Modern Fantasy

This course explores fantasy literature written within the past 50 years, with an examination of the works of six top modern fantasy authors: Peter Beagle, Ursula Le Guin, Neil Gaiman, Jim Butcher, Garth Nix, and George R. R. Martin. Students will consider the different ways each writer has approached the writing of fantasy - with frontiers between our mundane world and the realm of Faerie, subcreation, myth and magic.

May 21, 2012
12 Weeks
LITA 5304


Dr. Corey Olsen – suit and tie
Dr. Corey Olsen
University President; Board Member: President; Lecturer
Erin Aust
Dr. Sara Brown
Board Member: Elected Faculty Member; Preceptor

In this class, we will examine the work of some of the top fantasy writers of the last fifty years.  The works we will discuss in this class do not constitute an orderly or systematic survey of the development of the fantasy genre, but rather a series of case studies.  We will read six books by six different authors.  As we discuss each book, we will compare and contrast the authors’ approach to fantasy and subcreation, myth and magic.

This term, we will explore Peter Beagle’s shrewd contemplation of fantasy and the fairy-tale tradition in The Last Unicorn and Ursula Le Guin’s classic of modern subcreation, A Wizard of Earthsea.  We will look at several works which conceptualize the frontiers between our mundane world and the realm of Faerie; Neil Gaiman’s Stardust and Jim Butcher’s Summer Knight both give us stories of humans with a magical heritage who cross this frontier and become embroiled in the high matters of Faerie.  Garth Nix’s Sabriel is also focused on frontiers, dealing not only with a boundary between the mundane and the magical, but also with a parallel boundary between life and death.  We will also tackle George RR Martin’s A Game of Thrones, the first volume of The Song of Ice and Fire, which might be the most massive and intricate subcreative undertaking in literature in the last fifty years.

Course Schedule

Week 1

  • The Last Unicorn – Peter Beagle

Week 2

  • The Last Unicorn with special guest lecture by Peter Beagle on May 31

Week 3

  • A Wizard of Earthsea – Ursula Le Guin

Week 4

  • A Wizard of Earthsea

Week 5

  • Stardust – Neil Gaiman

Week 6

  • Stardust

Week 7

  • Summer Knight – Jim Butcher

Week 8

  • Summer Knight

Week 9

  • Sabriel – Garth Nix

Week 10

  • Sabriel

Week 11

  • A Game of Thrones  – George R. R. Martin

Week 12

  • A Game of Thrones

Required Texts

  1. The Last Unicorn – Peter Beagle
  2. A Wizard of Earthsea – Ursula Le Guin
  3. Stardust – Neil Gaiman
  4. Summer Knight – Jim Butcher
  5. Sabriel – Garth Nix
  6. A Game of Thrones – George RR Martin

Course History

This course has been offered in the following semesters.

Modern Fantasy Offerings
Semester Preceptor(s)
Summer 2012 Dr. Erin Aust, Dr. Sara Brown