The Literature of Fantasy

In this course, we face a particularly unique problem. Now more than ever, university study is portrayed as a necessity in order to find a quality job. Classes that aren’t seen as beneficial to that goal are viewed as frivolous, unnecessary, and, in some cases, fantastical. So what to do with a class about the literature of fantasy? While many consider the reading of fantasy literature as a practice in escapism, in this class we will think about what can fantasy do for its readers as thinkers but also as a preparatory tool for your future. What can fantasy tell us about how societies organize themselves? What can it tell us about how we build worlds? Essentially, we want to consider the question: What can fantasy do?

It's important to remember that the opposite of fantasy is not reality. These two ideas are not binaries--they do not exist in opposition to one another. At the same time, if the distinction between reality and fantasy is not a solid edge, how can we know which is which? This is to say, sometimes categorization can be important. For example, think about a pre-COVID time when you went to restaurant. Imagine you order a cheeseburger but when it arrives, it has cottage cheese. While it's still technically a cheeseburger, it's not at all in line with what we would traditionally consider one. So in some cases specificity and categorization can be incredibly important; at the same time, it can be used for nefarious purposes. For instance, what counts as valuable knowledge? Does this class? With its emphasis on fantasy?

We will begin thinking about what, precisely, do we mean when we say Fantasy? This first week explores the idea of Fantasy as genre and includes readings concerning how that term means different things to different people. You will be asked to participate in a forum discussion with your classmates wherein you talk about these issues while also giving everyone a sense of your background with the fantasy genre.


Ursula K. Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea

Haruki Murakami, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the

Louise Erdrich, The Antelope Wife

Neil Gaiman, American Gods, Vol 1 (Graphic novel)

China Miéville, Kraken

Nnedi Okorafor, Who Fears Death

Kazuo Ishigruo, The Buried Giant

Charlie Jane Anders, All the Birds in the Sky