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

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A Brief Introduction to Japanese Religions I

Over the course of this module, we will cover the basics of Japanese religious history. Particular areas of focus will be Shintō 神道 tradition and various forms of Japanese Buddhism, shamanism, and Shugendō 修験道. Time permitting (unlikely) we can also touch upon Japanese New Religions and/or Japanese Christianity.
Precepted by Dr. Robert Steed

A Brief Introduction to Japanese Religions II

Picking up from where we left off in the first module, we will continue to explore the basics of Japanese religious history.
Precepted by Dr. Robert Steed

An Intensive Reading of the Tao Te Ching/Daode jing 道德經 Part II

We will continue onwards with our intensive reading and discussion of the text from wherever we end in "An Intensive Reading of the Tao Te Ching/Daode jing 道德經".
Precepted by Dr. Robert Steed

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

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

In the Age of Wonder: The Many Themes of Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal

The Dark Crystal, a film directed and created by Jim Henson and Frank Oz, was released at Christmastime in 1982. An attempt at a more mature and decidedly darker direction for Henson, it performed modestly in the box office to mixed reviews. Despite its poor initial beginnings, over the next 42 years, The Dark Crystal became a cult classic. Why the appeal all these years later? In this class we will explore this multifaceted dark fantasy as a stand of world building from the better appreciated “Muppet” canon. Over the course of eight sessions we will discuss the world of Thra through the film itself, seen afresh with the new lenses of various forms of modern criticism. Please join us for a combination of short lectures and lively discussion of this visual and technical masterpiece whether you’re a long-time fan or neophyte.
Precepted by Kerra Fletcher and Jay Moses

Introduction to Ancient Magic 1 First in the Series

An introduction to magic in the ancient world provides a short survey of the earliest known magical texts and objects, including the Pyramid texts, Sumerian exorcism spells, and objects used in different apotropaic rituals. Divination and other forms of magic will be included as well. What was the earliest magic? What did it do and how did it work? Who practiced magic? How was magic related to religion?
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney

Introduction to Ancient Magic 2 Continuing Series

This class continues into module two where we look specifically the Greco-Roman world, magic in myth and literature, and specific spells and objects in use throughout the classical world, including their relations to Mesopotamia and Egypt. This includes the Greek magical texts. What types of magic did they use? Who practiced them and why?
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney

Introduction to Ancient Magic 3 Continuing Series

Last in the sequence of Ancient Magic is the use of magic in the early Christian world, its relationship with contemporary magic, and related texts. We will explore the origins of this magic, how it was used, and how it evolved over time. We will look at both religious and non-religious magic through a number of examples, both verbal spells and magical items, such as Aramaic incantation bowls.
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney

Introduction to Ancient Magic Series Series of 3

This is the Landing Page for Prof. Shawn Gaffney's series exploring Ancient Magic.

Module 1 provides a short survey of the earliest known magical texts and objects, including the Pyramid texts, Sumerian exorcism spells, and objects used in different apotropaic rituals. Divination and other forms of magic will be included as well. What was the earliest magic? What did it do and how did it work? Who practiced magic? How was magic related to religion?

Module 2 looks specifically at the Greco-Roman world, magic in myth and literature, and specific spells and objects in use throughout the classical world, including their relations to Mesopotamia and Egypt. This includes the Greek magical texts. What types of magic did they use? Who practiced them and why?

Module 3 examines the use of magic in the early Christian world, its relationship with contemporary magic, and related texts. This module explores the origins of this magic, how it was used, and how it evolved over time. We will look at both religious and non-religious magic through a number of examples, both verbal spells and magical items, such as Aramaic incantation bowls.

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Note: Students can jump in at any month/part of the Series. There are no prerequisites.
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney

Reading L.M. Montgomery as Fantasy: Part 1: Anne of Green Gables

This course will be offered for the first time this October 2023 (Anne’s favourite month)

Within weeks of its 1908 publication, L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables became a bestseller. Over the years, this charming orphan story put Montgomery and her imaginative Prince Edward Island on a global map.

Despite the fact that Anne of Green Gables is Canada’s bestselling novel throughout the world—or because of it—Montgomery was ignored by the literati and scholarship. Montgomery was a public intellectual, the first female Canadian fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and invested Officer of the Order of the British Empire. Still she was dismissed as “just” a children’s writer, a regionalist, or a woman. It was 25 years after Montgomery’s death before children’s literature and feminist scholars began to recover her work as worthy of study.

While there is a robust field of Montgomery scholarship, there are areas where our focus is sometimes too narrow. One of these is the category of “realistic” fiction. While there is a kind of verisimilitude about everyday life in the late Victorian era in her work, the realism is pressed to the margins of definition as Montgomery romanticizes the worlds she creates. And can we disagree that there is something magical about Anne herself? By changing our way of approach and by looking at Anne of Green Gables as a fantasy novel, what can we unveil in this classic novel?

Native Prince Edward Islander and Montgomery scholar Brenton Dickieson will lead students through a rereading of Anne of Green Gables using the lenses we use to study fantasy and speculative fiction with the goal of allowing one of the greatest living children’s books to live in new ways.

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

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 Witch in Fact and Fiction

The witch contains a multitude of meanings, from victim to agent of political resistance to a paragon of magical power. While the witch is overtly present in modern media, her origins are often obscured. Is the witch always female? Where does her magic come from? And who devised the eight annual pagan festivals? This module uses Steve Hutton's Raven's Wand fantasy novel (and Book 1 of his Dark Raven Chronicles series) as a starting point to discuss how witches are depicted in fiction and history, and what witches themselves have to say about that.

The Dark Raven Chronicles offer an engaging overview of the main trends for depicting witches in speculative fiction. On our journey through the book, we will discuss what historical details and popular assumptions the author draws on, and how they compare to the lives of people accused of witchcraft in the past, and those who identify as witches today.
Precepted by Dr. Anna Milon

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

Viking Hogwarts: The World Of Old Norse Sorcery Series of 3

This is the Landing Page for Prof. Irina Manea's Viking Hogwarts series exploring The World of Old Norse Sorcery.

Module 1 we will be critically exploring the sources for such powerful practices, the vocabulary of sorcery, as well as attempting to enter the Viking soul in search of its logic and manifestations through everyday witchcraft, while confronting the great hindrances in the study of an elusive phenomenon.

Module 2 takes a closer look at the most violent practices in Old Norse Sorcery. Beyond domestic practices, sorcerous aggression manifested e.g. through driving the enemy insane, sending spirits to attack, causing misfortune and on a much broader scale on the battlefield. The elements of sorcery buried deep in the often problematic sources might help us better understand the potential mindset of pre-Christian Northern peoples and illuminated the often too tightly defined warrior identity.

Module 3 attempts to integrate the evidence from literary and archaeological sources into a broader context of shamanistic northern religions.
Precepted by Dr. Irina Manea

Viking Hogwarts: The World Of Old Norse Sorcery 1 First in the Series

Whereas figures like Odin, Thor or Freyr dominate the Viking mythical landscape, Norse spirituality goes way beyond the texts of the Poetic Edda. For the Viking mind, spirituality would have infused all aspects of daily life in a fascinating mix of sacred and profane.

Paganism was most likely never a unified system of belief, and may have been much more complex and diverse than our current sources can let us know. Beyond semi-structured beliefs, we also encounter more practical forms actively trying to influence the environment – sorcery, most often referred to as seidr, a collective term to designate soothsaying, divination, healing, controlling weather, battle magic and much more.

In this module we will be critically exploring the sources for such powerful practices, the vocabulary of sorcery, as well as attempting to enter the Viking soul in search of its logic and manifestations through everyday witchcraft, while confronting the great hindrances in the study of an elusive phenomenon.

Why is Odin a god of sorcery? Who performed magic in Viking times? Was it gendered? Was sexuality involved? What did magic reveal, and how was it perceived? Put your name into the goblet of mead and let‘s get started.
Precepted by Dr. Irina Manea

Viking Hogwarts: The World of Old Norse Sorcery 2 Continuing Series

After having discussed the complex phenomenon of seidr magic in module 1, we are going to have a closer look at its most violent practices. Beyond domestic practices, sorcerous aggression manifested e.g. through driving the enemy insane, sending spirits to attack, causing misfortune and on a much broader scale on the battlefield.

A clear projection of supernatural intervention is offered by Odin‘s servants the valkyrjur, but also shapeshifting berserkers caught by ritual frenzy, with powers stemming from Odin himself, “The Terrible” in his sorcerous role. Battle spells also seem to have been preserved as literary remnants with a chance at authenticity derived from ideas in older poems, like ideas about war-fettering, invulnerability or disguise.

These elements of sorcery buried deep in the often problematic sources might help us better understand the potential mindset of pre-Christian Northern peoples and illuminated the often too tightly defined warrior identity.
Precepted by Dr. Irina Manea

Viking Hogwarts: The World Of Old Norse Sorcery 3 Continuing Series

In the third part of the module series on Norse magic, we will attempt to integrate the evidence from literary and archaeological sources into a broader context of shamanistic northern religions.

In the Icelandic sagas in particular, there are indications about the operative magical practices of the Sámi - one famous queen, Gunnhild (the wife of Eric Bloodaxe) is even said to have travelled to the Finns to get sorcerous instruction. In Norse myth, cosmology dwells on the world pillar, the ash tree Yggdrassil, while Odin's horse Sleipnir has the power to cross between worlds.

Shamanism as a means of accessing supernatural forces through ecstasy may have enhanced the Viking mind with challenging ideas about gender, shapeshifting, or violence that are well worth our attention.
Precepted by Dr. Irina Manea

Yōkai and Legends: Exploring the Weird in Japanese and Latin American Cultures

Ghost stories are an important element from all cultures, but in weird and, of course, mysterious ways, there seem to be similar legends and stories of Yōkai in Japanese and Latin American Cultures. From the similarities of Obon with Día de los Muertos to different legends such as Kuchisake onna and La Llorona, we will discuss these legends within their cultural context and have fun with these weird and fantastic beings.
If you have any questions about the SPACE program, please reach out to [email protected].