treatments of Hobb. (Flegel and Roth’s “Legitimacy, Validity, and Writing for Free” comes to mind as an example.) In it, Hobb offers a definition for fan fiction and articulates a series of reasons she finds it–and its writers–objectionable: composition without creator consent, identity and intellectual property theft, use as a crutch to abortively support bad writing, copyright infringement, and false claims about free speech. The rant proper ends with a valediction, namely that aspirant writers are better than to have to rely on fan fiction; a postscript disclaiming any representativeness of the rant is appended.
The piece the annotation treats may be found here.
After editorial commentary from Blaschke that introduces his infatuation with Hobb and the circumstances of the interview that follows, as well as a biographical blurb about Hobb, the writer answers a series of interviewer questions. The questions range across themes in then-current work, impressions of returning to a narrative milieu after a lapse of some years, series work, pseudonyms, writing styles and processes, social habits, and literary influences. Something of a profile of Hobb emerges from the questions and responses, adding to what can be gleaned from her work and from other sources.
Although not an academic piece, the blog post reproduced or hosted by Jonathan Pritchard-Barrett relates the experience of encountering the nascent writerly persona of Robin Hobb as it began to emerge from the writings of Megan Lindholm. It is presented as something of a retrospective as Johnson, still working as the UK publisher of Hobb’s work, reflects on having handled the whole Elderlings corpus. As an attestation of part of the early history of the authorial persona, it has some value.
The piece the annotation treats can be found here.
In an English-language diploma thesis from the University of Maribor in Slovenia, Katavić argues that Hobb’s first two Six Duchies series interrogate traditional fantasy literature concepts of feminine characters. In doing so, Katavić summarizes the trilogies before offering a summary introduction for the thesis, offering critical definitions of fantasy and feminism, analyzing male characters (FitzChivalry Farseer, Verity Farseer, Burrich, and Chade Fallstar) and female or feminine characters (Molly Chandler, Queen Kettricken, Starling Birdsong, the Pale Woman, and The Fool—the last somewhat problematically), comparing the roles of women in the readerly and textual worlds, and offering a brief summation. Several sourced illustrations seek to exemplify concepts discussed in the text.
In an English-language master’s thesis from Utrecht University in the Netherlands, Kok notes a number of factors that must be considered in translating fantasy works from their original languages. After an introduction, Kok works through concerns of setting and in-milieu culture before offering a series of sample translations (works by Stolze, Gaiman, Gaiman and Pratchett, and Butcher receive attention) and a conclusion that recapitulates major points made in the text, emphasizing the importance of accurate translation of the settings of fantasy novels to their effect across languages. The texts Kok translates appear in an appendix. Hobb appears repeatedly in Kok’s thesis as an illustrative example, the Elderlings corpus tacitly commended as a useful exemplar of fantasy world construction.
In an English-language master’s thesis from the University of Helsinki in Finland, Lagus argues that the fantasy literature of the United States has shifted towards character-mediated narration from a broader third-person omniscient narrative perspective. A brief statement of aims and general methodology precedes explanation of Lagus’s focus on Lieber and Martin, a definition of an “inward turn” in fantasy literature and an explication of that turn in the context of the novel more generally, and a note on nomenclature. Theoretical underpinnings of the thesis are laid out, their application illustrated with references to Liber and Martin, and the contrasts between period-representative fantasy works explicated. Techniques that enact what Lagus calls figural language are identified, defined, and illustrated. Lagus then works to apply the findings he develops from Lieber and Martin to other US authors, giving a diachronic treatment thereof. The thesis concludes with hypothetical futures for fantasy literature, based upon Lagus’s findings. In the text, Hobb is used as one of many examples of modern US fantasy literature, most often explicitly yoked with Martin, with whose Song of Ice and Fire her Elderlings corpus is contemporary.
Melville, Peter. “Queerness and Homophobia in Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogies.” Extrapolation, vol. 59, no. 3, 2018, pp 281-303, doi.org/10.3828/extr.2018.17. Accessed 23 May 2019.
In an article pointed out to the Project by Saga Bokne and made available to it by Chrissie Perella, Melville argues that the main thrust of the Elderlings novels offer an admirable avenue for the study of queerness in epic fantasy fiction. That is, the novels offer clearly queer visions while still holding, at least to a surface reading, to a heteronormative perspective. That the novels present queerness outside of sexual desire enhances their presentation. Melville situates the novels against depictions of queerness in their compositional contexts and reads the novels as a process of coming out not sexually, but from similar closeting relative to Fitz’s bastardy and magics. The in-milieu historical context for the closeting receives attention, as does the progression of the in-milieu regard for Fitz’s magics through the Tawny Man novels, following the progression of attitudes in the compositional context. Problems in the novels’ depictions of queer relationships are explicated, as is the potentially consumptive nature of desire. The ambiguity of the novels’ resolution of queer tension between Fitz and the Fool and fans’ reassertions of it are juxtaposed, and Melville concludes that that ongoing tension affirms the series’s place as an object of queer study.
In a monograph that emerges from a conference presentation and several journal articles, Mendlesohn articulates a working taxonomy of fantasy literatures, explicitly disclaiming an attempt to define the genre in favor of advancing what becomes a rhetoric or poetics of the genre. In an introduction, she notes a peculiarly dialectic construction of fantasy literature before rehearsing her initial attraction to the project and advancing four primary categories of fantasy, labeled by her as “portal-quest,” “immersive,” “intrusive,” and “liminal.” Comments about taxonomy follow, after which come methodological comments. Brief discussions of category definitions follow, accompanied by notes about representative texts. Portal-quest fantasy is what it sounds like, with the “real” and “fantasy” worlds separated and not intermixing as readers enter into the fantasy world from their own; immersive fantasy works with the fantastic as the normal; intrusion fantasy sees the fantastic emerge into the “real” world; and liminal fantasy, identified as uncommon, refuses to move from the “real” to the fantastic, so that the fantastic extrudes into the “real.” Succeeding chapters explicate each in detail, with a final chapter attending to “irregular” works that subvert and/or contravene the categories Mendlesohn notes. A brief epilogue motions toward new questions to ask of the genre. Hobb is presented as offering an example of the portal-quest fantasy in the Elderlings corpus, her work used to illuminate and explicate a few others’ writings.
Metsäpelto, Anna. Attitudes to Fat Characters in Fantasy Literature—Cases from The Soldier Son by Robin Hobb and A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin. Pro gradu thesis. U of Tampere, 2013. PDF file.
In an English-language graduate thesis from the University of Tampere in Finland, Metsäpelto explicates the limited depictions of obese and overweight characters in contemporary fantasy literature, using Robin Hobb’s Soldier Son series and George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire as case studies thereof. Much space in the thesis is dedicated to exposition of the fantasy milieux involved in the study, of theoretical underpinnings of the study of fantasy literature, and of medical and sociological concepts of obesity and being overweight. Nevare Burvelle, the focal character of the Soldier Son trilogy, receives particular attention; he raises questions about the physiological causes of obesity, as well as working to frustrate typical Western conceptions about the symbolic overtones of fatness. Hobb’s Gord and Samwell Tarly from Martin’s work are also treated in the thesis, used to reinforce arguments against concepts of fatness as stemming solely from unambitious laziness and lack of self-control.
Mohon, Keely. “Robin Hobb’s Fool and the Redefinition of the Fantasy Hero.” Undergraduate thesis. Wofford College, 2006. Print.Note
In a relatively short piece, Mohon argues that the Fool in Robin Hobb’s Elderlings corpus offers a vision of heroism in which defeat of an enemy is not key, one that instead demonstrates heroism through restoration. The juxtaposition of the Fool and the Pale Woman—who occupies a role not unlike the traditional concept of heroism as defeating a perceived threat—permits the display of the unconventional fantasy-fiction heroism. A summary of three of the Elderlings corpus series—the Farseer, Liveship Traders, and Tawny Man trilogies—is followed by definitions of fantasy literature and the ostensible role of the Fool within the corpus as it existed when the thesis was written; brief commentaries on the Fool’s name, the social construction of gender roles, more overt social roles, the interplay between gender and station, transvestitism, sexual identification, antecedents of the Pale Woman in fantasy literature, color symbolism, and predestination; and a motion towards projections ahead within Hobb’s milieu. A bibliography concludes the document, offering a useful reading list for introductory study of the fantasy genre.
Nordlund, Sai Johansson. Narren som ögonöppnare: En karnevalisk analys av Berättelsen om Fjärrskådarna och Den Gyllene Mannen. 2016, Karlstads Universites, BA thesis, diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:948635/FULLTEXT01.pdf, accessed 23 May 2019.
In an undergraduate thesisNote pointed out to the Project by Saga Bokne, the author (in translation) notes
Over the years, several researchers have shown the subversive effect of fantasy and how reading it leads to utopian thoughts. Ironically, the fictional worlds function as an eye-opener or a lesson to consider for readers. The immersion of the reader in the fictional world is a form of escapism from reality, which at the same time gives the reader the possibility of seeing reality with new eyes thereby enabling a vision of potential utopias–for better or worse. According to theorists, this applies first and foremost to children and young readers who are more easily influenced. Mikhail Bakhtin’s carnival theory works in the same subversive way. In order to investigate the various connections and how the utopian thoughts can be realized after the reading, the carnival theory is used as a theoretical starting point in the analysis of Robin Hobb’s works, The Farseer Trilogy (Berättelsen om Fjärrskådarna in Swedish) and the The Tawny Man Trilogy (Den gyllene mannen in Swedish). Some conclusions from the analysis that the reader can reflect on are the thoughts that are raised about the human devastation of nature, how man lives at the expense of nature and not with nature. But first and foremost, thoughts are raised that there is always room for change in the world and human structures. Even thoughts about gender equality, openness, and how important they are in the changes of societies are raised. At the same time, there is in the works an underlying anti-democratic tone, as opposed to the society of equality and openness presented.
Prater, Leslie. “Queering Magic: Robin Hobb and Fantasy Literature’s Radical Potential.” Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary Popular Fantasy: Beyond Boy Wizards and Kick-Ass Chicks, edited by Jude Roberts and Esther MacCallum-Stewart, Routledge, 2016, pp. 21-34.
In a piece pointed out to this project by Saga Bokne, Prater argues that the depictions of magic and the Fool in Hobb’s Elderlings corpus serve to queer overall relationships between masculinity and femininity, but that the depictions of most interpersonal relationships in the body of work serve to reinscribe heterosexist, gender-binary discourse. She asserts that the interplay of the Wit and the Skill in FitzChivalry Farseer and that of the Skill among humans and dragons serve to destabilize personal identities (even to the point of breaking down species and organic/inorganic boundaries), while the actual instances of queer personal relationships adhere to monogamous romantic models and reassert certain aspects of traditional Western patriarchies. Prater arrives at the conclusion that fantasy writers remain more potentially radical in their magic than in the people who practice it.
Of note are Prater’s references to Judith Butler–whose theories or performative gender are particularly apt–and to articles annotated in this collection (here and here). Of note also is the chronological limitation of Prater’s study; how what appears in Fool’s Assassin, Fool’s Quest, and Assassin’s Fate might amend Prater’s conclusions suggests itself as meriting consideration.
Räsänen, Heidi. “How do you politely explain to someone that you had always believed him a moron as well as a fool?” – Marginality, Transformations, and Identity in Robin Hobb’s Beloved. 2016. University of Tampere, Master’s thesis, tampub.uta.fi/handle/10024/99160, accessed 22 May 2019.
In a thesis noted to the Project by Saga Bokne, Räsänen looks at the depiction of Hobb’s Fool in the Farseer, Liveship Traders, and Tawny Man novels (the later components of the Elderlings corpus are not examined) through a theoretical framework treating traditional, archetypal depictions of fools; mutability; liminality and marginality; concepts of gender performativity such as those espoused by Judith Butler; and concepts of identity. The Fool, referred to throughout as B, offers Räsänen a case study of marginality, of metamorphosis, and of identity as deliberately constructed and interchangeable. In each, B enacts much of the traditional concepts of fools’ behavior–although each also nuances and alters the concept in the iteration, something Räsänen asserts is typical of Hobb’s treatments of tropes, generally.
Roberts uses the short story “Cut,” written by Hobb under another pseudonym, and major theorist Judith Butler’s work to illuminate how both fail to effectively move beyond the concerns of the individual to the possibility of effective collective action regarding female body modification, including genital cutting. In effect, Roberts uses the two writers’ works to demonstrate that legislation of body issues is ultimately futile, as any law will ultimately undermine itself through being appropriated for purposes the law’s framers could not foresee.
This annotation is excerpted from one composed in my previous teaching materials, here.
Roth, Jenny, and Monica Flegel. “It’s Like Rape: Metaphorical Family Transgressions, Copyright Ownership, and Fandom.” Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, vol. 28, no. 6, 2014, pp. 901-13, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10304312.2014.964175. Accessed 29 September 2016.
Roth and Flegel argue that debates between originary and fan-fiction writers frame (mis)understandings of copyright law in terms of familial relationships, striking a strange commonality between the two groups. After commenting on the prevailing “remix culture” of the online environment of the late 2000s and early 2010s, Roth and Flegel offer a definition of fan fiction and frame the scope of their own discussion, which emerges from the beginnings of the Organization for Transformative Works and an online tirade against fan work by Diana Gabaldon. They lay out a number of authors’ arguments against fan works–including Hobb’s “Fan Fiction Rant”–noting the commonality of presentation in terms of patriarchal familial relationships among the authors and refuting those presentations. They then investigate fan communities’ justifications of their own works, noting the prevalence of familial and communal metaphors in those justifications and clearly aligning themselves with the fan-fiction communities.
The piece works in tandem with Flegel and Roth’s “Legitimacy, Validity, and Wriitng for Free.”
Sanderson, Julia Hallgren. ”Such a thing to waste words on”: Genus, sexualitet, och Beloved i Robin Hobbs The Realm of the Elderlings. 2017, Södertörns högskola, master’s thesis, diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1229721/FULLTEXT01.pdf, accessed 22 May 2019.
For a Swedish-languageNote master’s thesis pointed out to the Project by Saga Bokne, Sanderson offers the following abstract:
In fantasy literature, representations of gender and sexuality outside of the heteronormative binary have historically been limited. Although queer fantasy is on the rise, depictions of non-conformational identities are still rare and far in-between. This thesis seeks to examine one of the earlier fantasy representations of a queer character, the non-binary Beloved in Robin Hobbs fantasy series The Realm of the Elderlings in terms of gender and sexuality. Throughout the series, Beloved assumes different identities of various genders and sexual orientations, and continuously claims that these are all equally true and valid representations of themselves, although these are distinctly separated by ways of, often gendered, physical attributes. Therefore, a central part of this thesis will be to examine how these shifts between genders and sexual identities are established performatively, something I will do with the support of Judith Butler’s theory of gender performativity as it is presented in Gender Trouble. While the text ultimately lends itself to a reading in Beloved’s favour, they are often othered and met with scorn from other characters of the series, something that is quite central to their characterization. Consequently, this thesis will also investigate these reactions and the often heteronormative and conservative stances they demonstrate, and, most notably, how these reactions mirror exterior societal attitudes and change in accordance with these.
Schouwenaars, Luke. Damsels in Drag: Crossdressing Adventures in Medieval Literature and Modern Fantasy. 2018, Utrecht University, Master’s thesis, dspace.library.uu.nl/handle/1874/366980, accessed 22 May 2019.
In a thesis pointed out to the Project by Saga Bokne, Schouwenaars argues that fantasy literature reacts to perceived gender binaries in ways reminiscent the medieval literatures from which most mainstream fantasy literature emerges. Following Judith Butler’s discussion of performative gender, Schouwenaars asserts that medieval literatures are not so committed to reinforcing gender binaries as many later works are, using the Fitz and the Fool trilogy as a principal primary source for discussion due to its deep, sustained, and serious engagement with crossdressing and gender identity.
Stein, Louisa, and Kristina Busse. “Limit Play: Fan Authorship between Source Text, Intertext, and Context.” Popular Communication, vol. 7, 2009, pp. 192-207, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15405700903177545. Accessed 29 September 2016.
Stein and Busse argue that fan-works emerge from the tension between the desire to expand upon existing properties and the restrictions imposed by the source materials, fan materials, fan communities, genres of composition, and the relevant technologies. After defining what they mean by fan-fiction and laying out their embedded methodology, they lay out the concept of creative limits and explicate the various kinds of limits they identify. They conclude with commentary about resistance to fan works–including that voiced by Hobb–and a motion towards the inclusive work of fan communities.
Tomio, Jay. “From Farseer to Soldier Son – Robin Hobb Interview.” MicLonian, www.miclonian.com/robin-hobb-interview. Accessed 7 November 2017.
In a non-scholarly piece, interviewer Jay Tomio asks Robin Hobb a series of questions focused on the Soldier Son trilogy and her reactions to concerns of popular culture that date to the composition of Soldier Son. Notable are Hobb’s comments about the yoking of magic and the pre-modern, first-person narration, and interpretation. Perhaps most developed of her responses is the last, concerning spoilers and their ruinous effects on new readers. Reader-response and biographical criticism might well find the interview of use.
Waumans, Nicodème, and Bersini assert that automated processes can map the social networks of fictional societies based on the interchanges observed among members of those societies. After laying out their sampling data—including Robin Hobb’s Liveship Traders and Rain Wilds Chronicles novels—they explicate their processes of encoding the texts treated and the algorithms through which they process their data. No small number of diagrams and graphs lay out their processes and results for ease of comprehension. The authors note several factors that make their work provisional, explicitly noting that much work remains to be done. They also suggest that their study offers a possible insight into human interaction and the consumption of media.
The article can be found here.
Young reports various perspectives on fanfiction, noting disagreements with some traditional viewpoints on fanfiction and arguing in favor of the phenomenon–with caveats regarding the spectrum of quality and content to be found in the many large online fanficiton communities. Hobb’s rant regarding fan fiction is used as a pushing-off point for the article, encapsulating the overall attitude against which Young argues.
Young argues that Robin Hobb’s Soldier Son novels serve as a critique of Western colonialist practices and tropes. She discusses racialized underpinnings of the fantasy genre and the gradual shift of the genre into more complicated treatments of racial issues. The Soldier Son setting is explicated as an amorphous analogue of Western colonialism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and while no peoples in the novels are entirely good or bad, so that the series resists the traditional fantasy dichotomy, unfortunate implications are encoded in the texts. Hybridity and intercultural discourse factor heavily into the text, serving as the means through which Hobb critiques colonialist practice.
As the Project began, MLA standards were represented by the Third Edition of the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publication and the Seventh Edition of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. Entries composed while those versions of MLA standards were in force (prior to April 2016) reflect those standards; revision of those entries may take place, but such is not guaranteed. Entries composed from April 2016 to April 2021 adhere to the standards articulated in the Eighth Edition of the MLA Handbook; those composed after April 2021 adhere to the Ninth Edition. Back to text.
The name of the Fedwren Project derives from the name of one of the minor characters in Robin Hobb’s Elderlings corpus: the Six Duchies’ chief scribe, Fedwren. A prominent servitor in Buckkeep Castle, Fedwren is a teacher to the local children—including the narrating FitzChivalry Farseer—who dreams, along with others, of spreading access to education through increased access to scholarly materials. Naming an annotated bibliography that seeks to increase access to knowledge (in at least a small way) after such a character seems an appropriate gesture. I hope to be as helpful to my contemporaries and successors as Fedwren is to his. Back to text.
Although it may seem strange to include undergraduate research such as Duits’s in an annotated bibliography of scholarship, institutions increasingly promote undergraduate research as part of their curricula. (Joyce Kinkead and Laurie Grobman speak to the matter in their contribution to the 2011 issue of Profession, “Expanding Opportunities for Undergraduate Research in English Studies.”) Perhaps having it cited will promote more and better undergraduate research, and perhaps it will argue against academic elitism; even undergraduate students may have something to teach, if only through their willingness to address unconventional topics. Back to entry.
This citation is the first composed after the switch to the Eighth Edition MLA standards (see above). Additionally, since the source is accessed through the Internet Archive, the composition date for the source is conjectural; the year is relatively certain, but the specific date is less so. As such, the citation may be in some error; corrections accompanied by evidence would be welcomed. Back to entry.
My Swedish is not nearly good enough to allow me to read the original document, which is my failing and not Sanderson’s. It is because of my inadequacy that I offer the author’s own abstract rather than presenting my own summary. Back to entry.
The Fedwren Project: A Robin Hobb Annotated Bibliography by Geoffrey B. Elliott is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. All entries are presented in the service of research and commentary, falling under general Fair Use guidelines.