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230057 Dungeons, Dragons, and Damsels in Distress: Fantasy Fiction (S) (WiSe 2017/2018)

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I propose to speak about fairy-stories, though I am aware that this is a rash adventure. Faërie is a perilous land, and in it are pitfalls for the unwary and dungeons for the overbold.
—J.R.R. Tolkien, “On Fairy-Stories” (1939)

For fantasy is true, of course. It isn’t factual, but it is true. Children know that. Adults know it too, and that is precisely why many of them are afraid of fantasy. They know that its truth challenges, even threatens, all that is false, all that is phony, unnecessary, and trivial in the life they have let themselves be forced into living. They are afraid of dragons, because they are afraid of freedom.
—Ursula K. Le Guin, “Why Are Americans Afraid of Dragons?” (1974)

In expressing desire, fantasy can operate in two ways (…): it can tell of, manifest or show desire (…), or it can expel desire, when this desire is a disturbing element which threatens cultural order and continuitiy (…). In many cases, fantastic literature fulfils both functions at once, for desire can be ‘expelled’ through having been ‘told of’ and thus vicariously experienced by author and reader. In this way fantastic literature points to or suggests the basis upon which cultural order rests, for it opens up, for a brief moment, on to disorder, on to illegality, on to that which lies outside the law, that which is outside dominant value systems. The fantastic traces the unsaid and the unseen of culture: that which has been silenced, made invisible, covered over and made ‘absent’.
—Rosemary Jackson, Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion (1981)

For the last two decades, the genre of fantasy has been ubiquitous in popular cultural products from literature to film to comics to video games. As a literary genre, fantasy has venerable historical roots but among critics it has a bad reputation of being escapist, shallow, repetitive, and reactionary. Its proponents claim for fantasy the imaginative exploration of strange worlds and languages, archetypal identities and mythical conflicts.

This seminar is a reading-intensive, writing-intensive introduction to the genre of fantasy fiction. We will study a number of exemplary fantasy media to familiarise ourselves critically with genre-typical master plots (like the Fight between Good and Evil or the Hero’s Journey) and tropes (like the Damsel in Distress, the Child Saviour, or the Grail); we will study the history of the genre; we will look more generally at genre theory to understand how the demarcations of what we call fantasy come about; and we will survey critical evaluations of the genre to find our own positions toward it.

Teilnahmevoraussetzungen, notwendige Vorkenntnisse

Students in the BA Anglistik are required to have completed the Writing class from BM1 and at least one of the two classes Analysing and Interpreting Literary Texts from BM2. I take these prerequisites seriously and will ask students who do not fulfil them to leave.

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Fachzuordnungen

Modul Veranstaltung Leistungen  
23-ANG-AngBM2 Basismodul 2: Introduction to Literary and Cultural Studies 2.3 Basisseminar: Genres, Authors, Periods Studienleistung
Studieninformation
veranstaltungsübergreifend benotete Prüfungsleistung Studieninformation
23-ANG-AngBM2.1 Basismodul 2.1 (Basic): Introduction to Literary and Cultural Studies Basisseminar: Genres, Authors, Periods Studienleistung
Studieninformation
veranstaltungsübergreifend benotete Prüfungsleistung Studieninformation
23-LIT-LitP8 Englischsprachige Literaturen Englischsprachige Literaturen in exemplarischen Lektüren 1 Studienleistung
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Englischsprachige Literaturen in exemplarischen Lektüren 2 Studienleistung
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Englischsprachige Literaturen: Traditionen, Gattungen, Motive Studienleistung
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Seminar mit Lektüreschwerpunkt Studienleistung
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Die verbindlichen Modulbeschreibungen enthalten weitere Informationen, auch zu den "Leistungen" und ihren Anforderungen. Sind mehrere "Leistungsformen" möglich, entscheiden die jeweiligen Lehrenden darüber.

Konkretisierung der Anforderungen

Required reading: Buy and read (before the the start of the semester!) China Miéville’s novel Un Lun Dun (2007). More required reading is specified in the syllabus which you can find in the Documents folder on the Lernraum.

Studienleistung: In regular small and ungraded writing tasks – from brainstorming a topic to developing an argument, from drafting close-readings to structuring a paper, from excerpting secondary literature to referencing it in a bibliography – you will practice techniques and strategies of academic writing to prepare you for work on a module paper. Your completed writing tasks will be collected in a writing portfolio which comprises the Studienleistung, to be submitted toward the end of the seminar.

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