Syllabi

Fall 2015 Courses

 

The Force of Star Wars: Examining the Epic

Taught by Dr. Amy H. Sturgis

As anyone who has ever staged a mock lightsaber duel or made an imaginary jump to lightspeed knows, Star Wars is a shared language that unites multiple generations across the planet. What traditions and ideas inspired that galaxy a long time ago and far, far away? How has the Star Warsuniverse expanded and evolved since its debut in 1977? Join award-winning scholar Dr. Amy H. Sturgis as she examines the fabric of the Star Wars story and its participatory fan culture to discover the lasting meaning behind the epic and appreciate its unprecedented impact on film, fiction, and popular culture. Whether you’re a lifelong fan or a Star Wars newbie, you are welcome here.

Introduction to Anglo-Saxon

Taught by Dr. Michael Drout and Nelson Goering

Old English (Anglo-Saxon) is the earliest recorded stage of English, spoken in Britain during the early Middle Ages. A wealth of literature and poetry is written in the language, including justly famous works such as The Battle of Maldon, The Wanderer, and above all Beowulf. Old English is also the starting point for the study of the history of the English language, and a gateway to Germanic philology.

Tolkien’s Wars and Middle-earth

Taught by John Garth

A century after Tolkien began crafting his legendarium, it’s time to ask what it had to do with the cataclysmic changes of his times. What did he do in the First World War, and how did it change him? What became of his first “fellowship” of friends? How does the trench experience infuse The Lord of the Rings and other works, and how does all this relate to his other passions – myth and fairy-tale, the medieval, and the invention of languages? What about the Second World War, and Tolkien’s famous denial of allegorical reference to it? You’ll never look at Tolkien and Middle-earth in the same way again.

 

Summer 2015 Courses

 

Literary Copernicus: The Cosmic Fiction of H. P. Lovecraft

Taught by Dr. Amy H. Sturgis

In tales such as “The Call of Cthulhu” and At the Mountains of Madness, H.P. Lovecraft – the disciple of Poe and the champion of the Weird – pioneered a new kind of fiction. Fueled by an astronomer’s insights and an antiquarian’s aesthetic, Lovecraft turned his readers’ focus “from man and his little world and his gods, to the stars and the black and unplumbed gulfs of intergalactic space,” leading author and critic Fritz Leiber, Jr. to dub him “A Literary Copernicus.” Join award-winning scholar Dr. Amy H. Sturgis as she explores Lovecraft’s stories and the meaning behind them, the shared universe of his mythos, and the lasting impact of his cosmic vision on the contemporary landscapes of literature and popular culture.

Tolkien’s Poetry

Taught by Dr.Corey Olsen

From his undergraduate days through the final phase of his literary career, Tolkien was a prolific poet. No matter what he was doing or how overwhelmed with other work he was, he continued to produce poems. Indeed, it seems that Tolkien’s lyric poetry was very near the heart of his creative process. Starting with his early fairy poetry and ending with his final poetic retrospective in the Adventures of Tom Bombadil, we will take a journey through Tolkien’s poems that will provide you a refreshing new insight into Tolkien’s imagined worlds.

 

Spring 2015 Courses


Science Fiction, Part II
 

Taught by Dr. Amy H. Sturgis

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.

Beowulf Through Tolkien, and Vice Versa

Taught by Dr. Tom Shippey and Nelson Goering

Tolkien’s involvement with Beowulf was lifelong. His 1936 lecture to the British Academy on “the Monsters and the Critics” has been said to be the most-cited academic paper of all time, in the humanities. But he also lectured to undergraduates until he retired in 1957 – and then Oxford asked him back for a repeat course in 1963. Some of his views appeared posthumously in 1982 (Finn and Hengest), and more came out with his translation and partial commentary in 2014.

 

Fall 2014 Courses


Lewis & Tolkien
 

Taught by Dr. Corey Olsen 

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.

Science Fiction, Part I 

Taught by Dr. Amy H. Sturgis 

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.

 

Summer 2014 Courses


Taking Harry Seriously: The Artistry and Meanings of the Harry Potter Saga
 

Taught by Dr. Amy H. Sturgis

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….

Chaucer II: The Canterbury Tales 

Taught by Dr. Corey Olsen

In this class we will study of the great classics of English literature: Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.  In the Tales, we see Chaucer at the height of his poetic abilities, mixing sensitive characterization and stunning complexity of storytelling with his inimitable wit and good humor.   In our reading of the Canterbury Tales, we will look carefully at the intimate relationship between Chaucer’s stories and their narrative frame, between the tales and their tellers….

The Lord of the Rings: A Cultural Studies and Audience Reception Approach 

Taught by Dr. Robin Anne Reid

During the summer of 2014, this class will investigate the extent to which this initially obscure, lengthy, and extremely complicated fictional work rooted in early medieval European mythology became so firmly entrenched in modern American and European cultures.  We will consider how, from 1965 to the present, The Lord of the Rings has been engaged in complex ways with the development and circulation of modern discourses….

 

Spring 2014 Courses


The Gothic Tradition
 

Taught by Dr. Amy H. Sturgis

The Gothic literary tradition began in the mid-eighteenth century in Europe and lives on in various forms across the globe through contemporary fiction, poetry, art, music, film, and television. Mad scientists, blasted heaths, abandoned ruins, elusive ghosts, charming vampires, and even little green men people its stories. With ingredients such as a highly developed sense of atmosphere, extreme emotions including fear and awe, and emphases on the mysterious….

Chaucer: Visions of Love 

Taught by Dr. Corey Olsen

This class is the first semester in a two-part survey of Chaucer’s major works.  In this first semester, we will study the works with which Chaucer established his reputation in his time: his early dream vision poems and his greatest completed work: Troilus and Criseyde.  In the second semester, we will study The Canterbury Tales.  In this first semester, we will focus on immersing ourselves in Chaucer’s language….

Celtic Myth in Children’s Fantasy 

Taught by Dr. Dimitra Fimi

The medieval literature of Ireland and Wales is thought to have saved for posterity the vestiges of what would have been ancient ‘Celtic’ mythology. Tales of heroes, otherworld voyages, transformation and magic have fascinated folklorists and antiquarians since the rediscovery of Celtic texts in the 19th century, and have inspired writers of fantasy literature from Victorian times to today….

 

Fall 2013 Courses


Sherlock, Science and Ratiocination
 

Taught by Dr. Amy H. Sturgis

The intellectual sibling of science fiction, born of the same parents (the Scientific Revolution and the Industrial Revoltion), is what its father, Edgar Allan Poe, called “tales of ratiocination.” Poe created the first scientific detective, C. Auguste Dupin, who in turn paved the way for one of the most enduring and beloved literary characters of all time, Sherlock Holmes….

Tolkien and Tradition 

Taught by Dr. Verlyn Flieger

Tolkien once said his immediate response to reading any medieval story was to want to write one like it.  He did.  Three times. “The Story of Kullervo” came from the Finnish KalevalaSigurd and Gudrún was his take on the Icelandic Eddas, and The Fall of Arthur was inspired by the Middle English Alliterative Morte Arthure and the Stanzaic Morte Arthure….

Philology Through Tolkien 

Taught by Dr. Tom Shippey and Prof. Nelson Goering

Tolkien is world-famous for his fiction. In his highly distinguished professional career, meanwhile, he was a philologist, and furthermore a comparative philologist, following in the footsteps of Jacob Grimm, whose innovations in comparative philology (vergleichende Philologie) must count as the Darwinian revolution of the humanities in the 19th century….

 

 

Summer 2013 Courses


Beyond Middle-earth
 

Taught by Dr. Corey Olsen and Dr. Tom Shippey

Middle-earth legends dominated his creative life, from their birth in the early Silmarillion tales through their absorption of Bilbo Baggins’s diary and their culmination in the tale of the Great Ring. However, throughout his life, Tolkien wrote many small pieces of prose and verse that were not directly drawn into the great narrative of Middle-earth….

The Dystopian Tradition 

Taught by Dr. Amy H. Sturgis

Over the years, thinkers have used dystopias — stories of worlds gone wrong, of worst-case scenarios – to warn their contemporaries about what they viewed as dangerous trends in society and challenge their readers to make the world better. This class will consider a variety of historical and current “what if?” thought experiments, including classics such as 1984 and current bestsellers such as The Hunger Games….

 

Spring 2013 Courses


Tolkien’s World of Middle-earth
 

Taught by Dr. Verlyn Flieger

In this course, students will read Tolkien’s two critical essays, Beowulf, and The SilmarillionThe 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.

Science Fiction, Part II 

Taught by Dr. Amy H. Sturgis

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.

The Story of The Hobbit 

Taught by Dr. Corey Olsen

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. We will then read the growth of the story in manuscript and typescript, examining carefully how the story developed and in what directions. Finally, we will turn to the publication and reception of The Hobbit, including its adaptation to film.

 

Fall 2012 Courses


Science Fiction, Part I
 

Taught by Dr. Amy H. Sturgis

What does it mean to be human? Are we alone? What wonders or terrors will tomorrow hold? We 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.

The Story of The Hobbit

Taught by Dr. Corey Olsen

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. We will then read the growth of the story in manuscript and typescript, examining carefully how the story developed and in what directions. Finally, we will turn to the publication and reception of The Hobbit, including its adaptation to film.

 

 Summer 2012 Course


Modern Fantasy
 

Taught by Dr. Corey Olsen

In this class, we will examine the work of some of the top fantasy writers of the last fifty years.  The works discussed 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.

 

Spring 2012 Courses


Taking Harry Seriously: The Aristry and Meanings of the Harry Potter Saga

Taught by Dr. Amy H. Sturgis with Prof. Travis Prinzi

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.

The Making of Myth: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien 

Taught by Dr. Corey Olsen

C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien are two of the pillars of modern fantasy, and their friendship is well known.  In this class, we will engage in a careful comparison of Lewis’s and Tolkien’s fiction: what do these two authors really share in common, and where do their primary differences lie?

 

Fall 2011 Course


The Great Tales: Tolkien and the Epic
 

Taught by Dr. Corey Olsen

With special guest lecturers:
Dr. Tom Shippey
Dr. Verlyn Flieger
Dr. Michael Drout