Thursday, August 18, 2011

Back to school

Last year, I posted the syllabi for my fall courses. People seemed to enjoy this activity, so I am doing it again. Due to a scheduling issue, I have only one class this fall, and the spring semester will be my heavy one. The course is full already, has had a waiting list for months, and is only available at Stony Brook. (I don't teach any online courses, as that's not part of the terms of my postdoc. I would if someone wanted to pay me to do so, however.)

This fall's course is The Fantastic as Place. As you might guess from the name, it focuses on the role of setting in works of the fantastic. Here's the booklist:

Welcome to Bordertown, edited by Holly Black and Ellen Kushner (selections, not all of it)
War for the Oaks, Emma Bull
Palimpsest, Catherynne M. Valente
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, J. K. Rowling
Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman
Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft, Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
The City and the City, China MiƩville
The Magicians, Lev Grossman

Yes, that is in the order we'll be reading them. It's pretty close to the booklist for last fall. I added Bordertown, because I would have used it if it had been out last year, and War for the Oaks makes a great companion to it. Locke & Key is on there because after I taught some of Sandman in a different course last fall, I learned that only about 10% of my students had ever read a comic/ graphic novel, and I wanted to include one. (Also, because it's completely great.)

I dropped The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe because, even though I liked teaching it, our discussions were about many things, but not so much Narnia as setting. This meant that I also couldn't keep Laura Miller's brilliant The Magician's Book in the course. I love it (and highly recommend it), and the students loved it, but I can't assume people have read the Narnia books, so I can't teach it this time.

I'm looking forward to teaching the course. And I'll give extra credit to anyone who gets me a Stony Brook Quidditch t-shirt. 


  1. Each time I see this booklist I do a little happy bouncy dance in my seat. It may not be dignified, but it makes me happy.


    Alas, can't make the shirt, though I hope you get several copies from artistic students.

  2. We have an actual Quidditch team. With real shirts.

    Apparently, they are quite good.

  3. Oh my sweet lord. How did I not know about this?!

  4. Aaaaccchhh, The Magician's Book is on my Kindle. When will I ever get to read it? *despair*....

  5. Monica - It's actually a very fast read because it's so absorbing, and Miller's prose is so beautiful. The perfect kind of book for a dappled fall afternoon with something that smells like cider and spice to drink.

  6. "Neverwhere" is an awesome book to discuss setting! I read it last year while living in London and absolutely loved it because I knew exactly where it was talking about when it mentioned going places. I also found the name of Angel Islington to be quite clever, having an internship in the area.

  7. On the subject of online courses: have you ever considered using some kind of crowdsoucing platform, like Kickstartr? You might offer a course and start it when (and if) enough people around the Web show interest in paying for it.

  8. KT - I taught Neverwhere last year as well, and had so much fun doing so. The fun was boosted by having a couple of students who, like yourself, had lived in London.

    Marcos - that's a useful thing to think about, thanks. I've been thinking a lot lately about offering online writing mentorships/ editing services, but not as much about actual lit-type courses. What you suggest might be a workable way of doing so.