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

Precepted by Sørina Higgins

Current and Upcoming Modules

Tolkien & Magic — November 2022

Poetry in Tolkien's Time — December 2022

Creative Writing: Poetic Meter — January 2023

All Modules

An Introduction to the Oddest Inkling

Charles Williams was a friend of Tolkien and Lewis; he was also a novelist, poet, literary critic, editor, theologian, and occult master. There is no other literature quite like that by Charles Williams: his writings are startling, convoluted, beautiful, unpredictable, and obscure. Every sentence is thrilling, dangerous, sinuous, and demanding. His unusual combination of Christianity and the occult finds expression in a bizarre, exciting mix of the everyday and the supernatural in his writing. In this module, you'll get a taste of his works through one novel and selections from his poetry and nonfiction. Once you start reading the Oddest Inkling, you'll want to keep going until you've experienced all seven of his "supernatural shockers" and his astonishing Arthurian poetry.

"Arrival" and Adaptation

The 2016 film ""Arrival"" and the novella on which it is based (Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang, 1998) are wildly different from one another. In this course, half of us will read the story first, then watch the film, while the other half of the class will watch the movie first, then read the story. We will compare our reactions and discuss how the genre/medium affect adaptation choices. We will also talk about each work on its own merits, including a day with one of Signum's fine linguists on the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis.

Creative Writing: An Adventure in Analogy

This entire month will be a deep dive into the analogical abilities of poetic language: similes, metaphors, epic similes, extended metaphors or conceits, metonymy, synecdoche, implicit metaphors, and more. We'll talk about cognitive and conceptual metaphors, the limits of literal language, and maybe even examine allegory. Through unpacking some famous and infamous examples of literary analogy, we'll learn how they work and why they sometimes fail. And of course, we'll try them out in our own writing, especially in poetry of various kinds.

Creative Writing: Confessional Poetry

This class takes creative writers deeper into a common form of 20th- and 21st-century poetry in English. According to the Poetry Foundation, the original "Confessional poets wrote in direct, colloquial speech rhythms and used images that reflected intense psychological experiences, often culled from childhood or battles with mental illness or breakdown." This type of verse is honest, raw, and immediate. We'll explore what techniques can lift such writing above the merely personal into the literary. By examining models, we'll learn to improve our own confessional verse.

Creative Writing: Lyric Poetry

In this course, we'll examine some great models of lyric poetry in English: short, tightly-crafted verses that pay close attention to the sounds of the words, may employ formal elements, and often express the narrator's (or poet's) internal psychological or emotional state. After analyzing some examples, we will compose our own lyric poems, revising them repeatedly throughout the month to achieve mastery of this demanding and rewarding approach to creative writing.

Creative Writing: Narrative Poetry

Over the course of this month, each student will work on planning, developing, drafting, and revising one longish narrative poem. We'll read some great examples, then help one another plan the stories we want to tell, the characters who will carry the action, and the world in which the tale takes place. We'll workshop drafts and revise our narrative verses until we have a final piece that satisfies.

Creative Writing: Poetic Meter

This course is a creative writing intensive on the use of metrical patterns in English-language poetry. We'll study the most common meters that have traditionally been employed in English verse, learn to identify and scan them, then try using them in our own poetry. We'll play with patterns of sound and stress, listen to how meter work in words set to song, and maybe even dance a little, either metaphorically or literally, as we sway to the rhythms of words. Join me to learn how to set your words rockin'!

Creative Writing: Poetry in Forms

This class introduces students to some of the classic forms of European poetry, including sonnets, villanelles, sestinas, ballads, odes, and more. We’ll look at some noteworthy examples, then compose our own poetry following those structures, which we’ll then workshop together.

Creative Writing: Poetry in Forms: "Free Verse"

This class takes creative writers deeper into one of the most important approaches to English-language poetry: so-called "Free Verse." We’ll look at some noteworthy examples, discuss to what extent the verse is free (and from what), then compose our own poems responding to those ideas, which we will then workshop together. While this course belongs to a cycle of modules on Poetry in Forms, there are no prerequisites, and students can take one or many in any order they prefer. This module would have the greatest impact on poets who have spent a long time writing in meter, and will work best for those who are adept at scansion, but can be attempted by beginners, as well.

Creative Writing: Poetry in Forms Series

This is the Landing Page for Prof. Higgins' Poetry in Forms Series. After her introductory class, Creative Writing: Poetry in Forms, Prof. Higgins will survey the class to see which course the Class would like to take next in the Series.

This page will be updated to reflect which module in the series is being offered once the class decides.
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Creative Writing: Poetry in Forms Series:
• Creative Writing: Poetry in Forms: The Ballad > Link
• Creative Writing: Poetry in Forms: The Villanelle > Link
• Creative Writing: Poetry in Forms: The Sonnet > Link
• Creative Writing: Poetry in Forms: The Pantoum > Link
• Creative Writing: Poetry in Forms: The Sestina > Link
• Creative Writing: Poetry in Forms: The Ode > Link
• Creative Writing: Poetry in Forms: "Free Verse" > Link
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NOTE: Students can jump in at any month/part of the Series. There are no prerequisites.

Creative Writing: Poetry in Forms: The Ballad

This class takes creative writers deeper into one of the classic forms of European poetry: The Ballad. We’ll look at some noteworthy examples, learn the metrical and rhymes schemes, then compose our own ballads following those structures, which we will then workshop together. While this course belongs to a cycle of modules on Poetry in Forms, there are no prerequisites, and students can take one or many in any order they prefer.

Creative Writing: Poetry in Forms: The Ode

This class takes creative writers deeper into one of the classic forms of European poetry: The Ode. We’ll look at some noteworthy examples, learn their rhetorical techniques, then compose our own odes following those models, which we will then workshop together. While this course belongs to a cycle of modules on Poetry in Forms, there are no prerequisites, and students can take one or many in any order they prefer.

Creative Writing: Poetry in Forms: The Pantoum

This class takes creative writers deeper into one of the classic forms of European poetry: The Pantoum. We’ll look at some noteworthy examples, learn the metrical and rhyme schemes, then compose our own pantoums following those structures, which we will then workshop together. While this course belongs to a cycle of modules on Poetry in Forms, there are no prerequisites, and students can take one or many in any order they prefer.

Creative Writing: Poetry in Forms: The Sestina

This class takes creative writers deeper into one of the classic forms of European poetry: The Sestina. We’ll look at some noteworthy examples, learn the metrical and rhyme schemes, then compose our own sestinas following those structures, which we will then workshop together. While this course belongs to a cycle of modules on Poetry in Forms, there are no prerequisites, and students can take one or many in any order they prefer.

Creative Writing: Poetry in Forms: The Sonnet

This class takes creative writers deeper into one of the greatest and most enduring classic forms of European poetry: The Sonnet. We’ll look at some noteworthy examples, learn the metrical and rhyme schemes, then compose our own sonnets following those structures, which we will then workshop together. While this course belongs to a cycle of modules on Poetry in Forms, there are no prerequisites, and students can take one or many in any order they prefer.

Creative Writing: Poetry in Forms: The Villanelle

This class takes creative writers deeper into one of the classic forms of European poetry: The Villanelle. We’ll look at some noteworthy examples, learn the metrical and rhymes schemes, then compose our own villanelles following those structures, which we will then workshop together. While this course belongs to a cycle of modules on Poetry in Forms, there are no prerequisites, and students can take one or many in any order they prefer.

Eat This Book: Literature and Food

Which do you enjoy more: reading or eating? How about we do both at once! In this delicious module, we'll read fiction, nonfiction, and poems all about the gustatory delights of the table. We'll munch, slurp, taste, and swallow our way through juicy descriptions of gastronomic adventures around the world--AND we'll include some cooking and eating expeditions of our own along the way! So eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we read.

Elementary, My Dear Shakespeare

Want to become a masterful literary sleuth? Come learn Sherlockian skills of poetic detection! In this module, we'll use all the available data (the words on the page) to deduce every last, little, meticulous, ingenious clue the author left for us to unlock the poem's full mystery and majesty. There's so much going on beneath the surface of a poem--connotations, figurative techniques, allusions, intertextual imbrications, formal virtuousity, and more--that it requires patience, analysis, a magnifying glass, and a Dr. Watson along by your side to observe and interpret them all. Together, we'll follow the tracks of genius through poetry old and new. Come along with me: The game's afoot! (a poetic foot, that is).

Food Writing: Writing Food

Sharpen your knives and your pencils, for we're about to stir up the cauldron of stories! Want to whet your appetite while workshopping your writing? Where else can you taste the sweet flavor of inspiration in both the kitchen and the office? In this module, we'll combine cooking and creative writing: Each week, you'll (1) read literary works that revel in the gustatory delights of gastronomic adventure; (2) try out a new recipe; and (3) write a creative response of your own! As long as you don't eat your poems and write on your pastas, you'll delight in this most delicious of months.

Frankenstein: A Masterpiece of Modern Science Fiction

In this book-club-style class, we will discuss Mary Shelley's ground-breaking novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. We’ll track the book's major themes, talk about its interesting narrative structure, discuss its historical context and contemporary applicability, and perhaps cheerfully debate some of its philosophical implications. We might talk a little bit about adaptations of the novel to stage or screen, the revision process between the 1818 and 1831 versions, and maybe some points scholars have made to help us understand this important work more deeply.

Here Be Dragons

You wouldn't want to end up like Eustace Clarence Scrubb, would you: strong on imports and exports, but weak on dragons? To avoid that fate, come and talk about dragons old and new, wicked and glorious, beloved and feared in many a tale. Python, Hydra, Draco, Leviathan and the Colchian dragon threatened Classical heroes. Germanic gods and warriors contended with Níðhöggr, Jörmungandr, Starkheart, and Fafnir. There are dragons in Arthuriana and medieval folklore. And of course, dragons proliferate in more recent fantasy, including those by Lewis Carroll, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Ursula K. LeGuin, J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin, Anne McCaffrey, Christopher Paolini, and more. We'll read short excerpts from a wide range of European and American literature, looking at the evolution of the dragon, and attendees will be encouraged to bring in additional texts for discussion. You'll be well prepared for sleeping on a dragon's hoard after this!

How To Catch a Bandersnatch

Diana Glyer's marvelous book "Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings" is part literary biography, part how-to guide for setting up your own writing group. We'll read her book and talk through both aspects. We'll unpack what it reveals about Tolkien's & Lewis's creative writing methods, and we'll brainstorm how we might apply those to our own writing, whether individually or in groups. You're totally welcome to attend if your interest is in the scholarly aspect (the Inklings as writers in their time), the creative aspect (how collaborative writing groups work), both, or something else altogether! Either way, I'm sure you'll be inspired and encouraged by the example of these great--but very human--writers.

How To Read a Poem

This short course will teach close-reading and interpretation skills for understanding and enjoying great works of lyric poetry from various time periods and cultures. Through paraphrase, commentary, close analysis, and conversation, we will learn to love these literary jewels more than ever before.

Literature and Justice

"Justice" is a huge, abstract, and highly debated topic. In this course, we'll use a widely varied selection of literary texts as discussion-starters about the nature, meanings, scope, limits, applications, and demands of justice. We'll perform close readings of pieces from ancient philosophy, contemporary short stories, poetry across the ages, and more. We'll hear from voices out of various cultures, listening with attentive sympathy and openness to having our ideas challenged and expanded. And we might end with some discussion of the practical application of what we learn.

Literature and Mental Health

Throughout human history, people have recorded their mental and emotional experiences through writing, whether directly in autobiographical accounts, or indirectly through characters in fiction. In this module, we'll look at some selections from writings across the ages that express psychological distress of one kind or another and some that show how sufferers from mental disorders have found relief. We'll learn from these how to talk to someone who is struggling in that way, what to say and not to say, and some strategies for managing our own mental health.

Literature of Hospitality

Throughout philosophical works, fiction, poetry, and other genres, writers have pondered and described what it means to be hospitable to one another. They have told tales of lavish entertainment for guests, care for wandering strangers, regular practices of welcome, and extraordinary grace towards others. Some have even set out models of practical (or sometimes impossible) ways to invite people into our time, our spaces, and our lives. In this course, we'll read and discuss a few such texts from across a variety of times and cultures, and we'll talk about cultivating practices of hospitality ourselves.

Narnia and the Natural World

Join me for a re-read of The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis as we pay close attention to descriptions of the non-human environment. What do these books have to say about trees, plants, animals, soil, weather, the planet, atmosphere, stars, and more? Do they suggest right ways of flourishing in relation to the natural world? How do talking animals, walking trees, humanoid stars, magical waters, and mythical beasts teach us to love the creatures and creations of this primary world better? Let's rejoice in Lewis's loving descriptions of flora and fauna and revel in the wonder his magical world brings to our own.

(Note: This module is designed with Narnia fans in mind. First-time readers of the Chronicles are certainly welcome, but newcomers might prefer starting with Elise Trudel Cedeño's module on The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe or with Sørina Higgins's Narnia for Newbies.)

Narnia for Newbies Series

This is the Landing Page for Prof. Higgins' Narnia for Newbies Series exploring CS Lewis's beloved Narnia series, consisting of 7 modules (one module for each book in the Series).

Did you miss out on entering the magical land of Narnia as a kid? Come back to childhood with me as we open the wardrobe door and enter this wondrous land together. Travel with Lucy through the snowy, enchanted Lantern Waste, where is it always winter but never Christmas. Fight alongside dryads against an evil usurper. Sail with Eustace across the seas to mysterious islands full of invisible beings, dragons, and dreams. Ride a talking horse across the desert to save Narnia from invasion. Rescue a prince from the underworld. Watch creation itself, as Aslan, the great Lion, sings the world into existence. Be there at the end of all things, when the true tale is just beginning. Most of all, experience again the thrill of journeying through an imaginary land where myths are real, good triumphs over evil, and magic brings beauty to life on the page.

Novel Romani: Gypsies in Victorian & Modern British Literature

Members of various Romani peoples (aka “Gypsies”) came to the British Isles in the 16th century and have been portrayed in British literature in varying ways since. Often stereotyped, profiled, vilified, objectified, and mocked by establishment authors, Gypsies have also been described in terms of desirable characteristics, such as freedom from convention, energy and charisma, vast stores of traditional or global knowledge, spiritual insight, liberation from traditional capitalist restrictions or national identities, and seductive romance. In this course, we’ll read scholarly articles and primary sources to learn about how 19th- & 20th-century authors in the British Isles depicted and understood this complex group of peoples.

On Publication

This module is for writers of all kinds, especially creative writers, who have built up a body of work and would like to start sending pieces out for publication. We'll start with discussing the periodical market and submission of shorter works (poetry, short stories, essays, articles). Then we'll move on to talking about longer projects, and we'll workshop the documents you'll need for sending those out, including resumes, pitches, queries, cover letters, and samples. We will talk about literary agents, contests, grants, unagented submissions, developmental editors, specialized markets, and more. You'll leave this module with something ready to send out for consideration.

Plague Literature

Pandemics have swept the globe with disturbing regularity throughout human history, and authors have written literature in response to one they experienced or others they imagined in the future. What do historical and imaginary epidemics and pandemics teach us about our own? How do authors use contagion allegorically and metaphorically as social commentary? Put our current COVID-19 into perspective by reading and discussing novels, short stories, poems, and other works set in a time of plague.

Planet Narnia

Do you believe that the Narnia chronicles have a secret code hidden in their imagery and themes? Would knowledge of medieval astronomy and astrology add depth to our reading of these children's books? We'll read Michael Ward's book Planet Narnia in conjunction with a re-read of the Narnia itself and debate the merits of his planetary interpretation. This course will work best for those who have read Lewis's series before.

Poetry as Practical Ecology

Through a selection of great poems drawn primarily from the tradition of British, Irish, and American literature, we’ll look at what we can learn from these creative writings about taking care of the planet. We will read and talk about descriptions of nature in these poems, then see what principles of creation care we can extrapolate from the ways they interact with the nonhuman environment, animals, plants, weather, and more.

Poetry in Tolkien's Time

While Tolkien was thinking up the earliest inklings of his Legendarium, he and his peers were fighting in the trenches of World War I--and writing poetry about it. Later, as he taught at Oxford, published The Hobbit, and wrote The Lord of the Rings, his great modernist contemporaries changed poetry forever with their experiments in free verse, then dominated the literary scene. In this course, we'll briefly look at verses by Tolkien, Lewis, Williams, and Barfield, then see what their more famous friends were up to. We'll give a day to soldier-poets of WWI, then devote time to Yeats, Eliot, Auden, and Pound. We'll glance at Stein, Stephen Spender, David Jones, and whichever other British Modernists you're interested in. Of necessity, this will be a brief fly-over survey, but deeper dives are possible in the future.

Reader's Theater: The Tempest

In each module of the Reader’s Theatre sequence, we’ll read aloud and discuss in great detail one of Shakespeare’s genre-bending late plays. Participants will take characters, and we’ll read aloud one scene at a time, talking about how to express and interpret the text.

Reading Lewis' Ransom Cycle

This is the Landing Page for Prof. Higgins' series exploring Lewis's Ransom Cycle. In this book-club-style series, we will discuss C.S. Lewis’s novels Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength. We’ll track his major themes, talk about the background he assumes, enjoy his secondary world, and perhaps cheerfully debate some of his theological claims. We’ll bring in a few of his other works briefly to see how they contribute to his subcreated universe, and we’ll touch on some points scholars have made to help us read these works more deeply.

This page will be updated to reflect which book in the Cycle is being explored in a given month.
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Reading Lewis' Ransom Cycle:
• Part 1: Exploring C.S. Lewis’s novel Out of the Silent Planet. (Required Text: C.S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet)
• Part 2: Exploring C.S. Lewis’s novel Perelandra. (Required Text: C.S. Lewis, Perelandra)
• Part 3: Exploring C.S. Lewis’s novel That Hideous Strength and a few short related texts. (Required Text: C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength)
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NOTE: Students can jump in at any month/part of the Series. There are no prerequisites.

Supernatural Shockers: "All Hallows' Eve" by Charles Williams

Charles Williams was an occult master, a Christian mentor, and a member of the Inklings with Tolkien and Lewis. He wrote seven startling metaphysical thrillers: bizarre, engaging, wild novels in which the supernatural invades ordinary life. In this course, we'll talk about his last, greatest novel: All Hallows' Eve. Two of the main characters in it are dead, but this does not prevent them from interacting with the living, including a painter with profound spiritual insight, a black magician who makes two copies of himself to rule the world, and a woman who conceives a daughter in order to sacrifice her to her devilish master.

While this course is part of a cycle of seven classes on the various novels, they may be taken in any order without prerequisites.

Supernatural Shockers: "Descent into Hell" by Charles Williams

Charles Williams was an occult master, a Christian mentor, and a member of the Inklings with Tolkien and Lewis. He wrote seven startling metaphysical thrillers: bizarre, engaging, wild novels in which the supernatural invades ordinary life. In this course, we'll talk about Descent into Hell, which expresses his signature ideas perhaps more clearly than any of his other writings. It features a Shakespearean play, a doppelgänger, a succubus, an ancient witch, and several supernatural acts of substitution that transcend time and space.

While this course is part of a cycle of seven classes on the various novels, they may be taken in any order without prerequisites.

Supernatural Shockers: "Many Dimensions" by Charles Williams

Charles Williams was a friend of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, T.S. Eliot, Dorothy Sayers, and other influential writers of the early 20th century. He wrote seven startling metaphysical thrillers: bizarre, engaging, wild novels in which the supernatural invades ordinary life. In this course, we'll talk about Many Dimensions, in which a magical stone engraved with the letters of the Tetragrammaton can transport people through time and space, heal illnesses, grant wealth, and otherwise transcend the laws of nature. It is up to a young secretary to offer herself as a bridge to save the world from destruction. While Many Dimensions is a kind of sequel to War in Heaven, they can be studied on their own, and students need not take that course before this one, although they are welcome to do so.

Supernatural Shockers Series Exploring Charles Williams

This is the Landing Page for Prof. Higgins' Supernatural Shockers Series exploring Charles Williams' seven startling metaphysical thrillers: bizarre, engaging, wild novels in which the supernatural invades ordinary life.

This page will be updated to reflect which module in the series is being offered once the class decides.
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Supernatural Shockers Series Exploring Charles Williams:
• Supernatural Shockers: "War in Heaven" by Charles Williams > Link
• Supernatural Shockers: "Many Dimensions" by Charles Williams > Link
• Supernatural Shockers: "The Place of the Lion" by Charles Williams > Link
• Supernatural Shockers: "The Greater Trumps" by Charles Williams > Link
• Supernatural Shockers: "Shadows of Ecstasy" by Charles Williams > Link
• Supernatural Shockers: "Descent into Hell" by Charles Williams > Link
• Supernatural Shockers: "All Hallows' Eve" by Charles Williams > Link
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NOTE: Students can jump in at any month/part of the Series. There are no prerequisites.

Supernatural Shockers: "Shadows of Ecstasy" by Charles Williams

Charles Williams was an occult master, a Christian mentor, and a member of the Inklings with Tolkien and Lewis. He wrote seven startling metaphysical thrillers: bizarre, engaging, wild novels in which the supernatural invades ordinary life. In this course, we'll talk about Shadows of Ecstasy, in which an immortal guru invades England with an army of African soldiers, offering magical transmutation of the passions to his followers. While Williams wrote this novel first, it was published later, but still reveals an early, ambiguous phase of his religious thought.

While this course is part of a cycle of seven classes on the various novels, they may be taken in any order; however, this is the strangest and most disturbing of Williams's fiction, so students would probably benefit from taking at least one other module in this cycle first.

Supernatural Shockers: "The Greater Trumps" by Charles Williams

Charles Williams was an occult master, a Christian mentor, and a member of the Inklings with Tolkien and Lewis. He wrote seven startling metaphysical thrillers: bizarre, engaging, wild novels in which the supernatural invades ordinary life. In this course, we'll talk about The Greater Trumps, in which the original deck of Tarot Cards and a set of dancing golden figures offer power to foretell the fortunes of the world and control the elements. A deadly snowstorm, a madwoman, and a saint are among the memorable features of this unforgettable, vivid novel of spiritual submission and supernatural power.

While this course is part of a cycle of seven classes on the various novels, they may be taken in any order without prerequisites.

Supernatural Shockers: "The Place of the Lion" by Charles Williams

Charles Williams was an occult master, a Christian mentor, and a member of the Inklings with Tolkien and Lewis. He wrote seven startling metaphysical thrillers: bizarre, engaging, wild novels in which the supernatural invades ordinary life. In this course, we'll talk about The Place of the Lion, in which the Platonic archetypes invade the English countryside in the form of gigantic animals, threatening to swallow up all of reality.

While this course is part of a cycle of seven classes on the various novels, they may be taken in any order without prerequisites.

Supernatural Shockers: "War in Heaven" by Charles Williams

Charles Williams was a friend of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, T.S. Eliot, Dorothy Sayers, and other influential writers of the early 20th century. He wrote seven startling metaphysical thrillers: bizarre, engaging, wild novels in which the supernatural invades ordinary life. In this course, we'll talk about War in Heaven, in which a saintly archdeacon, a poetic duke, and a publisher's clerk race to save the Holy Grail from the three satanists who want to use it to destroy the world.

The Art of Adaptation

In order to dig into the fine art of adaptation, we'll study four short stories and films based on them:
1. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (James Thurber’s 1939 story and Ben Stiller's 2013 film);
2. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1922 story and David Fincher's 2008 film);
3. The story “Supertoys Last All Summer Long” by Brian Aldiss (1969) and Steven Spielberg's movie A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001);
4. The story ""Sentinel of Eternity"" by Arthur C. Clarke (1951) and the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, Stanley Kubrick with Clarke); we may also look at the novelisation of the film.

Using these works, we'll talk about what happens when a work moves from one genre to another, from one medium to another, from a solo project to a team work, from one audience to another, and more. We'll look at content changes, techniques, shifts of themes, and more.

The Quest for the Holy Grail

Is the Holy Grail a cup, a platter, or a stone? Where did it come from? Is it real? What does it mean to "achieve" the Grail? Is it only a Christian legend? Why has it remained popular and grown in significance over a thousand-year period of European literature? What does Monty Python have to do with the Grail? How did Indiana Jones get involved? What is the connection between the Grail and Tolkien’s legendarium? Where is the ring of Arthur the King? What Lord has such a treasure in his house?
We'll answer these questions and many more in this course, which will follow the evolution of the Grail from brief references in the Bible through Celtic fertility rituals and medieval romance to its varied presentations today. No prior knowledge is needed, and each student will determine their own reading load and selections.

The Seven Deadly Stories

The Seven Deadly sins--lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride--may result in eternal damnation, but they also make jolly good stories. We'll take a look at one work of literature each class that explores, describes, deplores, warns against, or otherwise engages with one of these deadly sins, and we'll talk about whether we detect a universal moral impulse underneath the varied texts we read.

Till We Have Faces: Lewis's Finest Work

This whole module will be devoted to a close reading of C.S. Lewis's best novel (and, in my opinion, his best work in any genre). We'll talk through it carefully, tracing themes, unpacking dense passages, examining the secondary world he has created, and immersing ourselves in this profound, poignant tale of one woman's spiritual journey.

Tolkien & Magic

The magic of Middle-earth is a fascinating topic, sparking conversations about its nature, origins, mechanism, and primary-world analogues. Did you know that while Tolkien was writing his fictional language, many of his friends and contemporaries were practicing ceremonial magic? In this class, we’ll look at Elf-magic, Entish powers, prophecy, wizardry, telepathy, the power of the Ring, angelic and constructed languages, words of power, Saruman’s sorcerous voice, immortality, and spiritual ontology. We might even find out what Tolkien thought of his friends who told fortunes and cast spells!

Tolkien on Stage

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote only one play, "The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm's Son," and it is more of a poetic dialogue than a theatrical work for production. However, it has been produced as a radio play. We'll read the work itself, two essays Tolkien wrote to accompany it, and some relevant scholarship. We'll talk about the production value of this piece and place it in its historical context during the modern verse drama revival.

Tolkien's Ents and the Environment

J. R. R. Tolkien had great sensitivity to the details, delights, and vitality of the natural world. Throughout his writings, and especially in episodes involving the Ents and the land of Rohan, he pays exquisite attention to the lives and even personalities of trees, leaves, trunks, roots, atmosphere, streams, lichen, weather, rocks, cliffs, sun, moon, wind, rain, grass, soil, and other specific elements of creation. In this course, we will read these passages slowly and carefully, trying to appreciate every detail, and discuss what we can learn about caring for flora, fauna, and the planet itself from his loving descriptions and from some smart commentaries on his work.

Tolkien & Williams as Worldbuilders

J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Williams were friends, contemporaries, and fellow members of the Inklings. They both invented secondary worlds in which to set their stories, poems, and myths--and they both made maps! Indeed, each imagines that his other world is actually a pre-history to or alternative history for our own. We will take a brief look at JRRT's Legendarium and CW's Arthuriana, asking how they developed the geography, history, demographics, and cultures of their imagined worlds, how those related to the primary world, and what significance or symbolism each invited readers to infer from their invented lands.

Wisdom Literature: The Book of Job

Let's do a close, detailed, literary reading of the Book of Job in the Bible, taking our time to contemplate each verse, sentence, phrase, and word. What literary techniques does the author use? How is the book structured? What genre conventions does it use or subvert? We will ponder these questions and others as we move slowly and respectfully through this beautiful ancient text.

Worldbuilding for SFF Writers

While building an entire world may seem like a daunting or divine task, thankfully there are many great writers who have gone before and left behind their advice, instructions, and encouragement for creating a secondary universe of your own. In this course, we'll look at what some smart and skillful folks have said about subcreation, then apply their ideas to your constructed storyworlds. We'll talk about how to choose and develop the properties of your land, what unique objects it contains, what level of technology its inhabitants have reached, who those inhabitants are, what language(s) they speak, what the physical nature of the world is, how its logic works, and--most importantly--its atmosphere and the philosophical implications of each of your creative choices. You should leave this course ready to set stories in your secondary universe.
If you have any questions about the SPACE program, please reach out to [email protected].