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
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