The aim of this program will be to explore the nature and uses of fantastical literature through the ages, and consider the enormous modern-day appeal of this type of storytelling. One key, and perhaps counterintuitive, idea will be that some authors have found the fantasy mode to be the best means of addressing real-world dilemmas, particularly those of the 20th century. Our reading will range from Aesop's fables (over 600 survive from the Ancient Greek), the Thousand and One Nights, and traditional fairy tales to modern works like Orwell's Animal Farm (which he subtitled "A Fairy Story"), Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, and LeGuin's "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas." Students will also read J.R.R. Tolkien's seminal defense of the genre, "On Fairy Stories," and will try their own hands at writing short pieces in the fantastic mode. Along the way, we'll consider the intense and recurrent hostility to Fantasy on the part of some literary critics and cultural commentators, as well as some focused rejoinders to their dismissals and complaints. Be prepared to read, dream, imagine, create, and spend a quarter in the Other Worlds!
Course Reference Numbers
Humanities, literature, writing, education, and any other field that values an active imagination.