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Terry Pratchett Portal

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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
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