In this course, we will study Tolkien’s longest stories in the context of the earlier epic tradition, the “great tales” that he so admired. In our readings of these early poems, however, we will not merely be looking to them as Tolkien’s “sources,” an approach that can easily lead us to oversimplify both Tolkien’s work and the older poems themselves. Instead, we will study these old works on their own terms, examining each story’s themes, characters, and narrative voice, while also exploring some of Tolkien’s own interests in these works as a scholar. We will read Tolkien’s works with similar care, observing both the similarities and the differences between Tolkien’s stories and those earlier great works in the tradition of which they are a part.
“Why, to think of it, we’re in the same tale still! It’s going on. Don’t the great tales never end?” - Sam Gamgee
With Special Guest Lecturers:
The Great Tales: Tolkien and The Epic (Fall 2011)
Beowulf - translated by Dirk Ringler
The Monsters and The Critics - J.R.R. Tolkien
Finn and Hengest - J.R.R. Tolkien
The Kalevala – compiled by Elias Lonröt, translated by Francis Peabody Magoun, Jr.
The Children of Hurin – J.R.R. Tolkien
The Saga of The Volsungs – translated by Eiríkr Magnússon and William Morris
The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún – J.R.R. Tolkien
The Lays of Beleriand – J.R.R. Tolkien
The Silmarillion – J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings (boxed set) – J.R.R. Tolkien
C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien are two of the pillars of modern fantasy, and their friendship is well known. Despite the fact that the two authors are so frequently associated with each other, however, their works are rarely examined closely together. In this class, we will engage in a careful comparison of Lewis’s and Tolkien’s fiction, paying close attention to those moments when they are both exploring similar ideas or undertaking comparable literary enterprises. What do these two authors really share in common, and where do their primary differences lie?
The Making of Myth (Spring 2012)
The Company They Keep - Diana Pavlac Glyer
Of Other Worlds - C.S. Lewis
The Tolkien Reader - J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis
The Magician’s Nephew - C.S. Lewis
The Silmarillion - J.R.R. Tolkien
The Last Battle – C.S. Lewis
Perelandra – C.S. Lewis
Till We Have Faces – C.S. Lewis
The Lost Road and Other Writings – J.R.R. Tolkien and Christopher Tolkien
The Voyage of The Dawn Treader - C.S. Lewis
Smith of Wooton Major & Farmer Giles of Ham – J.R.R. Tolkien
Sauron Defeated – J.R.R. Tolkien
In this course we will discuss the ancestors to the Harry Potter phenomenon, examine the specific works and traditions that inform the Harry Potter universe, study the Harry Potter texts in depth, and, perhaps most importantly, consider why the Harry Potter franchise has achieved unparalleled global popularity today. In the process, we will take both a theoretical and historical approach to popular culture in general and J.K. Rowling’s works in particular. Wizards, witches, squibs, and muggles are welcome as we get to the very heart of Harry Potter.
Taking Harry Seriously (Spring 2012)
Harry Potter Paperback (boxed set) - J.K. Rowling
The Tales of Beedle The Bard - J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince (Blu-ray) - directed by David Yates
Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince (DVD) - directed by David Yates
Students need only buy either the Blu-ray or DVD special edition of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Students outside of the United States may use a local special edition as long as it includes the documentary,
“J.K. Rowling: A Year in the Life.”
Why is the Harry Potter series a record-setting success story across the world? What great traditions and works inspired the saga? What lasting lessons and big ideas can we draw from it? Join award-winning scholar Dr. Amy H. Sturgis as she considers the first three Harry Potter novels – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s (or Sorcerer’s) Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban –through the lenses of literature, history, philosophy, and popular culture studies. Even if you’re a dedicated fan, there’s always more to discover!
No wand? No owl? No problem! Muggles and squibs are welcome as Mythgard Academy investigates the magical worlds and deeper meanings of the Harry Potter saga.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Chapters 1-10
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Chapters 11-17
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapters 1-11
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapters 12-18
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapters 1-12
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapters 13-22
In this class, we will examine the work of some of the top fantasy writers of the last fifty years. The works we will discuss in this class do not constitute an orderly or systematic survey of the development of the fantasy genre, but rather a series of case studies. We will read six books by six different authors. As we discuss each book, we will compare and contrast the authors’ approach to fantasy and subcreation, myth and magic.
This term, we will explore Peter Beagle’s shrewd contemplation of fantasy and the fairy-tale tradition in The Last Unicornand Ursula Le Guin’s classic of modern subcreation, A Wizard of Earthsea. We will look at several works which conceptualize the frontiers between our mundane world and the realm of Faerie; Neil Gaiman’s Stardust and Jim Butcher’s Summer Knight both give us stories of humans with a magical heritage who cross this frontier and become embroiled in the high matters of Faerie. Garth Nix’s Sabriel is also focused on frontiers, dealing with not only a boundary between the mundane and the magical, but also with a parallel boundary between life and death. We will also tackle George RR Martin’s A Game of Thrones, the first volume of The Song of Ice and Fire, which might be the most massive and intricate subcreative undertaking in literature in the last fifty years.
Modern Fantasy (Summer 2012)
Who was Arthur? Who is Arthur? Was there an Arthur? What do we know and how do we know it?
We will track the legendary yet mysterious king from his beginnings in the late 5th/early 6th century through 1500 years during which his story moved from history to folklore to romance to tragedy. A handout available online will put Arthur in the context of his earliest sources. We will move on to Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain; the early Welsh fairy tale “Culhwch and Olwen” from the Mabinogion; two romances of Chrétien de Troyes—Lancelot and Perceval (in English translation); and a substantial portion of the Works of Sir Thomas Malory. Because each period created the king it wanted, we will encounter many Arthurs and many—even conflicting—versions of his story.
The Arthur Story (Summer 2012)
The History of the Kings of Britain – Geoffrey of Monmouth, translated by Lewis Thorpe
The Mabinogion – translated by Thomas Jones and Gwen Jones
Lancelot; or, the Knight of the Cart – Chrétien de Troyes, translated by Ruth Harwood Cline
Perceval; or The Story of The Grail - Chrétien de Troyes, translated by Ruth Harwood Cline
Malory: Complete Works – Thomas Malory, edited by Eugene Vinaver
The Idylls of the King – Alfred Tennyson, edited by J.M. Gray
‘Elementary Latin I’ is an intensive course designed to introduce you to the basic elements of the Latin language. It will emphasize the fundamentals of grammar, vocabulary, and reading comprehension – in other words, all of the tools necessary to develop a sound reading proficiency in Latin.
Elementary Latin I (Summer 2012)
Wheelock’s Latin, 7th edition – F.M. Wheelock
English Grammar for Students of Latin, 3rd edition – N.W. Goldman
This course will examine the life of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. We will examine several important precursors of the book, works that helped establish the genre in which Tolkien was writing, or which influenced Tolkien’s own thinking. We will then read not the final published version of The Hobbit, but the growth of the story in manuscript and typescript, examining carefully how the story developed and in what directions. We will then turn to the publication and reception ofThe Hobbit, including its adaptation to film. We’ll end the semester with a discussion of the Rankin-Bass animated Hobbit and, after a brief delay, a discussion of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
Professor Olsen will be joined in this class by two distinguished guest lecturers: John D. Rateliff, author of The History ofThe Hobbit, and Douglas A. Anderson, author of The Annotated Hobbit, two of the foremost scholars on The Hobbit in the world.
The Story of The Hobbit (Fall 2012)
Through the Looking Glass - Lewis Carroll
Winnie-the-Pooh - A.A. Milne
The Princess and the Goblin - George McDonald
The Marvellous Land of Snergs - E.A. Wyke-Smith
The Lays of Beleriand (same as Fall 2011)
The Shaping of Middle-earth - J.R.R. and Christopher Tolkien
The History of The Hobbit - John D. Rateliff
The Annotated Hobbit - edited by Douglas A. Anderson
The Hobbit (DVD) – Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass (alternate UK title: Bilbo Baggins – A Hobbit’s Tale)
What does it mean to be human? Are we alone? What wonders or terrors will tomorrow hold? Join award-winning scholar Dr. Amy H. Sturgis as she explores the ways in which the literature of science fiction over time has asked the question: “What if?” This course will consider the development of the genre from “proto-SF” writings through the Golden Age, with an eye toward how the great works and movements within science fiction both reflect the concerns and attitudes of their time and imagine beyond them. Discover why author Ray Bradbury called science fiction “the most important literature in the history of the world.”
Science Fiction, Part I (Fall 2012)
The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One: 1929-1964: The Greatest Science Fiction Stories of All Time - edited by Robert Silverberg
The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two A: The Greatest Science Fiction Novellas of All Time - edited by Ben Bova
Frankenstein - Mary Shelley*
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - Jules Verne
We - Yevgeny Zamyatin*
The Martian Chronicles - Ray Bradbury*
A Canticle for Leibowitz - Walter M. Miller, Jr.
Dune - Frank Herbert
The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress - Robert Heinlein
* linked title is strongly suggested edition
The second semester of “Elementary Latin” will complete your introduction to the basic elements of the Latin language. It will emphasize the fundamentals of grammar, vocabulary, and reading comprehension – in other words, all of the tools necessary to develop a sound reading proficiency in Latin. Last semester, we began reading connected passages and short selections of unaltered Latin; this semester, these readings will become more prominent as our knowledge of Latin advances. You will not be expected to speak Latin, but you should have at this point a good classical pronunciation and know where to place important accents.
Elementary Latin II (Fall 2012)
Wheelock’s Latin, 7th edition – F.M. Wheelock
English Grammar for Students of Latin, 3rd edition – N.W. Goldman
What does it mean to be human? Are we alone? What wonders or terrors will tomorrow hold? Join award-winning scholar Dr. Amy H. Sturgis as she explores the ways in which the literature of science fiction over time has asked the question: “What if?” This course will consider the development of the genre from the emergence of the New Wave in the 1960s to today, with an eye toward how the great works and movements within science fiction both reflect the concerns and attitudes of their time and imagine beyond them. Discover why author Ray Bradbury said that science fiction reflects “the history of our civilization birthing itself.”
Science Fiction, Part II (Spring 2013)
The Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction
The Left Hand of Darkness - Ursula K. Le Guin
Neuromancer - William Gibson
Ender’s Game - Orson Scott Card
The Doomsday Book - Connie Willis
Red Mars - Kim Stanley Robinson
The Sparrow - Mary Doria Russell
Genesis - Bernard Beckett
In this course, students will read Tolkien’s two critical essays, Beowulf, and The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings to explore how his world and his myth developed over time. There are three interim exams, one on the essays and Beowulf, one on The Silmarillion, one on The Hobbit, plus a two-hour final exam on The Lord of the Rings. Each exam builds on the one before it. All are open book, open notes. The goal is not to test your memory, but to get you to think deeply and critically about the material and the relationships among the works. You should know more at the end of each exam than you did before you started.
Tolkien’s World of Middle-earth (Spring 2013)