Thursday, November 3, 2011

A New Unit: Roots of Fantasy

In 2012, Patrick Spedding, Peter Groves and myself are undertaking 'Roots of Fantasy.' I'd been teaching 'Fantasy Narratives: An Introduction' in first year, but it never felt like a comfortable fit. Plus, there was a rich heritage of fantasy literature I couldn't cover.

This unit is a dream come true!

It's the first outing, so everything will be new and untried, but I've just firmed on my texts. I'm tackling the nineteenth century, basically. I'll be looking at Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Rossetti's Goblin Market, Morris's The Well at the World's End and Dunsany's The Book of Wonder. [UPDATE: Okay, that just changed. I'd firmed, the timetable hadn't, which has involved some renewed jiggling of texts. Decisions, decisions...]

I just wish there were in print editions of the Kelmscott Press The Well at the World's End.

Wouldn't that be a beautiful text to study from? One of the reasons I really want to include Morris is that I love his connection to the arts and craft movement and his work as a designer is truly remarkable and beautiful. This gives me an excuse to explore that a bit more!

i09 is also doing a series that 'backdates' the Hugo Awards: The Victorian Hugos. It's been pretty fantastic so far and is a great catch-up if you're looking for older fantasy and speculative works. They've just listed 1886. Spoiler alert, so to speak, but they went with Haggard's She as the winner:

"She would have won the 1886 Hugo, but Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was the more deserving of the two. She is a great read, vivid, memorable, and packed with a surprising amount of Haggard's fin-de-siecle pessimism, but there's a reason that Jekyll and Hyde is in the literary canon and She is not. Jekyll and Hyde is better written and more complex symbolically and psychologically. She is good fun; Jekyll and Hyde is good literature."

You know, I think I'd still back She? I just didn't like Jekyll and Hyde as much. And I always resist the rating of literature based on 'better written' and 'more complex'. Literature should be as much about good storytelling and Haggard is a brilliant storyteller of his time.

Not that I'm saying good literature shouldn't be well written... it's just that I've read some awful stories that were very well written...

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