Narnia, Middle Earth, and Beyond: Fantasy Realms in Literature

Books for the Course:

Click image links below to purchase new or used books online. (Be sure to turn your browser ad blocker off to see the book links.)

Films for the Course:

Catalog Description:

Fantasy literature is dismissed, misrepresented, and devalued by some literary scholars, even though, as Ursula Le Guin notes, it is the oldest form of literary expression, the grandmother of all literature. This core literature seminar investigates several examples of “high fantasy” literature, analyzing literary elements of mythopoeic literature and examining its political significance and social function. Students will study important literary, ethical, theological, and philosophical issues that mark fantasy literature as a significant literary genre. Prerequisite: Writing II.

Course Introduction:

Writers, poets, and artists have explored the powers of the imagination for thousands of years.  Even in our technologically advanced age, with its philosophical cynicism and political skepticism, the imagination still fills us with awe and wonder.  Nothing reveals this more than the ever-popular genre of fantasy literature.  This course explores the literary features of fantasy literature, examining its political significance and social function.  We will start with a general overview of literary fantasy and then begin exploring modern fantasy literature beginning with a late Victorian classic.  Then, we’ll carefully study some foundational, “classic” fantasy works, examining important literary, ethical, theological, and philosophical issues raised by the texts themselves.  We end the course with a discussion of Ridley Scott’s magical fantasy film Legend and the Academy Award winning Pan’s Labyrinth.  Welcome to fantasy realms in literature!

Core Learning Outcomes:

  1. Literacy: Students will be able to read and discuss novels, film, and prose, drawing thematic connections between texts, presenting and defending cogent interpretations, and helping peers develop their own interpretive views.
  2. Critical/Analytical Thinking: Students will be able to read, analyze, and discuss literary criticism and cultural studies articles so as to engage in well-informed analysis of the literature and social issues, to enhance their own views, and to learn how to link other critics’ views to their own. Students will learn to discuss the relationships between a writer’s worldview and the literature he/she creates and to analyze how authors grapple with leading intellectual questions and debates of their time period through literary expression.
  3. Communication: Students will be able to discuss their own ideas and interpretations and to examine critically the views of their peers, to deliver a PPT presentation, to write a coherent response paper, and to write a traditional academic research paper that presents a focused interpretation and supports interpretive claims with evidence from the literary texts, literary criticism, and contextual information (such as history, religion, philosophy, political theory, and ethical theory).
  4. Interdisciplinary Mindset: Students will be able to analyze the literature by combining literary criticism with philosophical, theological, and socio-political inquiry, thus achieving a deeper understanding of the times and the literature through interdisciplinary analysis.
  5. Ethical/Moral and Citizenship Appreciation: Students will be able to analyze questions relating to ethical behavior (as represented by actions and decisions of characters in the various narratives) by investigating the strengths and weaknesses of such moral theories as Natural Law, graduated absolutism, utilitarianism, ethical dualism, and moral relativism.