Teaching Genre Fantasy : One Approach

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What I am going to discuss today is my experience with and attempts to construct a 12 week undergraduate syllabus for the study of Genre Fantasy Literature.

So a couple of very quick disclaimers:

  1. This is not prescriptive; this is a starting point for discussion.
  2. This is based on my experience of teaching in the UK therefore it is a 12 week block comprised of four hours contact time each week, with a ‘reading week’ or ‘independent study week’ occurring in the second half of the semester.
  3. The four hours are divided between a 1 hour lecture, a 1 hour workshop in which the lecture is discussed and questions answered, and a 2 hour seminar discussion group in which the reading for the week is discussed in relation to the lecture and topic.
  4. In the UK system we favour essays over class tests so the examination criteria reflect this.
  5. The focus is on Genre Fantasy literature, not fantastic literature in general, SF, horror, genres of fantasy, speculative fiction. Therefore this is a pretty specific remit that does not take into account mythology, folklore, faerie tale, the Gothic, Weird Fiction, Science Fiction, Space Opera, the Fantastic, Fantastik, Fantastique, and so on.  So there are a great many texts that have been excluded or that don’t fall under the rubric for the class.
  6. As with so many subject syllabi, this was an exercise in practical and pragmatic selection, so a number of texts were chosen for their expediency rather than their status or critical appreciation.
  7. The class is aimed at English Literature Students, it would be an elective module, and would be second or third year undergraduates.
  8. The module follows a thematic overview of Genre Fantasy rather than an historical perspective of the genre, although elements of genre history will obviously be discussed.
  9. Each of the three mini-sections utilises a single key primary text, in addition to excerpts from additional texts, short stories and critical works.
  10. Lastly, the focus of this class was to teach critical awareness of Genre Fantasy, Genre Theory, Literary Theory and to develop skills in textual analysis, and as a result texts were chosen that aided the teaching of the subject and that fitted in with the approach that I wanted to take.

So this is not a typical paper presentation.  I thought I would take you through how I designed a Genre Fantasy Syllabus, and at the end we could discuss the pros and cons of approaching teaching this way.

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