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Language • Fantasy Studies • Creative WritingGeneral HumanitiesOther

Fantasy Studies Modules

A Journey Through The History of Middle-earth Series Series

Christopher Tolkien’s twelve volumes on the History of Middle-earth give unparalleled insight into the development of J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendarium. They contain early drafts of familiar texts, different conceptualizations of well-known stories, and in some cases completely new material.

In this series of SPACE modules, we will tackle one volume per month over the course of a year. Each month-long module will provide an overview of a volume in context as well as readings from and discussion of highlights in that volume. Each module will include a guest appearance from Tolkien scholar John Garth.

Whether you’ve read the History of Middle-earth before or not, the hope is that these modules will make the volumes more accessible and will enhance your appreciation of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. There is no requirement that you do every single module in the series as each will be largely standalone, although in later modules, references will be made to earlier volumes.

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Required Texts: Each module will require a particular volume of the History of Middle-earth (any edition) as listed below, however, certain modules will also benefit from access to The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and Unfinished Tales.

Module 1: The Book of Lost Tales: Part One
Module 2: The Book of Lost Tales: Part Two
Module 3: The Lays of Beleriand
Module 4: The Shaping of Middle-earth
Module 5: The Lost Road and Other Writings
Module 6: The Return of the Shadow — (The History of TLotR vol. 1)
Module 7: The Treason of Isengard — (The History of TLotR vol. 2)
Module 8: The War of the Ring — (The History of TLotR vol. 3)
Module 9: Sauron Defeated — (The History of TLotR vol. 4)
Module 10: Morgoth's Ring — (The Later Silmarillion vol. 1)
Module 11: The War of the Jewels — (The Later Silmarillion vol. 2)
Module 12: The Peoples of Middle-earth
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Precepted by James Tauber.

A Journey Through The History of Middle-earth: The Book of Lost Tales, Part One First in the Series

Christopher Tolkien’s twelve volumes on the History of Middle-earth give unparalleled insight into the development of J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendarium. They contain early drafts of familiar texts, different conceptualizations of well-known stories, and in some cases completely new material.

This module is part of a series of modules covering all twelve volumes of The History of Middle-earth. This particular module will provide an overview of Volume One, The Book of Lost Tales Part One, as well as readings from and discussion of highlights in that volume. It will include a guest appearance from Tolkien scholar John Garth.

Whether you’ve read the History of Middle-earth before or not, the hope is that these modules will make the volumes more accessible and will enhance your appreciation of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. There is no requirement that you do every single module in the series as each will be largely standalone, although in later modules, references will be made to earlier volumes.
Precepted by James Tauber.

A Journey Through The History of Middle-earth: The Book of Lost Tales, Part Two Continuing Series

Christopher Tolkien’s twelve volumes on the History of Middle-earth give unparalleled insight into the development of J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendarium. They contain early drafts of familiar texts, different conceptualizations of well-known stories, and in some cases completely new material.

This module is part of a series of modules covering all twelve volumes of The History of Middle-earth. This particular module will provide an overview of Volume Two, The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, as well as readings from and discussion of highlights in that volume. It will include a guest appearance from Tolkien scholar John Garth.

Whether you’ve read the History of Middle-earth before or not, the hope is that these modules will make the volumes more accessible and will enhance your appreciation of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. There is no requirement that you do every single module in the series as each will be largely standalone, although in later modules, references will be made to earlier volumes.
Precepted by James Tauber.

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.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Arcane: League of Legends

Breathtaking animation, sound design, and worldbuilding combined to make Arcane one of 2021's unexpected animated hits.

Join us for this SPACE module where we'll do an episode-by-episode watch and discussion of this fantastic show.
Precepted by Keli Fancher.

Are You Tolkien To Me?

Why are the works of J.R.R. Tolkien still so relevant to us in the 21st century? In this course, we will look at some of the central themes of his novels, including Family, Home, Good vs. Evil, and Loss, exploring how Tolkien is still speaking to us almost fifty years after his death.

There are no required texts for this course, however, you may find having a copy of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings very useful (any edition).
Precepted by Sara Brown.

"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.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Asimov's Foundation, an Intro

Isaac Asimov wrote a complete 7 volume series of Foundation novels, an interesting Empire prequel series, and compiled short stories and novellas into a Robot prequel series to make a vast and arching future history for our universe. But at it's core were the first three compiled and original stories that made a trilogy of the Seldon Plan and its unfolding. If you want a spoiler free, first look into this classic series, let's read the first three books together in one month.
Precepted by Carrie Gross.

Avatar: The Legend of Korra

You've seen the original series, now it's time to watch the sequel.

Come watch us for an intense month of Avatar-viewing as we watch through the entire ""Legend of Korra"" animated show and discuss it in a book club format.
Precepted by Keli Fancher.

Babylon 5: Who Are You?

The first of the two essential questions raised in Babylon 5, “Who are you” demands that listeners and respondents consider the nature of their own mortality and personhood, delving deeply into their multifaceted identities. This four-week seminar explores the responses to this question as given by six core members of the Babylon 5 universe and considers its presentation as a core Vorlon question, examining the world of Babylon 5 as a space of introspection and self-discovery.
Precepted by Faith Acker.

Biological Concepts in Fantasy and Science Fiction

From the nesting habits of dragons to the process of zombification, science has become an increasingly important component of speculative fiction (fantasy, sci-fi, and horror). This module will explore the ways in which various works have incorporated biological principles to enhance their worlds, creatures, and characters and to draw in audiences of increasingly scientifically aware readers and viewers.
Precepted by Ryan Kimbell.

Book Club: J.R.R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring: Book I First in the Series

Join Ms. Elise for a cozy, relaxed Book Club series, where participants comes to our Club meetings with their own reflections and discussion questions about the text. YOU get to guide the magic! In this module, our readings will specifically focus on Book I of The Lord of the Rings. Bring a cozy blanket, a cup of tea, and enjoy!
Precepted by Elise Trudel Cedeño.

Book Club: J.R.R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring: Book II Continuing Series

Join Ms. Elise for a cozy, relaxed Book Club series, where participants comes to our Club meetings with their own reflections and discussion questions about the text. YOU get to guide the magic! In this module, our readings will specifically focus on Book II of The Lord of the Rings. Bring a cozy blanket, a cup of tea, and enjoy!
Precepted by Elise Trudel Cedeño.

Book Club: J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings Series

Join Ms. Elise for a cozy, relaxed Book Club series, where participants comes to our Club meetings with their own reflections and discussion questions about the text. YOU get to guide the magic! Each month, our readings will focus on one of the six Books in Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Bring a cozy blanket, a cup of tea, and enjoy!
Precepted by Elise Trudel Cedeño.

Book Club: J.R.R. Tolkien's The Return of the King: Book V Continuing Series

Join Ms. Elise for a cozy, relaxed Book Club series, where participants comes to our Club meetings with their own reflections and discussion questions about the text. YOU get to guide the magic! In this module, our readings will specifically focus on Book V of The Lord of the Rings. Bring a cozy blanket, a cup of tea, and enjoy!
Precepted by Elise Trudel Cedeño.

Book Club: J.R.R. Tolkien's The Return of the King: Book VI Continuing Series

Join Ms. Elise for a cozy, relaxed Book Club series, where participants comes to our Club meetings with their own reflections and discussion questions about the text. YOU get to guide the magic! In this module, our readings will specifically focus on Book VI of The Lord of the Rings. Bring a cozy blanket, a cup of tea, and enjoy!
Precepted by Elise Trudel Cedeño.

Book Club: J.R.R. Tolkien's The Two Towers: Book III Continuing Series

Join Ms. Elise for a cozy, relaxed Book Club series, where participants comes to our Club meetings with their own reflections and discussion questions about the text. YOU get to guide the magic! In this module, our readings will specifically focus on Book III of The Lord of the Rings. Bring a cozy blanket, a cup of tea, and enjoy!
Precepted by Elise Trudel Cedeño.

Book Club: J.R.R. Tolkien's The Two Towers: Book IV Continuing Series

Join Ms. Elise for a cozy, relaxed Book Club series, where participants comes to our Club meetings with their own reflections and discussion questions about the text. YOU get to guide the magic! In this module, our readings will specifically focus on Book IV of The Lord of the Rings. Bring a cozy blanket, a cup of tea, and enjoy!
Precepted by Elise Trudel Cedeño.

Bridge to the Silmarillion

This course is intended for people who have read Lord of the Rings and are beginners to the Silmarillion. We will re-read various passages from Lord of the Rings that make reference to First Age people, places, and events: the mighty Elf-friends of old, the Exile of the Elves; the Tale of Tinúviel; the story of Eärendil and more. We will whet our appetites and gather some motivating questions that will make a future journey into the Silmarillion easier and more enjoyable.

Cosmere Club - Mistborn: The Final Empire

"You should try not to talk so much, friend. You'll sound far less stupid that way." - Breeze

Don't let Breeze dissuade you, come join us for this module where we'll read (and yes talk about) Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn: The Final Empire.

Book-talk is always welcome!
Precepted by Keli Fancher.

Cosmere Club - The Well of Ascension

Join us as we continue our exploration of the Cosmere with the second book in the original Mistborn trilogy.

Whether you've taken the first module or not, all that we ask is that you come to this class ready to dive into Sanderson's Cosmere through our group discussion.
Precepted by Keli Fancher.

C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Join Ms. Elise for a cozy and relaxed Book Club as we read and discuss the magic of C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
Precepted by Elise Trudel Cedeño.

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 Sara Brown.

Don't Panic! Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Douglas Adams' Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy was first a radio production, then a novelization, then a tv series, then a movie. If this is giving you fits, don't panic, there's even more. Grab your towel, and thumb, and hitch a ride for a rediculous look at the lighter side of science fiction. Where were you when you heard those recordings for the first time? Or discovered the trilogy was 5 (or 6?) books? In this SPACE course we will cover the 12 fits of the radio drama's first series, and the first 2 books in the trilogy that it covered: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Restaurant at the End of the Universe. There may be spoilers and digressions into the other adaptations and possible series in progress as well.
Precepted by Carrie Gross.

Eucatastrophe and Tragedy in Tolkien

We will explore Tolkien’s understanding of these two essential aspects of human literary experience, from the horns of the Rohirrim to the Children of Húrin.
Precepted by Tom Hillman.

Exploring Journey to the West

One of the most beloved of all classical Chinese novels, Journey to the West features Monkey, Pig, Sand-demon, White Horse, and the monk Tripitaka as they make a pilgrimage from Tang-dynasty Chang’an to India to bring back Buddhist scriptures, having outrageous adventures all along the way. Full of humor and wit, this is a major work of East Asian fantastic literature. Come along with Monkey and the gang for a tour through this foundational text!
Precepted by Robert Steed.

Exploring Mary Shelley's Frankenstein 1

Recognized as the first sci-fi book, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a short novel full of layers and allusions to other works that go beyond the famous monster and his square face from pop culture. This course is divided into two modules. In the first part, we will read, analyze and discuss the first half of the book (Letter 1 to Chapter 11) and, in the subsequent module, we’ll read Chapters 12 to 24. Among the questions we’ll discuss are: what is the scope of science? What is the story really about? What is the role of fate in the narrative?
Precepted by Pilar Barrera.

Exploring Mary Shelley's Frankenstein 2

Recognized as the first sci-fi book, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a short novel full of layers and allusions to other works that go beyond the famous monster and his square face from pop culture. This course is divided into two modules. In the first part, we will read, analyze and discuss the first half of the book (Letter 1 to Chapter 11) and, in the subsequent module, we’ll read Chapters 12 to 24. Among the questions we’ll discuss are: what is the scope of science? What is the story really about? What is the role of fate in the narrative?
Precepted by Pilar Barrera.

Exploring Mushi Shi

We will watch and discuss Mushi Shi, paying special attention to aspects of Japanese religion and culture which are woven into the fabric of the story. The class will be discussion-oriented, framed by preceptor commentary. This is a beautifully designed series that rewards slow and relaxed contemplation.
Precepted by Robert Steed.

Exploring Smith of Wootton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham

In this relaxed, discussion-oriented module, we will explore these two lesser-known short stories by Tolkien. While Smith of Wootton Major takes us to Fäerie in a story full of beautiful imagery and sorrow, Farmer Giles of Ham transports us to a comical medieval world full of unforgettable adventures and characters such as giants, Garm the talking dog, and the arrogant dragon Chrysophylax.

Exploring The Ghost Bride

Join us as we explore Choo’s delightful debut novel, which has also been made into a Netflix series. The story focuses on Li Lan, a young Chinese woman, who lives in 1890s colonial Malaya with her father, who returns one evening with a proposition — to become the bride, a ghost bride, of the recently deceased heir to the fabulously wealthy Lim family. After a visit to the Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted by her ghostly would-be suitor, but also by her growing desire for the Lim’s living heir, Tian Bai. She is drawn into the multifold realms of the Chinese afterlife, with their ghost cities, funerary paper offerings, wandering spirits and rigid bureaucracy. Li Lan must navigate her way through this web of complicated relationships both to save her life and meet her destiny.
Precepted by Robert Steed.

Exploring William Gibson's Jackpot

Attn: Continua Enthusiasts and stub residents join us as we delve into the world of William Gibson's two most recent novels, The Peripheral, and Agency (now an Amazon series). A world of branch universes, nanobot assassinations, attenuated time travel and kleptocrats, all under the ever watchful eyes of Ainsley Lowbeer and a looming Jackpot. If you have read the novels already, this is a great chance to revisit them as Amazon rolls out The Peripheral series. If you have never read William Gibson, this is an opportunity to explore Gibson's particular flavor of fast-paced action, braided narratives, and provocative ideas.
Precepted by Patrick Malloy.

Fairy Tales: From Apples to Bears

In this module, we will answer questions such as: what is a fairy tale? Why do we tell stories? What is the function of fairy tales? What are some recurring themes? Stories to be discussed include Snow White (with and without dwarfs), Little Red Riding-hood, the Little Match Girl, Thumbelina, and East of the Sun and West of the Moon.
Precepted by Pilar Barrera.

Fairy Tales in The Witcher’s World

In this module, we will explore Andrzej Sapkowski’s stories from The Last Wish (the first book in the now famous The Witcher Netflix series) and prequel to the main saga. We will discuss how fairy tales are deeply embedded in the stories and are a fundamental part of the Witcher’s world. We will talk about the abundant allusions to different fairy tales that permeate the narrative, read these fairy tales, and discuss how they are presented and molded in Sapkowski’s book. While we’ll talk about the TV series, particularly, the first episode of the second season, “A Grain of Truth”, we will focus on the book itself and on the fairy tales mentioned in the stories.
Precepted by Pilar Barrera.

Fairy Tales: Rats, Mice, and Birds

In this module, we will continue to explore fairy tales and discuss questions such as: what is the role of nature in fairy tales? What is the role of animals? What are some recurring themes in these tales? Stories to be discussed include “Cinderella”, “The Turnip”, “The Mouse, the Bird and the Sausage”, “The Forest Bride”, “The Daisy”, and “Five out of a Pod”.
Precepted by Pilar Barrera.

Fairy Tales: Tricksters, Fools, and Villains

In this module, we will examine fairy tales about tricksters and villains. We will discuss questions such as: why are tricksters important? What is the role of villains? What are some recurring themes in these tales? Stories to be discussed include “Hansel and Gretel”, “Bluebeard”, “Hans in Luck”, “Momotaro, the Peach Boy”, “The Bremen Musicians”, “The Old Woman and the Tramp”, and “The Tinder Box”.
Precepted by Pilar Barrera.

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.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood: Redemption

Join us for the second of two modules dedicated to exploring Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood. In this second module we’ll cover episodes 33-64 and the development and placement of its major themes including Truth, Science, Religion, Oppression, and Loss amongst others. Attending the next module in this series is not required, but for full enjoyment it’s definitely recommended.
Precepted by Keli Fancher.

Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood: Sin

Join us for the first of two modules dedicated to exploring the Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood anime series. In this first module we’ll cover episodes 1-32 and the development and placement of its major themes including Truth, Science, Religion, Oppression, and Loss amongst others. Attending the next module in this series is not required, but for full enjoyment it’s definitely recommended.
Precepted by Keli Fancher.

Geology of Fictional Worlds

This course introduces the student to the various aspects of geology and how they can relate to worldbuilding and mapmaking. This includes continents, plate tectonics, mountains, water, glaciers, planetary patterns, the distribution of rock types and natural resources, natural disasters and weather patterns. This background would allow students to better evaluate fictional maps as well as create them. Examples will be drawn from Middle-earth, Earth-sea, Westeros, Dungeons and Dragons, and suggestions from students.
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney.

Gojira, Then and Now

In this module, we will discuss two films of the Godzilla franchise -- the original 1954 Gojira and 2016's Shin Godzilla. After a quick overview of the franchise -- its numerous films and eras -- we'll look at the historical events that influenced each films' creation, as well as the central themes and motifs.
Precepted by Joshua Sosa.

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!
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

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.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

H.P. Lovecraft: Maker of Modern Horror

H.P. Lovecraft revolutionized horror, modernized the Gothic, and created a 20th-century mythology explored by authors from Jorge Luis Borges to Stephen King. This module provides an overview of Lovecraft's fiction, from his early "Dunsanian" fantasies to his later science fiction masterpieces. Along the way, it touches on Lovecraft's life and times, his letters and criticism, and other aspects of his thought, but keeps the stories themselves central. We explore Lovecraft's uses of settings such as "witch-haunted Arkham," techniques including the near-hoax and "adventurous expectancy," and his great theme of "cosmic indifference."
Precepted by Kenneth Hite.

Introduction to Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales

In this module, we will read and discuss some of Andersen’s fairy tales. We will talk about their plot, characters, and specific imagery. We will also discuss Andersen’s influence on subsequent authors and expressions in different media.
Precepted by Pilar Barrera.

Introduction to Oscar Wilde's Fairy Tales

In this module, we will read and discuss some of Oscar Wilde’s fairy tales. We will talk about the plot, characters, specific nuances of the language, use of irony, and general meaning, as well as Wilde’s influence on other media.
Precepted by Pilar Barrera.

Japanese Fairy Tales and Children's Literature

In this module we will talk about Japanese children’s literature and fairy tales and their connection to specific Japanese cultural aspects and values such as the acceptance of death and the imperfection of the world.
Precepted by Pilar Barrera.

J.R.R. Tolkien's Letters from Father Christmas

Join Ms. Elise for a cozy, relaxed Book Club setting and discuss the joy of Tolkien’s beloved Christmas tale.
Precepted by Elise Trudel Cedeño.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit

Join Ms. Elise for a cozy and relaxed Book Club as we read and discuss J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic, The Hobbit.
Precepted by Elise Trudel Cedeño.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrún

Love, power, betrayal, death; the occasional dragon and cursed ring. All these are to be found in the legends of the Vǫlsungs and Niflungs, amongst the most popular and abiding legends of the medieval Germanic-speaking and Norse worlds. J.R.R. Tolkien reworked these into two poems in Modern English patterned after the alliterative style of Old Norse poems. In this module, we read Tolkien’s poems and their accompanying commentary to see how Tolkien wrought his own retelling of these ancient tales, and we’ll trace the connections across from the original medieval legends through Tolkien’s retelling to his original works of fantasy set in Middle-earth.
Precepted by Carl Anderson.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Return of the King

In Book Club, YOU decide how our sessions go! Come to Book Club with all of your questions, ideas, and experiences and share the joy of Tolkien’s legendarium. What will you discover?
Precepted by Elise Trudel Cedeño.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Two Towers

In Book Club, YOU decide how our sessions go! Come to Book Club with all of your questions, ideas, and experiences and share the joy of Tolkien’s legendarium. What will you discover?
Precepted by Elise Trudel Cedeño.

Knewbetta’s Guide to the Silmarillion

Is The Silmarillion your favorite book? Is it your least-favorite book? Whether you’re reading it for the first or fiftieth time, KnewBettaDoBetta will help you see it in a more fun, relatable way!

Tolkien’s The Silmarillion is inarguably a complex read. KnewBetta seeks to make it more accessible by teaching the lore in an understandable way. His hope is that everyone can share his knowledge and passion! This course will look at characters, relationships, relatable themes, and meanings that you may not have explored yet.
Precepted by Knewbetta and James Tauber.

Le Guin's Earthsea Series

Ursula K. Le Guin explores themes of power, love, nature, gender, art, politics, and more through her richly-developed world of Earthsea, drawing upon literary, philosophical, religious, and anthropological interests in doing so. We will walk on the islands of Earthsea and dive into its waters as we discover beloved, and maybe hidden or controversial, aspects of Le Guin’s masterpiece.

This present module is for Cycle 1 of the Earthsea Series, exploring A Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan.

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The Earthsea Series consists of 3 modules exploring a different Cycle of Le Guin's expansive work:
• Cycle 1 explores A Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan,
• Cycle 2 explores The Farthest Shore and Tehanu, and
• Cycle 3 explores The Other Wind and Tales from Earthsea
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NOTE: Students can jump in at any month/part of the Series.

Precepted by Robert Steed.

Miyazaki: Recovery of Innocence

One of the principal thematic elements found in the works of Hayao Miyazaki is the restorative power of childhood. Through his works, childhood itself becomes a utopian site. It is through this emphasis that we recover its best aspects: innocence, curiosity, and wonder. In this module we will watch and discuss four of Miyazaki’s works which best represent childhood and his usage of it to facilitate recovery.
Precepted by Keli Fancher.

Miyazaki: The Beginning

Come join us as we examine Hayao Miyazaki’s early years as a director and the films which set the groundwork for his career. This module covers Miyazaki’s directorial debut film Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro through the rest of the films in the 1980s: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service.
Precepted by Keli Fancher.

Miyazaki: The Continuation

Come join us as we consider the follow-up to Hayao Miyazaki’s breakout success of the late 90s and early 2000s. In this module we’ll cover the last three of Miyazaki’s directorial releases (Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo, The Wind Rises) as well as two feature films that he’s credited as co-screenwriter on during the same time period (Arrietty and From Up on Poppy Hill).
Precepted by Keli Fancher.

Miyazaki: The Fame

Come join us as we look at the decade which propelled Hayao Miyazaki into international fame. We’ll begin by covering talking about flying pigs (Porco Rosso) and talking cats (Whisper of the Heart, screenplay) before progressing to the two international breakout hits which really made this time period a turning point in his career: Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away.
Precepted by Keli Fancher.

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.)
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

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.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Nordic Madness: Exploring Children's Literature in Three Nordic Authors

In this module we will join the madness, adventure and melancholy of three famous Nordic authors: Hans Christian Andersen, Astrid Lindgren, and Tove Jansson; from the tragic unrequited love of a snowman to the crazy adventures of Pippi Longstocking and the Moomins, this module is a rollercoaster of emotions and beautiful images. You will need two books: Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren and Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson.
Precepted by Pilar Barrera.

Pity in The Lord of the Rings

If ‘the Pity of Bilbo’ does not ‘rule the fate of many’, the malice of Sauron will. Pity is essential, yet offers no defense in the end against the pull of the Ring’s power. So Gandalf paradoxically tells us. In this module we shall discuss passages that shed light on this central conflict in The Lord of the Rings.
Precepted by Tom Hillman.

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.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

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.

Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

She Watered It With her Tears: Grief, Mourning, and Death in Tolkien's Legendarium

Among the many themes Tolkien contemplates through his legendarium, that of grief and mourning is prominent. In this class, we will unfold the implications of expressions of grief and mourning in his work. For example, why do lamentations matter, and how might they offer healing? Why does Nienna weep? Are there cases of “inappropriate” grief? What roles do grief and mourning play in the creation of wisdom and beauty? Does Elven grief have special characteristics? What about that of Dwarves and Humans? We will explore these topics and more.
Precepted by Robert Steed.

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.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

The Fantastic in East Asia

Come join us as we explore various aspects of the weird, the strange, the uncanny, the dreamlike, and the visionary in East Asian literature, religion, folktales, poetry, and popular media. Whether it is ecstatic visions in Daoist texts, shamanistic expressions in Chinese poetry, gumiho and ghosts in KDramas, or stories such as that of the Yuki Onna (Snow Woman) in Japanese folklore, we’ll explore them all (and perhaps more!) in this class.
Precepted by Robert Steed.

The History, People, and Culture of Tolkien's Númenor

With the publication of The Fall of Númenor (November 2022) we finally have much of Tolkien’s writing on this period in the history Middle-earth drawn together in one place. This offers a unique opportunity, at a moment when the island of Númenor has come to greater public awareness via Amazon’s show ‘The Rings of Power’, to fully examine this aspect of Tolkien’s secondary world. In this course, we will explore the history of Númenor, with particular focus on important events, significant people, the geography of the island, and the evolving culture of the Númenóreans.

Special Note: We are excited to announce that Brian Sibley, noted for his BBC Radio adaptations of both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, as well as for his many books on Tolkien, will be joining us in one of the sessions (Date tbc). He is going to talk to us about his work on the new book The Fall of Númenor, and will be available to answer any questions you might have.
Precepted by Sara Brown.

The Last Airbender: Beginnings

Grab a cup of tea and join Keli for a relaxed viewing and discussion of the first half of Avatar: The Last Airbender.

This is the first of two modules dedicated to covering the entire original series in preparation for a future module on Netflix's upcoming live action as an adaptation of Book 1 from the original series.
Precepted by Keli Fancher.

The Last Airbender: Endings

Grab a cup of tea and join Keli for a relaxed viewing and discussion of the second half of Avatar: The Last Airbender.

This is the second of two modules dedicated to covering the entire original series in preparation for a future module on Netflix's upcoming live action as an adaptation of Book 1 from the original series.
Precepted by Keli Fancher.

The Last Airbender: The Comics

You've seen the show, now let's read the comics!

In this SPACE module we'll read through the comics surrounding the original Avatar: The Last Airbender characters and discuss them in a book club format.
Precepted by Keli Fancher.

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.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

'The Rings of Power' Discussion Group

The wait is over and Amazon’s new Tolkien-inspired series has come. Already, this series has stimulated much heated discussion across various social media, with the images and trailers dividing opinion among Tolkien fans. In this discussion group, we will watch the show and discuss what we have seen, linking it to what we already know about Tolkien’s creation, and exploring the ways in which ‘The Rings of Power’ is extending the world of Middle-earth.

Access to copies of The Silmarillion, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings is desirable. Prior knowledge of the texts is also desirable, but you could manage without. Knowledge of The History of Middle-earth series and The Unfinished Tales is a bonus!
Precepted by Sara Brown and James Tauber.

The Second Age of Middle-earth

The Second Age of Middle-earth saw the rise and fall of Númenor, the rise and (apparent) fall of Sauron, and the creation of the Rings of Power. This course will look at the events of the Second Age with readings from LOTR (especially Appendix A and B), Unfinished Tales, and the Silmarillion. It will be of particular interest to people who want to know more about the Second Age to be ready for the Amazon Prime series LOTR: The Rings of Power starting in September 2022.

The Women of Beowulf

Yes, there are indeed women in Beowulf. Vital and potent women in fact. From the valkyrie-esque figures to the weeping peace-weavers, a broad spectrum of women characters exists as both historical representation and imaginative mythology. Grendel's Mother is ferocious and masculine. Hildeburh laments the death of her brother and son before being carried off. Modthryth behaves like a sadistic queen. Wealhtheow is mindful of so much in her husband's hall. Freawaru seems destined for tragedy. And could the dragon be a female too? Maria Headley seems to think so. This module will explore this topic using dual-language editions of texts so we can see the original language alongside translations by J.R.R. Tolkien, Roy Liuzza, and Maria Headley.
Precepted by Chris Vaccaro.

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.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Tolkien And Alchemy

Transformation and the process of transformation, either physical or of the self, is a significant theme in Tolkien’s writing and appears throughout the Middle-earth legendarium. In this SPACE course, we will explore how the practice, philosophy and symbolism of alchemy resonate in the texts and provide another way to read the changes that are apparent throughout. Amongst other topics, we will look at the Music of the Ainur and Tolkien’s creation myth, the recurring symbolism of the alchemical colours: Black, White and Red, the metaphor of Gold, the nature of the One Ring, and Frodo as alchemical subject.
Precepted by Sara Brown.

Tolkien and the Sea

From the subcreation of Ulmo to travels from Cornwall to Avallonë, the Sea has played a special role in Tolkien’s world. This module looks at key instances of the Sea’s appearance in his writing corpus so that fellow readers can more fully appreciate the haunting beauty of water’s meaning and Tolkien’s imaginative ability. We will be reading excerpts from Tolkien’s legendarium, poetry, and creative historical works.
Precepted by Jennifer Rogers.

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!
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

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.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Tolkien's Great Tales: The Children of Húrin

Although they were never completed in his lifetime, JRR Tolkien wrote what he considered his three "Great Tales" of the Elder Days and intended them to be a significant part of his wider Silmarillion. These Tales are The Tale of Beren and Lúthien, The Children of Húrin, and The Fall of Gondolin. Some parts of these Tales can be found within the published version of The Silmarillion, but the more recently available individual books provide additional and extensive details for each story.

In this course, we will have a ‘read-along’ discussion of The Children of Hurin. Each session we will consider our close reading of a section of the story, examining Tolkien’s use of language and narrative structure, as well as exploring ideas about what each Tale tells us about Tolkien’s secondary world.

Access to a copy of The Children of Hurin will be necessary, and you may find having a copy of The Silmarillion very useful.
Precepted by Sara Brown.

Tolkien's Great Tales: The Fall of Gondolin

Although they were never completed in his lifetime, JRR Tolkien wrote what he considered his three "Great Tales" of the Elder Days and intended them to be a significant part of his wider Silmarillion. These Tales are The Tale of Beren and Lúthien, The Children of Húrin, and The Fall of Gondolin. Some parts of these Tales can be found within the published version of The Silmarillion, but the more recently available individual books provide additional and extensive details for each story.

In this course, we will have a ‘read-along’ discussion of The Fall of Gondolin. Each session we will consider our close reading of a section of the story, examining Tolkien’s use of language and narrative structure, as well as exploring ideas about what each Tale tells us about Tolkien’s secondary world.

Access to a copy of The Fall of Gondolin will be necessary, and you may find having a copy of The Silmarillion very useful.
Precepted by Sara Brown.

Tolkien's Great Tales: The Tale of Beren and Lúthien

Although they were never completed in his lifetime, JRR Tolkien wrote what he considered his three "Great Tales" of the Elder Days and intended them to be a significant part of his wider Silmarillion. These Tales are The Tale of Beren and Lúthien, The Children of Húrin, and The Fall of Gondolin. Some parts of these Tales can be found within the published version of The Silmarillion, but the more recently available individual books provide additional and extensive details for each story.

In this course, we will have a ‘read-along’ discussion of The Tale of Beren and Lúthien. Each session we will consider our close reading of a section of the story, examining Tolkien’s use of language and narrative structure, as well as exploring ideas about what each Tale tells us about Tolkien’s secondary world.

Access to a copy of The Tale of Beren and Lúthien will be necessary, and you may find having a copy of The Silmarillion very useful.
Precepted by Sara Brown.

Tolkien's Letters

Tolkien’s letters offer scholars and fans alike a revealing, amusing, at times touching glimpse into the Professor’s understanding of his own life and work. In our course we’ll look at a bit of everything, but especially Letter 131, where he tried to explain it all.
Precepted by Tom Hillman.

Tolkien's Unfinished Tales

The Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth is a collection of stories and essays by J.R.R. Tolkien that are filled with all the wonderful elements of story-telling that are to be found in The Silmarillion, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and yet, for some reason, they are less well-known and less studied. Some, like ‘Aldarion and Erendis: The Mariner’s Wife’, offer a compelling insight into the Second Age and the time of Númenor. Others, such as ‘The History of Galadriel and Celeborn’, ‘The Quest of Erebor’, or ‘The Hunt for the Ring’, shed further light on the events of the Third Age that are so familiar to readers of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. We will discuss some of these stories and place them in the context of the other Middle-earth works.

Access to a copy of The Unfinished Tales is essential. Prior knowledge of the stories within is desirable, but you could read them as we go along.
Precepted by Sara Brown.

Tolkien, the Anglo-Saxon Minstrel

Explore Tolkien’s Anglo-Saxon poetic inspiration. We will enjoy an introduction to a few Anglo-Saxon poems and then compare Tolkien’s adaptations to their Anglo-Saxon counterparts. Discussions of poetic style and technique will be with us along the way! Texts discussed include Beowulf, The Fall of Arthur, and other poems.
Precepted by Jennifer Rogers.

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.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

To Repair Arda: Tolkien's Dwarves through Jewish Mysticism

J.R.R. Tolkien explicitly and publicly associated his subcreated race of the Dwarves with the Jewish people. This raises all sorts of interesting questions and problems, not least of which is why does he do this, and what within Jewish culture is he referring to? Usually scholars point to Dwarven language and Dwarven history for this association, but in this class we will explore the possibility that at the deepest level Tolkien is also drawing upon aspects of Jewish mysticism to support his claim.
Precepted by Robert Steed.

Trees Are People Too (And They Probably Don't Want to Hug You)

This course examines novellas, stories, and myths that predated Tolkien's Ents in Lord of the Rings, ranging from Ovid's Metamorphoses to Ask and Embla of Norse myth, to Weird nineteenth- and twentieth-century works, such as George MacDonald's Phantastes and Algernon Blackwood's The Man Whom the Trees Loved. We'll explore why people ascribe human qualities to trees (and why they're often irascible). Through these myths and stories, we will reconsider both what it is to be a tree, and what it is to be human.
Precepted by Chris Pipkin.

Vampires, Werewolves and Wights – Oh My! Uncanny Creatures in Middle-earth

There are dragons in Tolkien’s works, of course, as well as Ents, Trolls, and Orcs, all enabling Tolkien to give shape and dimension to his world of Middle-earth. Less discussed amongst readers of the legendarium are the weird creatures that sit in the shadows – the ones designed to really make the back of your neck prickle. In this course, we will discuss these more troubling inhabitants of Middle-earth, with some close reading of the texts to guide our way.

Access to copies of The Silmarillion, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings is essential. Prior knowledge of the texts is desirable, but you could read them as we go along.
Precepted by Sara Brown.

When Tolkien Wrote Time-Travel

Tolkien’s essay into the time-travel genre is little known and even less likely read. However, his Lost Road and Notion Club Papers showcase his grappling with concepts at the heart of his legendarium. This module highlights those works, taking readers through a genre study, philological walkthrough, and conceptual discussion of the fragments. Buckle in for a Tolkien-guided adventure through Earth’s history back to the time of the Elves.
Precepted by Jennifer Rogers.
If you have any questions about the SPACE program, please reach out to [email protected].