Fantasy Literature 1160-1900 (LIT2560.01)

Paul La Farge

Fantasy literature is enormously popular today, sometimes under its own name and sometimes under aliases: slipstream, speculative fiction, etc. It is, however, hardly a 20th or 21st century invention. Fantasy literature dates back to classical antiquity; by the time the fantasy writers of the 20th century — Lord Dunsany, Hope Mirrleess, T.H. White, Mervyn Peake, JRR Tolkien, Michael Moorcock, JK Rowling, Neil Gaiman, Nnedi Okorafor, and many, many others — began to write, the genre of fantasy literature was already well established.

In this class, we’ll dig into the roots of fantasy literature, starting with Gawain Poet’s Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (translated by Tolkien), from the late 1300s. Other medieval and Renaissance texts will include excerpts from Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur (1471), the Lais of Marie de France (1160-1215), and Chrétien de Troyes Arthurian Romances (1177-1181). From the 18th century (dating by its translation), we’ll read parts of The Thousand Nights and a Night, a couple of Charles Perreault’s literary fairy tales, and Walpole’s Castle of Otranto. From the 19th century, we’ll read Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.

Note: We will NOT read Tolkien or Harry Potter or ANY other 20th/21st century fantasy writers in this class. Papers on these writers will NOT be accepted for credit.

Learning Outcomes:
-- To learn something about the tradition of fantasy literature, and to read a decent amount of medieval and Renaissance literature in the process.
-- To familiarize ourselves with the language of these literatures, and their ways of storytelling, and to see what we can learn from them as writers.
-- To talk about the place of fantasy in the cosmos of literature generally.
-- To write critically and creatively in relation to the texts on our syllabus.

Delivery Method: Fully in-person
Course Level: 2000-level
Credits: 4
T/F 2:10PM - 4:00PM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 40
Course Frequency: One time only

Categories: All courses , Literature , Fully In-Person
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