Imagining the Impossible

Imagining the Impossible joins three Danish institutions with international partners in the US, the UK, and Australia, and is led by Associate Professor Rikke Schubart

Imagining the Impossible joins eleven researchers working with media fictions (television, film, games, literature), human play (real and virtual), and production design in games and films. We join theories from the humanities with biocultural, evolutionary, and cognitive theories. We view fantastic fiction as offering imaginary play and cognitive meta-thinking. The network asks why the fantastic has exploded in contemporary entertainment, how and why we play with – create, design, use, engage with – the fantastic, and why the fantastic is adaptive and important for human existence. We use a broad definition of the fantastic as stories which have an ontological rupture, thus making possible the impossible and the counterfactual. We include all fantastic subgenres, such as supernatural horror, fairy tales, science fiction, fantasy, and superheroes.

Today, the fantastic reigns supreme in entertainment. But not long ago, fantastic fictions were scorned. However, film series Harry Potter (2001–2011) and The Hunger Games (2012–2016) prove the appeal to mainstream audiences, shows like The Walking Dead (2011–) and Game of Thrones (2011–) has made fantastic the new black, and films like The Shape of Water (2017), Wonder Woman (2017), and Black Panther (2017) did what the industry thought impossible: Winning Oscars and making women and African-Americans blockbuster material.

We aim to be an interdisciplinary task force which creates a shared theoretical platform for a study of the fantastic, a platform where we join forces in pursuit of answers. We produce an interdisciplinary theory of the fantastic and at the end of 2020 write a large collective project application.

Amanda Howell, Senior Lecturer, Griffith University
Angela Ndalianis, Professor, Swinburne University of Technology
Anita Nell Bech Albertsen, Associate Professor, University of Southern Denmark
Cristina Bacchilega, Professor, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa
Jakob Ion Wille, Assistant Professor, The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts
Jesper Juul, Associate Professor, The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts
Marc Malmdorf Andersen, Postdoctoral researcher, Aarhus University
Mathias Clasen, Associate Professor, Aarhus University
Rikke Schubart, Associate Professor, University of Southern Denmark
Stephanie Green, Senior Lecturer, Griffith University
Stephen Joyce, Associate Professor, Aarhus University

“In this world only play, play as artists and children engage in it, exhibits coming-to-be and passing away, structuring and destroying, without any moral additive, in forever equal innocence. And as children and artists play, so plays the ever-living fire.”
Friedrich Nietzsche (1873)


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