Welcome to SPACE, our adult continuing education program which offers interactive monthly courses for personal enrichment! Learn more here.

British Literature Portal

Or view as a table.

Book Club: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Ha! Ha! You’re Mine!

Considered the first sci-fi novel, Frankenstein is much more than the famous monster who has entered pop culture. From philosophy to science, this novel deals with many issues, confuses the reader, and makes us wonder who the real hero is. We will discuss the themes, imagery, character development, and the many different allusions to other texts mentioned in the book in a relaxed and interactive way.
Precepted by Pilar Barrera

Book Club: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire 1 First in the Series

Wands at the ready, let's read the fourth Harry Potter book!

We will get together twice a week to explore the series, reading through the books at a relaxed pace. Connect with fellow readers and share your insights as we discover (or rediscover) the magic.

Over two months, we will follow fourteen-year-old Harry's adventures as he is forced to compete in the deadly Triwizard Tournament. But who entered him in the tournament, and why? The answers will reveal the dark forces poised to destroy the wizarding world...

This book club is all about sharing the moments of unexpected, joyful discovery through close reading. Focusing on the text, we will share our personal readings and experiences. We will learn from our classmates in a kindness-first, supportive environment.

Together, we can tackle some big questions about the series. What was it about the Harry Potter books that resonated with so many people? To what extent is it possible or indeed desirable to separate art from artist?

Most of all, however, we will have an inclusive dialogue that embraces a multiplicity of views and enriches our experience of the text.
Precepted by Dr. Julian Barr

Book Club: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire 2 Continuing Series

Wands at the ready, let's read the fourth Harry Potter book!

We will get together twice a week to explore the series, reading through the books at a relaxed pace. Connect with fellow readers and share your insights as we discover (or rediscover) the magic.

Over two months, we will follow fourteen-year-old Harry's adventures as he is forced to compete in the deadly Triwizard Tournament. But who entered him in the tournament, and why? The answers will reveal the dark forces poised to destroy the wizarding world...

This book club is all about sharing the moments of unexpected, joyful discovery through close reading. Focusing on the text, we will share our personal readings and experiences. We will learn from our classmates in a kindness-first, supportive environment.

Together, we can tackle some big questions about the series. What was it about the Harry Potter books that resonated with so many people? To what extent is it possible or indeed desirable to separate art from artist?

Most of all, however, we will have an inclusive dialogue that embraces a multiplicity of views and enriches our experience of the text.
Precepted by Dr. Julian Barr

Book Club: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Series

Wands at the ready, let's read the fourth Harry Potter book!

We will get together twice a week to explore the series, reading through the books at a relaxed pace. Connect with fellow readers and share your insights as we discover (or rediscover) the magic.

Over two months, we will follow fourteen-year-old Harry's adventures as he is forced to compete in the deadly Triwizard Tournament. But who entered him in the tournament, and why? The answers will reveal the dark forces poised to destroy the wizarding world...

This book club is all about sharing the moments of unexpected, joyful discovery through close reading. Focusing on the text, we will share our personal readings and experiences. We will learn from our classmates in a kindness-first, supportive environment.

Together, we can tackle some big questions about the series. What was it about the Harry Potter books that resonated with so many people? To what extent is it possible or indeed desirable to separate art from artist?

Most of all, however, we will have an inclusive dialogue that embraces a multiplicity of views and enriches our experience of the text.
Precepted by Dr. Julian Barr

Book Club: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Blimey, let's read the third Harry Potter book!
We will get together twice a week to explore the series, reading through the books at a relaxed pace. Connect with fellow readers and share your insights as we discover (or rediscover) the magic.

Over one month, we will follow thirteen-year-old Harry's adventures as he contends with an escaped mass murderer. Yet all is not as it seems. As Harry grapples with the consequences of a hidden betrayal, he must confront the meaning of fear. Failure may just cost him his soul…

This book club is all about sharing the moments of unexpected, joyful discovery through close reading. Focusing on the text, we will share our personal readings and experiences. We will learn from our classmates in a kindness-first, supportive environment.

Together, we can tackle some big questions about the series. What was it about the Harry Potter books that resonated with so many people? To what extent is it possible or indeed desirable to separate art from artist?

Most of all, however, we will have an inclusive dialogue that embraces a multiplicity of views and enriches our experience of the text.
Precepted by Dr. Julian Barr

Book Club: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Merlin's beard, let's read the first Harry Potter book!

By popular demand, here is the long-awaited Harry Potter book club! We will get together twice a week to explore the series, reading through the books at a relaxed pace. Connect with fellow readers and share your insights as we discover (or rediscover) the magic.

First, we will go back to where it all began, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Over one month, we will follow eleven-year-old Harry's adventures as he commences his study at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Together, we will explore themes like friendship, courage, and the power of love.

This book club is all about sharing the moments of unexpected, joyful discovery through close reading. Focusing on the text, we will share our personal readings and experiences. We will learn from our classmates in a kindness-first, supportive environment.

Together, we can tackle some big questions about the series. What was it about the Harry Potter books that resonated with so many people? To what extent is it possible or indeed desirable to separate art from artist?

Most of all, however, we will have an inclusive dialogue that embraces a multiplicity of views and enriches our experience of the text.
Precepted by Dr. Julian Barr

Children's Literature Modules: Exploring the Magic, Depth, and Adventures in Children's Books

This is the parent page for our Children's Literature modules which introduce students to the breadth and depth of texts available for study. Each month, our preceptors survey the group to see which text students are most interested in exploring next.

Children's books are full of unforgettabel characters, settings, and adventures. They take us to magic, often dangerous lands, and they also evoke beautiful imagery and deep feelings. In these modules we will explore from the gentleness of Japanese children's books to the wild Pippi Longstocking. We'll talk about their themes, setting, worldbuilding, and imagery.

Each module stands on it own, and no previous knowledge is required. Some of the texts we could explore in a given month include:
Nordic Madness: Exploring Children's Literature in Three Nordic Authors
Japanese Fairy Tales and Children's Literature

Note: Please refer to the Required Texts section on a month's iteration page to see which texts the group has decided upon for a given month.
Precepted by Pilar Barrera

C.S. Lewis' The Four Loves and Greek Philosophy

What is love? This is the question C.S. Lewis explored in his classic book, The Four Loves. Over four weeks, we will read and discuss The Four Loves as a class, exploring his four classifications and their philosophical underpinnings. Comparing and contrasting Lewis with short excerpts from Plato's Symposium and Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, we will explore the themes of affection, friendship, eros and charity.
Precepted by Dr. Julian Barr

Discovering Terry Pratchett's Discworld: Which Witch is Which?

Terry Pratchett's witches - Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick - are more than just a marvelous spoof of those in Shakespeare's 'Macbeth'. In addition to their undoubted comedic value, they are also a voice for some of the major themes of the Discworld novels. Through readings of extracts from the relevant novels, as well as reference to some modern scholarship, we will examine the differences between witch magic and wizard magic; the role of witches in Discworld society; Pratchett's representations of gender; themes of power and authority, and the presentation of the minor witch characters. Access to the listed texts is desirable. Prior knowledge of at least the majority of the listed texts will be assumed.
Precepted by Dr. Sara Brown

Discovering the Discworld: Aching and Growing

Terry Pratchett said that Tiffany Aching "...started with a girl lying down by a river, on the first page of The Wee Free Men". With the character of Tiffany, a witch-in-training with initially only a frying pan and her common sense to help her, Pratchett said that he wanted to "restate" the purpose of magic on the Discworld and the relationship between wizards, witches, and others. He included ideas of responsibility and "guarding your society" as he felt it drew closer to the reality of a witch – that is, "the village herbalist, the midwife, the person who knew things". Pratchett chose a young protagonist because when you're young "you have to learn," and he chose the name "Tiffany" because it evoked anything but a powerful witch.

Throughout the series, Tiffany grows both as a young girl and woman and as a witch. In this course, we will follow the arc of Tiffany’s progress from naïve young girl to a powerful witch in her own right, who takes over from Granny Weatherwax, is hailed by the Nac Mac Feagle as their new ‘hag o’ the hills,’ and whose name, in their language, is Tir-far-thóinn or "Land Under Wave."

Access to the listed texts is desirable. Prior knowledge of at least the majority of the listed texts will be assumed.
Precepted by Dr. Sara Brown

Discovering the Discworld: Quis Custodiet Custard?

Terry Pratchett’s early work fits the category of parody, and his later work certainly maintains that early mocking spirit. In his later Discworld novels, however, especially The City Watch sequence, Pratchett turns his mocking lens from generic conventions and tropes to the dangerous ideologies and power structures that permeate contemporary urban life. Edward James calls The City Watch novels “the most political of Pratchett’s works,” and Neil Gaiman reminds us that “beneath any jollity, there is a foundation of fury.” Pratchett’s “fury” and the City Watch novels’ politics together invite us to consider the sequence as social satire and explore what Pratchett may be arguing needs to change, whilst still enjoying the novels for their humour and wonderfully entertaining narrative style.

In this course, we will explore The City Watch novels and do exactly that: laugh and have fun whilst discussing the underlying messages that Pratchett offers us.

Access to the listed texts is desirable. Prior knowledge of at least the majority of the listed texts will be assumed.
Precepted by Dr. Sara Brown

Discovering the Discworld: The Existential Angst of Death

Like most literary Grim Reapers, Discworld’s Death is a black-robed skeleton (usually - he wears the Dean's "Born to Rune" leather jacket in Soul Music, and overalls in Reaper Man), carrying a scythe or, for royalty, a sword. He is an anthropomorphised personification of a natural process who sometimes has his duties carried out by his apprentice Mort, or his granddaughter Susan, and is occasionally accompanied by the Death of Rats. The Death of Pratchett’s Discworld is a parody of several other personifications of death; unlike many of them, though, he has a personality beyond this. As an immortal outside observer, Death is fascinated by humans, puzzled both by their stupidity and their fortitude despite it. Often out of concern for their well-being, or sometimes simply curiosity, he tries to understand the ways of humans – why and how they do the things they do. Needless to say, this leads to all sorts of disasters (including taking time off from his job reaping souls to become a farmer) but, in the process, Death learns ever more about humans and begins to sympathise with them. Death has many purposes in the narratives; however, in this compelling character, Pratchett has created a figure that makes us laugh but more importantly, he makes us think. In some ways, the Death series is ironically the most human of all.

Access to the listed required texts is desirable and prior knowledge of at least the majority of those texts will be assumed.

We will also be talking about Death’s appearances in other Discworld books, as well as in the short story "Death and What Comes Next" (provided as a pdf).
Precepted by Dr. Sara Brown

Fairy Tales Studies: Exploring Fairy Tales from Around the World and from Different Authors

Sudying fairy tales takes us back to a time when stories where passed from culture to culture. These stories, replicated around the world, deal with fears and axieties, but they also give us hope as it is the smallest and most vulnerable the one who usually triumphs.

In these modules, we will explore different authors and fairy tales from around the world. Students will have the opportunity to read and re-read the Grimm brothers, Hans Christian Andersen, Andrew Lang, Oscar Wilde and fairy tales from differnet cultures such as Russia, and Japan. Each month, our preceptors will survey the group using to see which text students are most interested in exploring next.

We offer the following Fairy Tales Studies modules:
Fairy Tales: An Adventure from the Writer's Perspective
Fairy Tales: From Apples to Bears
Fairy Tales: Rats, Mice, and Birds
Fairy Tales: Tricksters, Fools, and Villains
Introduction to Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales
Introduction to Oscar Wilde's Fairy Tales: A House of Pomegranates
Introduction to Oscar Wilde's Fairy Tales: The Happy Prince and Other Tales
Japanese Fairy Tales and Children's Literature
Russian Fairy Tales: Journeys, Quests, and Chicken Legs
Yōkai and Legends: Exploring the Weird in Japanese and Latin American Cultures
Encountering the Japanese Weird through Lafcadio Hearn's Kwaidan
Exploring Smith of Wootton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham
Fairy Tales: Beauty and the Beast

Note: Each module stands on its own and no previous knowledge is required. The idea is to read and discuss these stories, their themes, imagery, and see how we respond to them.
Precepted by Pilar Barrera

Gothic Doubles: Dr Jekyll & Mr. Hyde and The Picture of Dorian Gray

Two classics of Gothic literature wrestle with the problem of good and evil: Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890). The former, a work of early science fiction, and the latter, a Faustian fantasy, both imagine a human psyche divided in two. In Stevenson’s tale, Dr. Jekyll attempts to isolate and contain the evil side of his nature, but creates a monster he cannot control. In Wilde’s “poisonous book,” Dorian enjoys seemingly eternal youth while his portrait suffers the physical and moral consequences of his wickedness—only to learn that (as the saying goes), sooner or later, we all get the face we deserve.

In examining this sinister pair of pairs, this course looks first at the text of each novel. Next, we survey the shock and alarm these books inspired among the Victorian public, as captured by a range of early reader responses. In their contrasting approach to the same theme, both works reveal insights into the fragility of human identity, the limits of scientific understanding, and the dark power of artistic creation.
Precepted by Dr. Liam Daley

His Dark Materials in Context: The Amber Spyglass

Sir Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is widely regarded as a modern classic, has been described by The New Statesman as “the most ambitious work since The Lord of the Rings,” and has been adapted onto stage, radio, and screen. The series is also deep and complex, drawing from a rich array of literary, philosophical, and theological ideas.

In this three-module series we will read, successively, the three novels in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, juxtaposing each with selected materials that will allow us to read Pullman’s work both on its own and in conversation with other works. Students can join one, two, or all three modules. There are no prerequisites.

• Module 1: His Dark Materials in Context: The Golden Compass (a.k.a. Northern Lights) (October 2023)

• Module 2: His Dark Materials in Context: The Subtle Knife (December 2023)

• Module 3: His Dark Materials in Context: The Amber Spyglass (January 2023)

His Dark Materials in Context: The Golden Compass

Sir Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is widely regarded as a modern classic, has been described by The New Statesman as “the most ambitious work since The Lord of the Rings,” and has been adapted onto stage, radio, and screen. The series is also deep and complex, drawing from a rich array of literary, philosophical, and theological ideas.

In this three-module series we will read, successively, the three novels in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, juxtaposing each with selected materials that will allow us to read Pullman’s work both on its own and in conversation with other works. Students can join one, two, or all three modules. There are no prerequisites.

• Module 1: His Dark Materials in Context: The Golden Compass (a.k.a. Northern Lights) (October 2023)

• Module 2: His Dark Materials in Context: The Subtle Knife (December 2023)

• Module 3: His Dark Materials in Context: The Amber Spyglass (January 2023)

His Dark Materials in Context: The Subtle Knife

Sir Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is widely regarded as a modern classic, has been described by The New Statesman as “the most ambitious work since The Lord of the Rings,” and has been adapted onto stage, radio, and screen. The series is also deep and complex, drawing from a rich array of literary, philosophical, and theological ideas.

In this three-module series we will read, successively, the three novels in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, juxtaposing each with selected materials that will allow us to read Pullman’s work both on its own and in conversation with other works. Students can join one, two, or all three modules. There are no prerequisites.

• Module 1: His Dark Materials in Context: The Golden Compass (a.k.a. Northern Lights) (October 2023)

• Module 2: His Dark Materials in Context: The Subtle Knife (December 2023)

• Module 3: His Dark Materials in Context: The Amber Spyglass (January 2023)

Ink Spots and Tea Stains: What we Learn from C.S. Lewis's Writing Habits

C.S. Lewis is one of the most prolific and influential writers of the 20th century. And yet, in his early career as an Oxford don, he viewed himself as a failed poet. Moreover, his most canonical and transformational writing happened during the most stress-filled periods of his life. This short course allows students to peek into the writing life of C.S. Lewis. Our goal is to see through the lines of printed text by visiting the letters and archival remains of Lewis in a virtual setting. Most of C.S. Lewis's papers remain undigitized and unpublished, available only locally at archives in North America and England.

As Professor Brenton Dickieson has visited these archives, he is able to invite students to appreciate C.S. Lewis's writing life by looking at the way that he consciously and unconsciously built his literary career. This course is for writers who are developing their own habits and literary life-prints, as well as folks who are curious about C.S. Lewis's life beyond the biographies and bestselling books.

We are not doing text close readings, but looking at the “paratextual” information available to us: writing drafts, letters, diary entries, manuscripts and typescripts, title, and the like.

Week 1: Lewis: Pen, Ink, Paper
• C.S. Lewis’s Single-jointed Self-Conception as a Writer
• What Lewis Says about his Writing Habits
• Legendary Bonfires, Stuffed Dolls, and American Suckers: A Story of Lewis’s Papers and Manuscripts
• The Screwtape MS. Story: Part 1

Week 2: Leaves, Bombs, Stains
• The Screwtape MS. Story: Part 2
• “Villainous Handwriting”: Charlie Starr’s Lewis Handwriting and Rough Draft vs. Fair Draft
• Reconsidering the Lindskoog Affair with Manuscript Evidence of “The Dark Tower”

Week 3: Joy, Theft, Death
• “The Quest of Bleheris”: Lewis’s Teenage Novel

Week 4:
• Is it True that Lewis Wrote in a Single Draft?
• A Grief Observed
• Tumbling Through the Wardrobe: The Discovery of Narnia
• Arthurian Torso
• A New Sketch of Lewis’s Writing Process(es)

Note: This course includes a significant amount of visual material on the screen. Please contact the SPACE team if you have visual accessibility requirements and we will do everything we can to accommodate.

Meet The Last Man

One of the most relevant novels you could read right now was written almost two centuries ago. Mary Shelley’s The Last Man asks what it means to be human while living in unprecedented times. This 1826 classic of apocalyptic science fiction considers the implications of a global pandemic, a rapidly changing environment, and the failures of political and social institutions. Part imaginative autobiography, part science fictional warning, and part ecocritical thought experiment, The Last Man forces us to examine our assumptions about our present and future.

In this module we will consider Mary Shelley’s novel in the context of her life, times, and intellectual history. We will also explore the afterlife of The Last Man in critical discussions of the ominously similar challenges we face in the 21st century. In the process, we will discuss the novel’s lasting meanings and contributions as pioneering work of speculative fiction.
Precepted by Dr. Amy H. Sturgis

Modern British Poetry

In this module we will read and discuss a collection of some of the best British poetry of the 21st century, considering the ways in which each poet addresses the anxieties of our time.
Precepted by Dr. Sara Brown

Reading Middle English: An introduction to Middle English Language and Literature

This course introduces the basics of Middle English language and literature, including grammar, syntax, and pronunciation. Designed for students new to reading Middle English texts in their original form, the course focuses mainly on the English of London and the south of England in the thirteenth through fifteenth centuries—the language of Chaucer, Gower, Langland and others.

As a language-learning course as well as a literature course, the first half of each meeting will be devoted to reading Middle English aloud and answering questions about pronunciation and comprehension; the second half will focus on the reading’s content, from basics of plot and conventions of genre to the historical context of each text. Course readings include: a selection of lyric poetry, two short poems by Chaucer, the chivalric romance Sir Orfeo, the Chester play of “Noah’s Flood,” a chronicle of the reign of King Henry V, Chaucer’s “Treatise on the Astrolabe,” and selections from the Paston Letters (noble family during the Wars of the Roses).
Precepted by Dr. Liam Daley

Representing Utopia through the Ages

While the idea of establishing an ‘actual’ utopia has been disparaged since the first half of the twentieth century from socio-political perspectives (e.g. the failed age of ideology from 1917-1945), literary and related cultural narratives have a long history of imagining and representing utopia (also paradise, the golden age, etc.). These utopias often function to criticize the problematic social norms and climates of their times as well as providing progressive imaginings for a better future, often based on certain ideals or virtues. In this module, we go on a chronological tour of different representations of utopia, including: the paleolithic utopia of hunter-gatherers (e.g. as discussed in Harari’s Homo Sapiens) (before 10,000 BC), the Bronze Age utopia of Minoan Crete (4000-1400 BCE), Plato’s mythical island of Atlantis (ca 400 BC), the pastoral utopia of the Roman poet Virgil (ca 40 BC), the New World utopia of Sir Thomas More (1516), the Enlightened, reasoned utopia of Robinson Crusoe (1719), Tolkien’s fantasy utopia of Númenor (ca 1940), and more.

Shakespeare's Epic Fairy Tales: Pericles and Cymbeline

This module looks at two late plays frequently overlooked in Shakespeare studies: "Pericles, Prince of Tyre" and"Cymbeline". In "Pericles", Shakespeare and collaborator George Wilkins present a medievalist fairy-tale of adventure on the high seas, set in the ancient Mediterranean and narrated by Middle English poet, John Gower. In "Cymbeline", a princess’s attempt to rid herself of the suitor she loathes and reunite with the man she loves leads to a tangle of escapes, pursuits, and mistaken identities. Decried by some critics for their eccentric and eclectic plots, both plays feature grand voyages across land and sea, benevolent magic, and the loss and recovery of true love.
Precepted by Dr. Liam Daley

Shakespeare's Epic Fairy Tales: "The Winter's Tale" and "The Two Noble Kinsmen"

This module continues the examination of Shakespeare’s late work with two baffling and beautiful plays. "The Winter’s Tale" begs the question: where does art end and magic begin? Containing the bard’s most famous stage direction—“Exit, pursued by a bear”—this tale of jealousy and forgiveness transforms from domestic tragedy into pastoral comedy, before finally arriving Shakespeare’s strangest endings. "The Two Noble Kinsmen", Shakespeare’s final work, gives Chaucer’s Middle English "The Knight’s Tale" a Renaissance rewrite. Co-authored with rising start of the Jacobean stage, John Fletcher, this tragicomedy expands the scope of Chaucer’s female characters while hinting at range of suppressed, taboo romantic desires. Blending the poignant and the absurd, the playwrights claim they only hope their “modern” adaptation won’t raise Chaucer’s angry ghost!
Precepted by Dr. Liam Daley

The Dark is Rising Sequence Series

Susan Cooper’s classic fantasy series takes us into a world where the forces of the Light battle against those of the Dark, but these are also coming-of-age stories in which children are at the forefront of the conflict. Deeply rooted in the folklore of the British landscape, the narratives are often set in spaces encoded in ancient wisdom and traditions and employ, as Tolkien did in his legendarium, songs and verse that pass on those traditions.
Precepted by Dr. Sara Brown

The Dark is Rising Sequence 1: Over Sea, Under Stone First in the Series

Susan Cooper’s classic fantasy series takes us into a world where the forces of the Light battle against those of the Dark, but these are also coming-of-age stories in which children are at the forefront of the conflict. Deeply rooted in the folklore of the British landscape, the narratives are often set in spaces encoded in ancient wisdom and traditions and employ, as Tolkien did in his legendarium, songs and verse that pass on those traditions.

In this book, the first of the series, Cooper introduces us to the folklore of Cornwall, interweaving ancient customs with a modern confrontation against forces of evil. In this class, we will explore all the themes and ideas in the story and consider what it still has to say to us in the 21st century.
Precepted by Dr. Sara Brown

The Minoans and Modernity: Minotaurs, Labyrinths, and Other Myths

When one thinks of ancient, pre-classical civilisations, one thinks of Sumerians, Egyptians, Hittites, and, not least, Minoans. The Minoan civilisation, discovered around 1900 by English archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans, has often been styled as the first major European civilisation, equally proficient in technology and the arts, with a sea empire spanning across the Eastern Aegean. But how much of what we imagine about the Minoans is truthful and how much is modern mythmaking?

In this module, we will examine the immense impact which the discovery of Minoan Crete and its integration with the classical myths of the Minotaur and the Labyrinth has had on literature, movies, the arts, and even computer games. We will examine the works of Sir Arthur Evans, Pablo Picasso, Nikos Kazantzakis, Robert Graves, Mary Renault, Poul Anderson, and Stephen King, among others. In so doing, we will explore such key 'Minoan' concepts and phenomena as: the sublime, utopianism, feminism, irrationality and the unconscious, mythmaking, and European identity.

The (Other) Canterbury Tales

If you’ve read some of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales , you probably encountered the chivalric grandeur of “The Knight’s Tale,” the irrepressible vitality of “The Wife of Bath’s Tale,” or the sinister irony of “The Pardoner’s Tale.” But what of the other pilgrims and their tales? This course looks at some of The Canterbury Tales that are less well-known but equally deserving of study: the beauty of the Squire’s unfinished orientalist fairy tale; the rancorous one-upsmanship of the Friar and Summoner’s exchange of tales on clerical abuses, Satanic bargains, and flatulence; or the pilgrims’ run in with an aspiring alchemist, the Canon, and the satirical tale of alchemy gone wrong offered by his servant, the Yeoman. This course will look at these tales and more in their original Middle English spelling.
Precepted by Dr. Liam Daley

The Poetic Corpus of J.R.R. Tolkien: Tolkien's Collected Poems (The Years 1910-1967 in Three Volumes) Series of 5

JRR Tolkien is one of those rare authors whose poetry is as accomplished as his prose writing. Up to this point, though, those who wished to focus primarily on Tolkien’s poetry had to access a significant number of books and online resources to do so, as they were scattered far and wide. Now, a Most Delightful Event has occurred – for the first time, a collected volume of Tolkien’s poetry is available, and it is a Tome of Significant Size!

In this hybrid course, we will read and discuss a selection of these poems, enjoying them for their aesthetic appeal as well as analysing them for Tolkien’s style, use of language, and the poetic forms he employed. This is a hybrid course, in which one class per week will be a lecture and the second class will be group discussion.

There are so many poems in these volumes that the intention is to spread the course over several months. If you can’t make one or more of the months, feel free to dip in and out as suits you!

I am also delighted to announce that one lecture session per month will be led by the one and only James Tauber, who will focus on language and the formal elements of the poetry
Precepted by Dr. Sara Brown
with guest lecturers James Tauber and Dr. Corey Olsen

Tolkien and the Classical World

Based on the preceptor's edited volume, Tolkien and the Classical World, this module takes students on a tour of the classical influences and ideas on the life, writings, and thought of English fantasy writer J.R.R. Tolkien, while also introducing seminal Greco-Roman texts to those without any classical background.

Tolkien and the Romantics: Dark Romanticism and the Gothic Literary Tradition

The Gothic genre has inspired many creative minds to explore the darker realms of human psychology and the wider world, sparking fear, terror, horror and repulsion in its audience. J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth is as much a ruined Gothic wasteland as it is an idyllic utopia. From Shelob's cave and the hypnotic Mirkwood to the Paths of the Dead and the Barrow-Downs, this module will examine Tolkien's use of Dark Romantic and Gothic techniques that were used by writers such as Horace Walpole, Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, and E.T.A. Hoffman to strike terror in the heart of their readers.

The module will follow an 8-lesson structure as follows:
• Lecture 1: The Funk of Forty Thousand Years: A Literary History of the Gothic
• Workshop 1: Chilly Echoes in Tolkien's Middle-earth
• Lecture 2: Bottomless Supernatural: Terror, Horror, Abject
• Workshop 2: Conjuring Creepy Creatures
• Lecture 3: The Weird, the Eerie, and the Dark Side of the Mind
• Workshop 3: Defamiliarising Middle-earth
• Lecture 4: Ruined Landscapes
• Workshop 4: What is left? Can the Gothic recover Middle-earth?

Note: The hybrid 8-lesson structure above is the new format for this module moving forward.
Precepted by Will Sherwood

Tolkien and the Romantics: Forging Myth and History

J.R.R. Tolkien famously 'found' his legendarium, translating and editing The Red Book of Westmarch for his twentieth century readers. This is not the first time an author has 'forged' a 'lost' literary history as James Macpherson's 'Ossian' documents from the 1760s started a craze for forgeries. Thomas Chatterton's Rowley and Turgot manuscripts similarly fed off the Ossian controversy while questioning what it really meant to 'forge' a document.

The module will follow an 8-lesson structure as follows:
• Lecture 1: The 1760s, the Age of Forgery
• Workshop 1: Which Red Book are we reading?
• Lecture 2: The Growth of Romantic Nationalism
• Workshop 2: The Book of Lost Tales: a mythology for which England?
• Lecture 3: Oral Traditions: Immortality and Youth
• Workshop 3: Vocalising Myth and History
• Lecture 4: Textual Traditions: Mortal Anxiety and Tangible History
• Workshop 4: Writing myth and history

Note: The hybrid 8-lesson structure above is the new format for this module moving forward.
Precepted by Will Sherwood

Tolkien and the Romantics: Imagining and Dreaming

The imagination and dreams are essential parts of J.R.R. Tolkien's world building which he explored across many stories from 'The Lord of the Rings' and 'On Fairy-stories' to 'The Notion Club Papers'. The same can be said of the Romantics who saw an important connection between the two. In works such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge's 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' and 'Kubla Khan', Lord Byron's 'The Dream' and 'Darkness', and Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein', the imaginary and dream-like meet with awe-inspiring, melancholy or blood-chilling results.

The module sessions are structured as follows:
• Class 1: The Realms of (Childhood) Faery (60m)
• Class 2: Faery’s Enchantment (60m)
• Class 3: The Terror of the Night (60m)
• Class 4: The Past is an Imagined Dreamworld (90m)
• Class 5: Visions of the Apocalypse (60m)
• Class 6: Senses and Sensation (60m)
• Class 7: Glimpses, mere Fragments (90m)
Precepted by Will Sherwood

Tolkien and the Romantics: Nature and Ecology

J.R.R. Tolkien's revolutionary depictions of nature have inspired many to respect and cherish the environment. However, if we journeyed back two hundred years, we would discover that radical British Romantic authors were also challenging how readers perceived their surroundings! In this module, we will use ecology to explore the many parallels and contrasts between Tolkien's Arda and the Romantic's portrayals of nature big and small: mountains and meadows, woods and wildernesses, daffodils and dead marshes. This will include examining how characters react to the environment, nature's existence as separate from our own, and the broader concern of the Industrial Revolution's destructive potential.

The module will follow an 8-lesson structure as follows:
• Lecture 1: Visions of Nature
• Workshop 1: What do your Elf-eyes see?
• Lecture 2: All things Sublime and Beautiful
• Workshop 2: Sublime, Beautiful, or both at once?!
• Lecture 3: I want to see mountains!
• Workshop 3: One with our environment
• Lecture 4: Ecology without Humanity
• Workshop 4: What is actually out there beyond the Human sphere?

Note: The hybrid 8-lesson structure above is the new format for this module moving forward.
Precepted by Will Sherwood

Tolkien and the Romantics Series Series

This is the Landing Page for preceptor Will Sherwood's Tolkien and the Romantics series. Using the links on this page, you can explore each member of this series by going to its associated module page for more details.

Nature and Ecology
Imagining and Dreaming
Dark Romanticism and the Gothic Literary Tradition
Forging Myth and History
Precepted by Will Sherwood

Utopias and Dystopias in The Fellowship of the Ring

Based on Hamish's recently published book Tolkien's Utopianism and the Classics, this new module takes us on a tour of utopian and dystopian places in The Fellowship of the Ring, journeying through the pastoral bliss of the Shire, the sublime encounter in Woody End, the perilous Old Forest, the abandoned ruins at Weathertop, Elrond's paradise in Rivendell, the abandoned wilderness in Hollin, the undergound realm of Moria, and the timeless utopia of Lothlorien. In every class, our approach will be to read together important passages and discuss the representations of different spaces and societies in Tolkien's Fellowship of the Ring.
If you have any questions about the SPACE program, please reach out to [email protected].