Is it in fact just a label used by highfalutin university professors and literary critics to canonize those fantasy novels they like, while simultaneously dismissing “fantasy” as genre crap?
No. Sorry. It’s more complicated than that.
Fantasy magic is systematic: there are rules, if implicit, dictating who can perform it, and what it can do, and how. Distinctions are drawn between magicians and Muggles, enchanted items and normal kitchenware. Magic is extraordinary, supernatural, paranormal—anything but quotidian—and the staggering implications of its existence are explored and illustrated.