A homeschooling cooperative asked if I’d be interested in teaching a class of high school age kids. They knew I would be good for creative writing, but they were always looking for literature classes. (They’re always hoping to pick up new students, too.)
The more we talked about it, the more all of us got excited about the idea that turned into this official course description:
Survey of Literary Fantasy
This course will offer an overview of literary fantasy in English, from Sara Coleridge’s lyrical Phantasmion, the first fantasy novel in English, to the latest crop of authors on this year’s Nebula Awards ballot. We will read some of the landmark novels in the genre, to include Hope Mirrlees’s Lud-in-the-Mist, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Ursula K. Le Guin’s first three novels of Earthsea, and Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn. Most of the works on the syllabus will be short stories, so that we can explore as much as possible of the range, variation, and evolution of fantasy literature over its two centuries. In a few cases, we will read excerpts from longer works, such as the Mu Lan movements from Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood among Ghosts, and fragments of unpublished works, such as the youthful fiction experiments of the Brontë siblings. Students will come away from this course understanding a microcosm of literary history, one that allows them to explore concepts of genre, lineage, influence, literary movements, and canon formation.
Tom Shippey, ed., The Oxford Book of Fantasy Stories
Hope Mirrlees, Lud-in-the-Mist
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Ursula K. Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore
Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn
Assorted short supplemental readings, either handed out in class or available free on-line
Sara Coleridge, the Brontës (Branwell, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne), George MacDonald, Andrew Lang, William Morris, E. Nesbit, L. Frank Baum, Lord Dunsany, Hope Mirrlees, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, C.L. Moore, Mervyn Peake, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Ursula K. Le Guin, Peter S. Beagle, Jane Yolen, Angela Carter, Maxine Hong Kingston, Charles R. Saunders, Leonora Carrington, Neil Gaiman, Sandra Cisneros, Chitra Bannerjee Divakaruni, Kelly Link, Catherynne M. Valente, James Enge, Nnedi Okorafor, Ken Liu, Carlos Hernandez
Sarah Avery is a working writer and a longtime private tutor with a Ph.D. in English Literature and seven years of university teaching behind her. She won the 2015 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Tales from Rugosa Coven. Her short fiction has appeared in Jim Baen’s Universe and Fantasy Scroll, as well as the Hugo-nominated online magazine Black Gate, where she has also written columns on teaching and fantasy literature. With David Sklar she coedited the themed anthology Trafficking in Magic, Magicking in Traffic. Her next book, The Imlen Brat, will be out this autumn. In her previous incarnation as an academic, she taught creative writing, literature, and composition. A parent who has homeschooled, she is delighted to make her return to classroom teaching in the company of homeschoolers.
If you guys out in blog-reading land know any homeschooling teens in the DC/Montgomery County area, feel free to spread the word.