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About this course

What inspired the emergence and flowering of the fantasy genre in the 20th and 21st century?

Oxford - historic, beautiful, and timeless seat of learning - is closely associated with the genre. Towering figures of fantasy literature, J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, were both professors at the University of Oxford, and many more, like Diana Wynne Jones or Philip Pullman, were educated at Oxford or, like J. K. Rowling, influenced by its literary products and settings. Oxford and the Rise of Fantasy offers a unique opportunity to examine the fantasy genre from its earliest origins to the present day, exploring at each stage the influence of Oxford and its writers.

The course traces a history of the fantasy genre's formation and crystallization, from its medieval beginnings to the present. You will look at the story-telling and world-building literary devices used by Geoffrey of Monmouth, who wrote his medieval bestseller about King Arthur in Oxford Castle, and the authors of Renaissance Romance fantasies. You will explore Margaret Cavendish’s The Blazing World, a forerunner of science fiction, and 18th-century Gothic fantasies which paved the way for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The course follows Oxford's own Lewis Carroll, Scottish fantasy author George Macdonald, and the pre-Raphaelite William Morris through to Tolkien and Lewis and beyond. We will also consider recent critical approaches to the fantasy genre as well as discuss whether these pre-21st century texts lend themselves with ease to the modern media of cinema, TV serialisation, or computer games, and which adjustments have been made or are still to be made to make them relevant to our own times.

Please click below to download the formal Course Outline:

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, you will:

  • Be able to demonstrate a detailed understanding of the development of the fantasy genre, and its links to Oxford writers.
  • Be able to evaluate the relationship between fantasy literary texts and their historical and cultural contexts.
  • Understand and critically assess the key debates regarding the contemporary fantasy genre and its future direction.
  • Develop a critical vocabulary for discussing the fantasy genre in a range of periods.

Who is this course suitable for?

This course would suit students of the Humanities, especially those with an interest in English Literature, Theatre, Dramatic Arts, or History. The course would be of particular relevance to those with an interest in the future of literature in diverse media.

Dates and availability

Available as a Residential or Online course on the following date:

Session 2: 15th July to 2nd August 2024

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Get in touch

If you have any questions, or would like to know more, please get in touch via the link below.