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Creative Writing • General Humanities • Fantasy StudiesLanguageOther

General Humanities Modules

A Brief Exploration of Japanese Poetry

Over the course of this module we will read and explore the work of a few major pre-modern Japanese poets in translation, putting them in their historical, cultural, and religious contexts along the way, but always focusing on the poetry itself. Group discussion is strongly encouraged. Poetry and poets covered will include that of the Manyōshū, Saigyō, Princess Shikishi, and Bashō. Time permitting, we can add to the list.
Precepted by Robert Steed and Pilar Barrera

A Brief Intro to Opera

This is a brief introduction to a centuries-old art that has been throughout history vulgar and epic, scandalous and high-brow, cultured, and plebeian. Experience the funniest and most ridiculous stories you’ve ever heard, or wallow in the blood and horror of the dark and dramatic. Spend an hour enjoying light entertainment, or have your view of the world changed forever by the deepest human sympathies. If you’ve always wondered about opera, or wanted to try and like it, if you still remember Bugs Bunny in a Valkyrie dress and want to see the source material, come encounter opera in its many forms and journey through this whirlwind of music, lights, glamor, and extravagance.
Precepted by Sarah Monnier

A Careful Reading of The Mountain of Silence

Kyriacos Markides's classic exploration of Eastern Orthodox thought and mysticism rewards slow, careful, contemplative reading and discussion. Various aspects of Orthodox mysticism and religious practice are addressed in a series of conversations that the author has with "Father Maximos," a priest and monk trained in the spiritual atmosphere of Mt. Athos. Please join us as we use this text as a gateway into understanding Orthodox and more generally sacramental forms of Christian thought and practice, all in a friendly, non-partisan, and open group setting.
Precepted by Robert Steed

A Casual Look at Etymology in Paleontology

Have you ever wondered what Tyrannosaurus Rex means? How about Basilosaurus? Deinosuchus? Gigantopithacus? Argentavis? Okay you have to know Megalodon, right? Well, if you are interested in learning about the meaning behind some of your favorite prehistoric animal names, then join me for this sit down discussion. No prior knowledge of a secondary language (namely Greek and Latin) is required. This module is intended to be a fun chat to help you better identify certain creatures the next time you head to a natural history museum -- or the next time the topic shows up on Jeopardy!
Precepted by Joshua Sosa

A Cultural History of Anime

In this module we will look at the historical development of anime, with special attention to its uses in re-imagining post-war Japanese culture and society. From Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors to mushroom-cloud explosions and kawaii aesthetic, come explore how anime shapes Japanese (and others’) perceptions of Japanese history and culture.

African Musicology for Beginners

There are a lot of misconceptions and misrepresentations about African music. This module analyzes the complex linkages between the art of African music and its connections with culture, heritage, politics, and the environment. In this module you will learn about the different rhythms, multiple instruments used, their meaning, and the impact they have on social relations, identity, and politics. The course also touches on the use of song in folktales, meaning, and impact.
Precepted by Ishmael Bhila

A Haunting on the Hill: Elizabeth Hand’s Answer to Shirley Jackson

For the very first time, Shirley Jackson’s estate has authorized a book inspired by Shirley Jackson’s work. The 2023 novel A Haunting on the Hill by author Elizabeth Hand (a three-time Shirley Jackson, World Fantasy, and Nebula Award winner) is a direct response to Shirley Jackson’s 1959 classic story The Haunting of Hill House. How does Elizabeth Hand challenge, update, and/or expand on the ideas of Shirley Jackson? How well does A Haunting on the Hill continue the tale of The Haunting of Hill House and/or stand on its own as a work of Gothic horror?

In this module, we will consider the challenges of the sequel or “inspired-by” work, discuss A Haunting on the Hill both in its context and on its own merits, note how the novel fits into Elizabeth Hand’s larger body of writings, and explore the ongoing relevance of the Gothic to 21st-century readers. \

Note: This module's companion module The Haunting of Hill House is running in January 2024. The January module is not a pre-requisite for the March module but taking both will allow students to see the books in conversation with each other.
Precepted by Amy H. Sturgis

Ancient Egyptian Mages

An examination of who used magic in Egypt, with an emphasis on characters within literary genres and known professions. This includes the story of Khufu, the Nubian sorcerers, the use of Shabtis, and later stories, including Lucian and the inspiration for Fantasia. This also includes priests, healers, and professional magic users. What do we know about fictional and nonfictional magic users? How and why did they practice? What areas did they work in?
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney

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

"The Way that can be talked about is not the lasting Way": so begins this classic text of world literature and Chinese philosophical and religious thought. The Tao Te Ching has been read, interpreted, and applied in a variety of ways throughout Chinese and world history. We'll do a close reading as well as explore the larger commentarial tradition surrounding it, using it as a gateway to explore further dimensions of East Asian culture and to spark conversations within the class.
Precepted by Robert Steed

A Sip of Tea and Tea Culture

In this module we will explore the cultural history of tea production, tea consumption, and tea-related cultural forms and practices. Primary focus will be on Asia, with side-expeditions to other parts of the world. White, green, Oolong, red (black), the Silk Road, tea bricks, tea ceremonies, tea-and-Zen, tea as world commodity, tea as entheogen---we can explore all of this and more!
Precepted by Robert Steed

Bach’s Goldberg Variations

The Goldberg Variations is a keyboard work by J. S. Bach considered by many to be one of the greatest musical compositions of all time. In this module, we will listen, analyze and discuss our way through the piece. We will begin with the background to the composition, and study the initial aria and the ground bass that underlies the entire piece. We will then work our way through each of the thirty variations, listening to a couple of performances of each and studying the score. Along the way we will discuss the basics of harmony and counterpoint. Our goal is that you come away with a deeper understanding of this remarkable piece of music and a greater appreciation of the genius of Bach.

Note: Ability to read music is not required for this module!
Precepted by James Tauber

Bible as Literature: Minor Prophets

This module explores the Minor Prophets. What is a prophet? How was a prophet expected to "operate" in the Ancient World? How do Hebrew prophets compare to prophets from other traditions in their world? What is the message of the prophets? These questions and more will be addressed in this module. Those with Hebrew, Greek, or Latin are welcome to use their skills in this module, though these are not required.
Precepted by Larry Swain

Bible as Literature: The Gospels in the Their Contexts

This module considers the gospels in their contexts; addressing their genre, the communities to whom they are addressed, their origins, early tradition and legend about how they came to be, comparisons of their literatures to other Hellenistic and Near Eastern ones, the synoptic problem, and related issues.
Precepted by Larry Swain

Big Bold Beowulf: A Study of the Poem

Always wanted to study Beowulf? Here's your opportunity. In our 8 hours together, we will delve into the worlds of the poem, examine the major critical elements, and seek to understand the poem better.
Precepted by Larry Swain

Boccaccio’s The Decameron

Boccaccio’s fourteenth-century masterpiece shows ten young Florentine nobles fleeing a city devastated by plague, retiring to a country villa to divert themselves with the telling of tales—one tale each for ten days. Populated by gullible merchants, wily apprentices, self-possessed daughters, and libidinous nuns, these tales feature a series of practical jokes, remarkable journeys, love, deception, and family drama—all with a blend of wit, wonderment, and buffoonery. From this hundredfold collection, our class will look at just a decimal selection—a curated “top ten” tales from this set of ten tens. We conclude the course by watching the 2017 film adaptation of two of these tales, The Little Hours.
Precepted by Liam Daley

Book Club: A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro or A Study of Memory

In his debut short novel, Kazuo Ishiguro (2017 Nobel Prize winner) explores topics such as the reliability of memory, womanhood, and the relationships between men. Set in both Britain and Nagasaki, Ishiguro takes the reader into the world of Etsuko a Japanese woman struggling to fulfill the expectations of women after the war. We will discuss the themes, language, imagery, and character development in a relaxed and dynamic way.
Precepted by Pilar Barrera

Book Club: Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

A 2020 winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction, Hamnet is a retelling of Shakespeare’s lost years that focuses on his relationship with Anne Hathaway. At times magical and surreal, it has hues of magic realism and a unique style. We will discuss the themes, imagery, character development, and many allusions to different plays of Shakespeare in a relaxed and interactive way.
Precepted by Pilar Barrera

Book Club: Little Women, Part 1

Based largely on autobiographical information, Little Women has never been out of print since it was published in 1868. The lives of the four March sisters have inspired several movies and continue to be popular. This is a 2-part module in which we’ll discuss the first Volume of Little Women; we’ll talk about the context, setting, and character development, as well as the influence of Dickens, and certain feminist and philosophical issues that permeate the novel.
Precepted by Pilar Barrera

Book Club: Little Women, Part 2

In Part 2 of this module, we’ll finish the fist Volume of Little Women. We’ll cover chapters XII to XXIII. We’ll continue to discuss the different references, characters development, main themes, and imagery.
Precepted by Pilar Barrera

Book Club: The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Published in 1899, The Awakening is considered one of the first feminist novels and a precursor of American modernism. Kate Chopin explores issues such as motherhood, independence, the conformism to preset social values, and more. We will discuss the themes, imagery, and character development in a relaxed and interactive way.
Precepted by Pilar Barrera

Chinese History for Fans of Chinese Media

If you are a fan of any form of Chinese popular media such as CDramas, films, wuxia pian (martial arts films and novels) and so on, you will almost certainly find yourself exposed to a wide array of different historical settings and contexts. In this module we will explore those moments and periods in the history of China that often appear as settings or references in Chinese popular media as a way to broaden and deepen our understanding and enjoyment of it.
Precepted by Robert Steed

Chrétien de Troyes: "Lancelot, Knight of the Cart" and "Erec & Enide"

This course explores two works by Arthurian legend-maker, Chrétien de Troyes. In the first-ever tale of Sir Lancelot, "The Knight of the Cart," Chretien invents the hero who loves Queen Guinevere beyond all bounds of reason—so much that he will face deadly and (even worse) socially humiliating perils to prove his devotion. In the early work, "Erec and Enide," Chretien perhaps invents the tradition of Arthurian courtly romance itself. With Camelot as its background, the knight Erec and maiden Enide pass through a series of trials testing their bravery and love for each other. Told with a mixture of heroic panache, comic irony, and relish for entertaining detail, these foundational works of Arthurian romance show the genius of master story-teller of the high Middle Ages.
Precepted by Liam Daley

Chretien de Troyes: “Yvain, Knight of the Lion” and “Cliges”

It’s twelfth-century France, and on the battlefield, knights are fighting in deadly earnest—but around the fireside, courtly men and ladies can read about knightly deeds of arms and feats of love in safety and comfort. And today, we still can as well! This course explores two Arthurian romances of the master-romancer, Chretien de Troyes. In “Yvain, Knight of the Lion,” held by many to be Chretien’s masterpiece, Yvain learns that rash attempts at heroism sometimes have unexpected and disastrous consequences—but then again, sometimes earn the friendship of a heroic, feline beast. The story of “Cliges” (what medievalist Derek Pearsall calls Chretien’s most “lavishly plotted” romance) follows, first, the career of a knight, Alexander, and then years later, that of his son, Cliges—two men whose choices in both love and war prove that history doesn’t always repeat itself.
Precepted by Liam Daley

Christian and Pagan: Tertullian's Apologetic

How did early Christians respond to persecution? In this module, we will explore Tertullian's masterwork, The Apology. One of the first major Christian works composed in Latin, Tertullian drew upon his education in law and rhetoric to produce this supremely eloquent and passionate defence of Christianity in response to an outbreak of violence. Over four weeks, we will closely read The Apology, discussing its fascinating insights into the world of the early Christians and the challenges they faced.
Precepted by Julian Barr

Cinema Club: Shakespeare's "Macbeth"

In this course, we’ll watch and discuss three different cinematic adaptations of Shakespeare’s "Macbeth": Roman Polanski’s classic take on this tragedy (1971); Akira Kurosawa’s acclaimed Japanese adaptation, Kumonosu-jō (English title: Thrown of Blood , 1957); and the recent innovated interpretation by Joel Cohen (2021), starring Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand. We will also consult reviews and scholarly articles on Shakespeare cinema generally and these films in particular.

This module is structured so that 3 of the 8 meetings will serve as “movie nights” where the class will watch the films together as group. Admittedly, these meetings will be longer than an hour, so attendance beyond the hour is optional, of course. After a General Introduction (Meeting 1), Meeting 2 will serve as the “movie night” for Polanski's adaptation, followed by discussion of the film in Meeting 3. We follow this pattern for the Kurosawa version (Meetings 4 & 5) and the Cohen version (Meetings 6 & 7), before ending with a look back at all three versions (Meeting 8).
Precepted by Liam Daley

Constructed and Fictional Languages in Science Fiction

The use of fictional languages in science fiction from the good to the bad. This includes fully constructed languages, references to constructed and foreign languages, as well as misuse or misunderstandings of language change. How these subtle points contribute to or detract from world building. This will expand on the work of Ria Cheyne through examples and delving deeper linguistically.
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney

Crash Course on Norse Myths

The literature containing Norse mythology remains one of the most fascinating bodies of medieval storytelling anywhere. Participants will make sense of Norse myths by examining the structures of the tales and investigating the background in which they were written down in manuscripts. Explore Norse mythology with Old Norse expert Dr. Paul Peterson!
Precepted by Paul Peterson

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

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

Daoism: The School of the Way

In this class we will explore some of the major texts and movements within historical Daoism, especially Laozi, Zhuangzi, and Daoist alchemy and long-life practices. We will also examine how some of these Daoist concepts are incorporated by Ursula K. Le Guin into her speculative fiction.
Precepted by Robert Steed

Demons and Exorcism in History

This module explores the practice of exorcism, from ancient Egypt and the Near East through antiquity and into Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. We will look at spells, rituals, and practitioners as well as the causes of possession, demons, and curses.
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney

Discovering, Understanding, and Loving Haiku

Known as the shortest form of poetry in the world, haiku overwhelm us with their beautiful imagery and evoke incredible emotions. Join preceptors Robert Steed and Pilar Barrera in this module where we’ll explore the historical, religious and cultural background of haiku, read and analyze a variety of haiku by different authors, and play with haiku as you’ll have the opportunity to write your own!
Precepted by Pilar Barrera and Robert Steed

Early Modern Europe (1500-1800): Philosophy and Literature

This module examines the cultural and philosophical phenomena which emerged during the Renaissance (e.g. humanism, utopianism, skepticism) (15th to early 17th century) and the Enlightenment (e.g. reason, individuality, satire, etc.) (17th to late 18th century); the changing attitudes to religion (the Reformation) and science (the Scientific Revolution) will also be tackled. Lastly, receptions of the Renaissance and Enlightenment in modern, popular culture will be explored.
Precepted by Hamish Williams

Egyptian Demons

Introduction to the non-god, non-human, entities in ancient Egypt. Demons were guardians, messengers, and performed other duties, usually as intermediaries between the gods and men. We will consider the category of “demon”, their roles, descriptions, and how they changed over time in the Egyptian worldview. How were demons viewed and why were they necessary? How did they relate to other cultures? What became of Egyptian Demons in later periods?
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney

Egyptian Execration Texts

These are a special set of Egyptian texts, as well as objects and rituals that accompany them, used to act as either preventative or punitive magic against the enemies of Egypt. They provide a familiar framework from which to start learning about the specifics of Egyptian magic, in that they resemble our notion of “voodoo dolls”. How did they work? Why were they used? How did the object reflect the worldview of the Egyptians?
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney

Egyptian Magical Texts

Another variation of this class looks at the history of magic writing, starting with the Pyramid texts and their evolution into the Books of the Dead, Coffin Texts, and the Greek Magical Texts. We will look closely at the origin and evolution of Egyptian spells and texts, as well as the culture that gave rise to them. How did magic work? How are writing and magic bound to one another? How are writing, magic, and image related? What were the various spells for?
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney

Electronic Text Markup With XML and TEI

This module will introduce the markup of literary and historical texts electronically. It will begin with a tour of the Extensible Markup Language (XML) and then the guidelines of the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI). There will plenty of hands-on activities to markup your out-of-copyright texts of choice but please note that these activities will require a computer (not just a phone or tablet).
Precepted by James Tauber

English Sonnet Readings

This module will explore a range of English sonnets, some familiar and some more obscure, looking at the wordplay of all and exploring the contexts and reception of these poets or their authors where known. In the second half of the month, we will also explore the versatility of the sonnet form, looking at adaptations, variations, and the effects thereof.
Precepted by Faith Acker

Enjoying Shakespeare: As You Like It

This course is a fun exploration of Shakespeare's As You Like It. The lecturer will lead students through the sources, plot, character development and major themes. Class time will be spent in lectures and brief discussions.
Precepted by Chris Vaccaro

Enjoying Shakespeare: Hamlet

This course is a fun exploration of Shakespeare's Hamlet. The lecturer will lead students through the sources, plot, character development and major themes. Class time will be spent in lectures and brief discussions.
Precepted by Chris Vaccaro

Exploring Romance of the Three Kingdoms 三國演義

Considered to be one the major classics of pre-modern Chinese literature, Romance of the Three Kingdoms focuses on a story of political and military struggle featuring an impressive array of characters, many of whom have become touchstones of Chinese cultural heritage and artistic interest. This novel has spawned a wide arrange of operas, stories, video game series, musical compositions, television and web series, as well as garnering much academic attention since it was first published in the 14th century. Join us as we read, discuss, analyze, and place in its cultural and historical contexts this major work of Chinese historical fiction.
Precepted by Robert Steed

Exploring Sei Shonagon's The Pillow Book 枕草子

Sei Shōnagon 清少納言 is a major writer of the Heian period (794-1185) whose Makura no Sōshi 枕草子 (The Pillow Book) has intrigued and delighted reading audiences for centuries. Colorful, witty, incisive, charming, thoughtful, melancholy, poetic---these qualities and more characterize this diary of the famous lady of the court. Join us as we read this text in-depth and place it within the frame of the flow of Japanese culture and history.
Precepted by Robert Steed

Exploring The Analects 論語 of Confucius

In western internet memes, lots of sayings are attributed to Confucius. He did not say most of them. In this module we will engage in a slow reading and interpretation of The Analects , our primary source for Confucius's discourses and dialogues. Your preceptor will also situate this text in currents of historical thought from Warring States China and larger Confucian tradition. Once we are done, you will have gained many skills, including a decent ability to distinguish "Confucius" the meme-able quote machine from the Confucius of the Analects and Chinese historical tradition.
Precepted by Robert Steed

Exploring the Themes of Miyazaki Hayao through Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away

For this class we will take the two films of the title as the primary media through which we explore some of Hayao Miyazaki's major themes appearing throughout most of his work. These include themes of regard for nature, tensions between human society and the natural world, the prominence of shōjo (young female protagonists,) and questions of identity, of friendship, and of trust. Time permitting, we can consider even more.
Precepted by Robert Steed

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

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

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

History of the Book Arts

This module gives an overview of writing and alphabets, literary and other works written on stone, papyrus, wax, and parchment.

More from Dr. Swain about this module: I love reading and writing. Both are "technological" revolutions that effected historical moments in human history. This module will look at the development of writing and of reading, the kinds of materials we have written on, and how we prepared those surfaces to record our words. We will learn vocabulary that is used to talk about all this. There will be a lot of pretty pictures!
Precepted by Larry Swain

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep / Blade Runner - A Study in Adaptation

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe..."

Dive into a world where the lines between human and machine blur. In this module, we will read Philip K. Dick's classic novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Then we shall compare it to the ground-breaking cinematic adaptations, Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049 . Unpacking the evolution of the story and its various iterations, we will get together twice a week to discuss its questions about humanity, empathy, and artificial intelligence. No prior knowledge assumed - all are welcome in this class!

Week 1 & 2: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Week 3: Blade Runner
Week 4: Blade Runner 2049
Precepted by Julian Barr

Le Morte Darthur Series

This series explores Sir Thomas Malory’s masterpiece of Arthurian literature, Le Morte Darthur—one course for each of the work’s eight books or tales. This fifteenth-century retelling is for many the consummate version of the Arthur legend, combining notable elements of prior versions in a form that would influence later retellings for centuries. Context will also be provided on Malory’s life and times, the first printing of his writings by William Caxton in 1485, and the remarkable twentieth-century discovery of the now-standard but then-unknown version of Le Morte Darthur in the form of the Winchester Manuscript.
Precepted by Liam Daley

Le Morte Darthur: Arthur's Origins in Malory's "The Tale of King Arthur"

This module explores Sir Thomas Malory’s masterpiece of Arthurian literature,Le Morte Darthur. This fifteenth-century retelling is for many the consummate version of the Arthur legend, combining notable elements of prior versions in a form that would influence later retellings for centuries. The first book of Mallory’s complete work, “The Tale of King Arthur,” includes such crucial Arthurian elements as the Sword in the Stone, the bestowal of Excalibur by the Lady of the Lake, and the founding of the Round Table. Interspersed among these are Arthur’s first encounter with the Questing Beast, an attempted usurpation by Morgan Le Fay, the tragic tale of the two brothers, Sir Balin and Sir Balan, and numerous other episodes and adventures. Context will also be provided on Malory’s life and times, the first printing of his writings by William Caxton in 1485, and the remarkable twentieth-century discovery of the now-standard but then-unknown version of Le Morte Darthur in the form of the Winchester Manuscript.
Precepted by Liam Daley

Le Morte Darthur: Knighthood and Chivalry in Malory's Tales of Sir Lancelot, Sir Gareth, and the War with Rome

This module explores Books II, III, and IV of Le Morte Darthur, offering three short, stand-alone tales of Arthur, his knights, and the wider world they inhabit.

Book II, “The Tale of the Noble King Arthur that was Emperor,” shows Malory’s version of King Arthur as military leader and conqueror of Rome. Adapted from the late Middle English alliterative tradition, this tale was not included in Caxton’s original 15th century printing, but only discovered in 1934 with the finding of the lost Winchester Manuscript.

Book III, “A Noble Tale of Sir Launcelot du Lake,” shows Lancelot’s kidnapping by Morgan Le Fay, with the political and amatory complications that arise.

And finally, Book IV, “The Tale of Sir Gareth,” (evidently the only tale that Malory invented himself) follows Gawain’s younger brother Gareth from seemingly-lowly origins, through trials and mockery, to eventual triumph as full-fledged knight. With a mixture of the chivalry, comedy, and romance, these three tales make essential reading for any fan of the Arthurian cannon.

Note: Students may participate in this series in any month even if they did not take a previous class in the series.
Precepted by Liam Daley

Le Morte Darthur: Looking for Love in Malory's "Tristram and Isolde"

Before it captured the imagination of Wagner and Tennyson, the doomed love affair between Tristan (or Tristram) and the Belle Isolde was recorded by England’s most prolific Arthurian chronicler, Sir Thomas Malory. Included within his sprawling Morte Darthur, Malory’s version of this narrative combines the best elements of the versions that came before and would influence all those that followed.

Placing Malory's version within the broader Arthurian context, this course begins with a brief look at some of Malory’s English and continental predecessors. From there, we read Tristram’s narrative from his anguished origins, through the love-triangle between himself, Isolde, and the scoundrelly King Marc (Tristram’s uncle and Isolde’s husband), to it's tragic conclusion. Amidst war, sorcery, political intrigue, and rancorous family conflicts, the two lovers attempt to snatch what happiness they can before it all comes crashing down.

The story also features the often-poignant and (for medieval audiences) hugely popular adventures of the Saracen knight, Sir Palomides—including his friendship and rivalry with Tristram, his unrequited love for Isolde, and his taking up of the hunt for the Questing Beast. All in all, The Tale of Sir Tristram contains in microcosm all of the major themes and relationship found throughout Le Morte Darthur and Arthurian literature as a whole.
Precepted by Liam Daley

Le Morte Darthur: Seeking the Holy Grail in Malory and Monty Python

To achieve the Holy Grail, Sir Lancelot, Sir Galahad and others must face formidable Black Knights, alluring temptresses, inscrutable hermits, and untold supernatural perils—in two works created five-hundred-and-five years apart.

“The Tale of the Sankgreal,” disseminated as part of Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur (1470) and the incontestable masterpiece of modern Arthurian cinema, Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) are arguably the most popular and influential versions of this story from a twenty-first century standpoint. These contrasting visions of the Grail Quest also share striking and unexpected similarities in terms of plot, form, and tone. This course looks closely at Malory’s text and the Pythons’ oddly-faithful film reinterpretation, side by side. In so doing, we explore what Arthur, the Grail, and the Middle Ages mean to modern audiences, and how changes in form and context radically shape how stories are told and understood.
Precepted by Liam Daley

Le Morte Darthur: Sir Thomas Malory's "The Death of King Arthur"

“Yet some men say in many parts of England that King Arthur is not dead… and men say that he shall come again…”

Is Arthur dead? Or was he taken to Avalon to be healed? And will he indeed come again one day? Written within the confines of a common prison, Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte Darthur (c. 1470) addresses these very questions—trying to make sense of Arthur's legendary reign and “piteous” death for a war-torn England at the very close of the Middle Ages. In reading Malory's widely beloved and arguably definitive retelling of the death of the Arthur, this course examines the final dissolution of the Round Table, from the doomed love affair of Lancelot and Guinevere to Arthur's fatal (or near-fatal) wounding by Mordred—a continuous narrative contained within the last two books of Malory's sprawling chronicle, “The Book of Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere” and the titular “The Most Piteous Tale of the Morte Arthur.” Told with a both poignant sense of loss and an undisguised enthusiasm for chivalric adventure, this lively and idiosyncratic tale of Arthur's death combines the best of all the Arthurian epics that preceded it, and would influence all those that would follow after.
Precepted by Liam Daley

Intermediate Egyptian Magic

A continuation of the themes from Introduction to Egyptian Magic. We will add to our repertoire of spell and magical categories, including a variety of specific spells from texts and objects, including magic-medical spells, wands, execration materials, and amulets. This class will also review some of the magic associated with religious rituals and the afterlife. What constituted a magic object and how were they used? What magic was useful for the afterlife?
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney

Introduction to Ancient Magic 1 First in the Series

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

Introduction to Ancient Magic 2 Continuing Series

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

Introduction to Ancient Magic 3 Continuing Series

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

Introduction to Ancient Magic Series Series

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

This page will be updated to reflect which module in the series is being explored in a given month.
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Introduction to Ancient Magic Series:
• Module 1: Introduction to Ancient Magic 1 > Link
• Module 2: Introduction to Ancient Magic 2 > Link
• Module 3: Introduction to Ancient Magic 3 > Link
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NOTE: Students can jump in at any month/part of the Series. There are no prerequisites.

Precepted by Shawn Gaffney

Introduction to Binding Books by Hand

Do you love the physical object of a book just as much as the information it contains? Do you smell your books when you get home from the library or the bookstore? Do you like working with your hands to make things? Then this module is for you!

This class is an introduction to the materials, tools, and methods of making books by hand. Whether you're looking to make "junk journals" on a tight budget or want to rebind your favorite tome in leather, you'll find the information you need in this module!

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Course Outline:

• Class 1: Brief History of Book Binding and Tools Overview
• Class 2: Materials and Terms - The Anatomy of a Book
• Class 3: Text Block Assembly 1 - Glued Binding Options - Perfect Binding and Double Fan Binding
• Class 4: Text Block Assembly 2 - Sewn Binding Options - Kettle Stitch, Coptic Binding, and Japanese Stab Binding
• Class 5: Cover Assembly 1 - How To Make a Softcover - Paperback and Wrap Covers
• Class 6: Cover Assembly 2 - How To Make a Hardback - Classic/English Binding and Hollow Back Case Binding
• Class 7: Cover Decoration and Finishing - Traditional and Modern Methods
• Class 8: Overflow, Resources for Further Research, and Final Q & A
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Precepted by Praise Moyer

Introduction to Computer Programming Concepts

This module introduces you to the grammatical structure of a programming language. It's designed to give you the mental framework to learn any programming language more easily; though the syntax of programming languages can differ, the basic principles are the same. You'll learn about building blocks like variables, objects, and functions, and common patterns like if statements, switches, and for loops. And you'll put it all together and write your first simple program.

Note: Two class sessions will be considered lab sections, one in the middle of the month and one at the end. They will give you dedicated time to ask questions about your own projects, and explore topics we may not have covered in class.

Precepted by Seth Wilson

Introduction to Early Buddhism

In this module we will explore the formation and development of early Buddhist traditions, focusing on the life of the historical Buddha, the Deer Park Dharma Discourse, the formation of the Sangha (Buddhist monastic community), and the foundational teachings of the Four Noble Truths, the Three Marks of Existence, and the Chain of Dependent Origination.
Precepted by Robert Steed

Introduction to Egyptian Magic

Introduction to the basic magic of Egypt, including medical, religious, and daily magic used by both specialists and ordinary Egyptians. Where was magic used and by whom? How did one practice magic? Examples will be drawn specifically from Egyptian sources. We will also discuss magic as it is explained in theoretical literature, how we can view magic through these theoretical frameworks, and how they might be applied elsewhere.
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney

Introduction to Linguistics

This course is a basic introduction to the scientific study of the mechanics of language, with a bit of an extra focus on considerations relevant to studying literature.
Precepted by Aidan Aannestad

Introduction to Mahayana Buddhism

Building on the "Introduction to Early Buddhism" module, we will explore the development of Mahayana Buddhist traditions, focusing especially on Madhyamika and Yogacara trends, the Zen and Pure Land Schools, the Heart Sutra, the Lotus Sutra, and interactions with Chinese religio-philosophical systems, especially Daoism, and the fascinating culture of the Dunhuang caves.
Precepted by Robert Steed

Introduction to Vajrayana Buddhism

Building on the previous two Intro to Buddhism modules in this sequence, we will explore the colorful and varied forms of Vajrayana Buddhism, focusing especially on developments in Tibet, but not ignoring the larger world of esoteric Buddhism. The various sects, arts such as the creation of sand mandalas, ritual practices, and various forms of teaching will all be explored.
Precepted by Robert Steed

Introduction to Watercolor Painting

Do you love to look at paintings, but aren’t sure how to make them yourself? Do you want to paint, but you don’t have room to store flammable, smelly chemicals like turpentine? Do oil/acrylic canvases and easels take up too much room for you to work in a small space? If you’ve painted watercolor before, have you wondered why they looked washed out or why you get certain unexpected textures in your color mixes? Then this module is for you!

This class is an introduction to the materials, tools, and methods of watercolor painting. Whether you're brand new to making art, a seasoned painter who wants to connect with other makers, or you just want to find out how Tolkien created many of his Middle-earth illustrations, you’ll find a place in this module!

Course Outline:
• Class 1: Defining Watercolor – What makes Watercolor different from other art media?
• Class 2: Materials and Terms – What you need and where to get it
• Class 3: Prep – What to do before you start painting
• Class 4: Composition – Tips for visually interesting paintings and how to save your whites
• Class 5: Values – How to get good tone, range, and contrast
• Class 6: Color Mixing – Sediments vs. stains and how to make harmonious paintings
• Class 7: Texture – Tips for interesting textures and brushwork
• Class 8: Overflow, Resources for Further Research, and Final Q & A
Precepted by Praise Moyer

Intro to Classical Mythology

As classical mythology is often the gateway into mythological studies, so too will this course be your gateway into classical mythology. We will explore the mythology of the Greco-Roman world in broad strokes, familiarizing ourselves with gods and heroes, before ending the module by dabbling in a bit of comparative mythological study. In doing so, we'll look at excerpts from a few classical authors (in translation), as well as some artifacts and possibly even some historical sites.
Precepted by Joshua Sosa

Intro to Fan Fiction

What is fan fiction? Where did it come from? Why do people read and write it?

This module will explore fan fiction as a platform, independent of any particular universe (although we will touch on several, based on student input), including its origins, conventions and techniques, purposes, and the opinions of a variety of different stake holders: authors, show creators, and legal experts among them. Students will complete this course with a high-level understanding of fan fiction as genre, community, and as a transformative response to the source material.

Inventing King Arthur: Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain

This course offers an in-depth look at the first complete “historical” narrative of the reign of King Arthur, Geoffrey’s Historia Regum Britanniae – as well as the centuries-long controversy this book generated. Comprising almost a quarter of Geoffrey’s History (Books 4 – 11), this crucial first account of the king includes the arrival of the Saxons in England, a battle of dragons, the boy Merlin’s prophetic visions, Arthur’s magically-contrived conception, his conquest of Rome, and his overthrown and death at the hands of his nephew Mordred. This course will also look at the battle of books that ensued following the appearance of Geoffrey’s work, with some contemporary chroniclers alleging that Geoffrey had simply made the whole thing up, and others rallying to Geoffrey’s (and Arthur’s) defense.
Precepted by Liam Daley

Inventing the Holy Grail: Chretien de Troyes's complete “Perceval"

The story of the Holy Grail that was sought by King Arthur’s knights begins with this tale: Chretien de Troyes’s “Perceval, or the Story of the Grail.” This coming-of-age story follows the adventures of Perceval, as he moves from rustic ignorance of his own identity into full-fledged knighthood. As series of mistakes, triumphs, and misadventures leads him almost (but not quite) to the discovery of that most holy of relics. His journey of spiritual understanding, like the quest for the Holy Grail itself, remains incomplete as Chretien’s unfinished romance breaks off in mid-sentence. This course, however, continues Perceval’s story through the numerous continuations of additions by which different authors brought to the tale within a century of its first appearance.

Note on Text: While most of Prof. Daley’s courses are flexible with regard to edition, in this case there is only one English translation that provides the complete text of Chretien’s “Perceval,” and all of the surviving translations: Nigel Bryant’s The Complete Story of the Grail, listed below.
Precepted by Liam Daley

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: Text, Translation, Film

Can Sir Gawain keep his honor without losing his head? This short classic of Middle English chivalric romance follows Gawain on a quest testing his heroism, social etiquette, sexual virtue, and existential sense of self. This course explores: first, the extraordinary history of the single, unique manuscript which preserves this poem (as it “slept” on a library shelf for 400 years, escaped destruction by fire, and was eventually rediscovered in the 19th century); second, the translations which brought this poem to a twentieth century readership – focusing in particular on J.R.R. Tolkien’s; and finally, the 2021 film by David Lowery.
Precepted by Liam Daley

Japanese History for Fans of Japanese Media

In this module we will cover a general overview of major periods, events, and personages that often crop up in Japanese films, dramas, anime, and manga. For example, are you a fan of the manga and drama series Jin? When Dr. Jin finds himself in the Edo period, do you want to know more about that historical context? This module should help with that and much more! Join us for a light and fun overview of Japanese history useful for engaging with Japanese media more deeply.
Precepted by Robert Steed

Level Up Your Term Paper(s): Preparing for Conferences

Do you have a general idea or old class paper that you’d like to refresh for an academic conference? This module is for individuals who are interested in turning a past or current research project into an abstract (proposal) and script or outline for a 20-minute conference paper. Bring some past writing (or a bunch of notes) to our first meeting, and we will brainstorm possible venues; wrangle past writing into conference-accessible outlines; draft and peer review abstracts; and write or outline some paragraphs or sections for oral delivery. Everyone is welcome, but this class is specifically designed for novice conference presenters who have a specific topic (or past paper) in mind and would like directed guidance and weekly accountability during the revision and preparation process.
Precepted by Faith Acker

Life in the Middle Ages Series

This series will look at what life in the Middle Ages was like. What did people eat? What about entertainment? What about work? What was literature like? People will encounter texts, artifacts, and art to help gain a better understanding of life in the Middle Ages.

Each module in the Life in the Middle Ages series will focus on a different theme:
1. The Lives of Peasants
2. The Lives of Clergy
3. The Lives of Nobility
Precepted by Larry Swain

Life in the Middle Ages (August 2022)

This series will look at what life in the Middle Ages was like. What did they eat? What about entertainment? What work? What was literature like? People will encounter texts, artifacts, and art to help gain a better understanding of life in the Middle Ages.
Precepted by Larry Swain

Life in the Middle Ages: Clergy Continuing Series

Often when folks think of the Middle Ages, they think of the Medieval church. The church was no monolith, however. From the local parish priest to the popes, this module looks at the lives of the clergy: married or celibate, spiritual or worldly, anti-clericalism, and more.
Precepted by Larry Swain

Life in the Middle Ages: Nobility Continuing Series

It's good to be the king. This module looks at the lives of the people at the top of society. This is not about politics, but about their daily lives, the feasting, the interaction with lower classes, literature for them and about them, things that wealth could bring... What was the life of a noble really like?
Precepted by Larry Swain

Life in the Middle Ages: Peasants First in the Series

We are taught in our culture about the "dark ages," from the so-called "Fall of Rome" to about 1500 or so. This module examines why the "dark ages" aren't dark by looking at the lives of peasants during the thousand year period.
Precepted by Larry Swain

Loving the Alien

Science fiction and other popular media frequently feature depictions of extraterrestrial life. From little green men to Daleks to the Borg and beyond, our stories are filled with visions of beings both alien to us yet also remarkably familiar.

This module will consist of two elements:

(1) Exploration and discussion of fictional extraterrestrials from popular series including but not limited to Star Trek, Doctor Who, Star Wars, and assorted anime/comic book titles.

(2) An introduction to the real-world Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) and the field of astrobiology, which will help us more deeply appreciate the question, “Are we alone?”
Precepted by Jennie Starstuff

Magic: Grimoires 1

In this module we will use Owen Davie’s Grimoires: a History of Magic Books as a guide to look at a number of different texts, focusing on Late Antiquity to Early Modern books. We will discuss where the books were used, by whom, and how some were related to one another. We will also look at how the books were spread and received, as well as, when possible, some details about individual books. Because of the breadth of the subject we will not have time to delve too deeply into the texts themselves.
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney

Magic: Grimoires 2

In this module we will look more deeply into one or more texts on magic. Using modern translations and publications, we will focus on one or two texts, read and discuss them. This may include the Testament of Solomon, Picatrix, or the Liber Razielis Archangeli, or another text depending on the interest of the participants.

Note: While this is the natural follow-up class to the first Grimoires Module, it can be taken without taking the first Grimoires class.
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney

Magic: Islamic Magic and Occultism

We will explore the early period of Islamic magic and secret knowledge. We will look at various categories of magic, from astrology to talisman magic. Our sources will draw on recent scholarly publications as well as translations of medieval texts.
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney

Medieval Drama: Staging the English Bible

Late medieval English drama brought episodes from The Bible to life in days-long festivals of pomp and pageantry—but what these plays really show us is the day-to-day lives of ordinary men and women of the fifteenth century. With a mixture of lavish spectacle, slapstick comedy, and intimate poignancy, these plays populate the biblical world with familiar figures of the medieval city-life: shrewd workmen and cunning criminals; disgruntled wives and worried husbands; the friends, family, and neighbors of plays’ writers and performers.

This course looks at a sampling of plays from the great civic drama cycles of York, Chester, Coventry, and elsewhere, including Noah’s Flood, The Second Shepherd’s Play, Herod’s Slaughter of the Innocents, The Crucifixion, The Harrowing of Hell, and The Last Judgement. The works presented here offer both a grand history of the world from Creation to Doomsday, and locally-rooted, vernacular versions of a text then otherwise available only in Latin. Knowledge of Middle English is not required since this course will use the modern-spelling edition by Prof. A. C. Cawley. Scholarly online Middle English versions, however, will also be made available for students wishing to practice their skills in that area.
Precepted by Liam Daley

Meet The Last Man

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

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

Mesopotamian Demons

Demons have played a significant role in ancient cultures beyond just Egypt. Mesopotamia has its own set of liminal entities that reside somewhere between gods and man, with their own responsibilities and roles. This class will explore the features of these beings, including where they are first seen in literature, what roles they play, and what we know about them. Think Pazuzu from the Exorcist.
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney

Milton's Paradise Lost

John Milton’s seventeenth-century epic, Paradise Lost, provides a masterclass in worldbuilding. After an introduction to Milton, we will begin with Milton’s conception of Hell, which is not in the center of the earth, as Dante has it. We travel next from the depths of the Inferno to the heights of Heaven. After three sessions, we finally arrive in Paradise and meet our first parents, Adam and Eve, who are being stalked by the shapeshifting Satan. A storytelling episode in the center of the epic takes us back to Heaven to observe war between the angels of light and the angels of darkness. When we return to Paradise, however, it is only to watch it fall, and the final session wraps up the epic as we are shown Exile—life after Paradise lost.

Modern British Poetry

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

Music Theory for the Mathematically-Inclined

Music is often described as mathematical but music theory is rarely taught from this perspective. This course will cover traditional basic music theory but will explore some of the underlying mathematical reasons why music works the way it does. Nothing beyond high school math is required.
Precepted by James Tauber and Sarah Monnier

Nature and Shinto in Anime

Shinto, usually identified as “the indigenous religious tradition” of Japan, heavily influences the aesthetic and worldview of many anime films and series. Join us as we explore aspects of Shinto practice and how they influence and shape the films <iSpirited Away and Princess Mononoke, as well as the idiosyncratic but popular series Mushi Shi.
Precepted by Robert Steed

Old Norse Sagas in Translation: Sagas of Heroic Legend

(Note: This module explores these texts in English, so no experience in Old Norse is necessary.)

Somewhere between the historical and the fantastic are the traditions of heroic legend, telling of extraordinary men and women whose triumphs and tragedies are writ larger than those of everyday life. In medieval Scandinavia, sagas of heroic legend such as The Saga of the Volsungs, The Saga of Ragnar Lothbrok, The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki, and The Saga of Hervor and King Heidrek retold already ancient stories in the new prose styles of the Middle Ages. Bravery and knavery; loyalty and treachery; magic and the mundane, horror and hope; these tales’ themes have enthralled audiences for more than a thousand years and played an outsized role in the birth of modern fantasy literature.
Precepted by Carl Anderson

Parallel Lives: Plutarch's Alexander and Julius Caesar

Virtue and vice: these are the chief interests of the 2nd century biographer, Plutarch. In this module, we will closely examine Plutarch's linked biographies comparing Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar, identifying the continuity between the two works. Over four weeks, we will read and discuss Plutarch's depiction of these two pivotal figures of world history, and how it was influenced by Plutarch's struggle to reconcile his Greek identity with Roman supremacy. From the mysterious death of Alexander's father Philip II to the Ides of March, this is a module you won't want to miss!
Precepted by Julian Barr

Plant-based Entheogens, Shapers of History and Consciousness

In this module we will explore the roles that various plant-based entheogens have played, actively and passively, in shaping human consciousness and history. Tea, coffee, chocolate, nutmeg, cannabis, coca, alcohol, opium, pipe-weed (tobacco), and ayahuasca will all be discussed, both in their historical contexts and for their entheogenic properties. Time permitting, we can cover more.
Precepted by Robert Steed

Poems with a Story

In this module, we will discuss classic poems using different stylistic and Cognitive Poetics techniques such as the use and connotation of specific words, textual attractors and their effect, the meaning of negative words, etc.
Precepted by Pilar Barrera

Reading John Donne’s Holy Sonnets

Renaissance clergyman John Donne was a prolific scholar and poet. His verses follow many different poetical forms and vary widely in tone from the solemn and devout to the seductive and sensual. In this module, we will study Donne’s Holy Sonnets, a sequence of poems that blend meditations on the divine with vivid but sometimes irreverent imagery. Here we will discuss selected sonnets individually and the full collection in some of the different arrangements and forms in which it was read and copied in the seventeenth century. Along the way, we will look at the connotations and complexities of words and particular lines, identify biblical and other allusions, and delight in the language of these complex and thought-provoking Renaissance sonnets.
Precepted by Faith Acker

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

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

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

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

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

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

Religion in the Life and Works of J.R.R. Tolkien

Tolkien drew upon a wide range of religious, philosophical, and metaphysical sources in shaping his legendarium, including Greek, Norse, Germanic, and Celtic paganisms, Catholic Christianities, Eastern Orthodox and Jewish mysticisms, various Neo-Platonisms, and western esoteric traditions among others. Join the discussion as we explore in some depth these sources and how Tolkien weaves them into his web of story-telling and world-building.
Precepted by Robert Steed

Representing Utopia through the Ages

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

Shakespeare's Epic Fairy Tales: Pericles and Cymbeline

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

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

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

Shakespeare’s Forgotten Plays: The English Histories

This module examines two English history plays frequently overlooked in Shakespeare studies: King Henry VI, Part 1 and King John. The rollicking wartime melodrama, King Henry VI, Part 1, shows Joan of Arc from the English perspective as a foul-mouthed, lascivious witch. The virtuous milksop King Henry VI is all but overshadowed in his own play as Joan bedevils the English forces in France again and again—until her own downfall and death. Shakespeare’s most satirically comical history, King John, by contrast, shows a monarch neither competent nor virtuous! Between John’s corrupt and cowardly bungling of a war France, a war with the Pope, and rebellion at home, England’s only hope is the play’s unlikely (and ahistorical) hero—the wily and charming bastard son of the late King Richard the Lionheart. Unlike most of Shakespeare’s English histories, both of these plays are comfortably stand-alone; no prior knowledge of Shakespeare’s other history plays required.
Precepted by Liam Daley

Shakespeare’s Forgotten Plays: The “Problem” Comedies

This module looks at two of Shakespeare’s darkest comedies (often described as “Problem Plays” and frequently overlooked in Shakespeare studies): Troilus and Cressida and Measure for Measure. Half an adaptation of Chaucer’s tragic romance, and half a reworking of Homer’s Iliad, Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida presents both the lovers and the warriors with a mixture of biting satire, comic buffoonery, and genuine pathos. Likely never staged in Shakespeare’s lifetime, this comedy-history-tragedy has puzzled readers since its first appearance in print. In Measure for Measure, a duke’s attempt to clean up his city’s seedy night-life quickly leads to the attempted sexual blackmail of a nun by duke’s chief deputy. In the chaos of bed-swapping and (threatened) head-chopping that follows, the play narrowly avoids outright tragedy, but whether the final ending could be called “happy” has been debated for centuries. These may actually be the strangest two play Shakespeare ever wrote.
Precepted by Liam Daley

Shakespeare’s Forgotten Plays: The Tragedies

This module looks at two tragedies frequently overlooked in Shakespeare studies: Titus Andronicus and Timon of Athens. Shakespeare’s earliest tragedy, Titus Andronicus, is also his bloodiest—a rollicking schoolboy burlesque of Roman history, Ovidian poetry, and Elizabethan revenge tragedy that eventually devolves into gory slapstick. Shakespeare’s late tragedy, Timon of Athens, by contrast, offers a scathingly misanthropic view of humanity in the financial and psychological ruin of Timon—an eccentric socialite turned embittered philosopher-hermit. With the first a box-office hit in its own day and the second never staged in Shakespeare lifetime, both plays have stood as two of the bard’s most challenging and provocative works to editors, directors, and readers ever since.
Precepted by Liam Daley

Shakespeare's King Lear

This module looks at arguably the greatest of Shakespeare's Tragedies--King Lear. Resolving to divide his kingdom between his daughters, the aged king banishes his closest allies from court, leaving himself and his realm prey to the self-interest and cruelty of those who remain. The course examines this tragedy of betrayal, madness, and family grudges act by act but also supplements these close studies of Shakespeare's text with discussions of the two variant early editions (in Quarto and Folio formats), a brief overview of Shakespeare's sources (Geoffrey of Monmoth's History of the Kings of Britain and Holinshed's Chronicles), and an examination of Nahum Tate's infamous happy-ending adaptation (the only version of the play staged for next 150 years). Expected weekly reading/listening: approx. 50-70 pages (spread across two hours of class).
Precepted by Faith Acker and Liam Daley

Star Wars and Joseph Campbell

Unleash the power of the Force and explore the mythological roots of the Star Wars universe! This module takes you on a journey through the iconic Original Star Wars Trilogy, revealing the timeless archetypes and universal themes that have captivated audiences for generations. As a class we will read Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces and discuss its influence on the Original Star Wars Trilogy. You will get to examine the hero's journey as presented in Campbell's influential work and how it shaped the characters, plot, and imagery of the Star Wars films. Let’s get together and geek out over the mythology underpinning this beloved franchise!
Precepted by Julian Barr

Stoicism and the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius

This course will be structured as a guided reading of Aurelius' "Meditations". We will explore the life of Marcus Aurelius and then spend the bulk of the class reading/discussing his Meditations Books I-XII.

The goal of the course is to get the novice reading of ancient literature comfortable with the text and introduced to an exemplar of stoicism. For the more seasoned student it will serve to deepen their engagement with such an influential and deep thinker in the Western philosophical tradition.
Precepted by John Soden

Such an Odyssey! Series

This 6-module series will work slowly through the 24 books of Homer’s Odyssey. Each week we will read one book of the Odyssey aloud together, comparing editions and language and then discussing translation choices, plot development, character and setting descriptions, and overall themes. With two hours to spend on each book, students can enjoy a slow reading pace, little to no homework, and lots of class discussion.
Precepted by Faith Acker

Such an Odyssey 1 First in the Series

This 6-module series will work slowly through the 24 books of Homer’s Odyssey. Each week we will read one book of the Odyssey aloud together, comparing editions and language and then discussing translation choices, plot development, character and setting descriptions, and overall themes. With two hours to spend on each book, students can enjoy a slow reading pace, little to no homework, and lots of class discussion.
Precepted by Faith Acker

Such an Odyssey 2 Continuing Series

This 6-module series will work slowly through the 24 books of Homer’s Odyssey. Each week we will read one book of the Odyssey aloud together, comparing editions and language and then discussing translation choices, plot development, character and setting descriptions, and overall themes. With two hours to spend on each book, students can enjoy a slow reading pace, little to no homework, and lots of class discussion.
Precepted by Faith Acker

Such an Odyssey 3 Continuing Series

This 6-module series will work slowly through the 24 books of Homer’s Odyssey. Each week we will read one book of the Odyssey aloud together, comparing editions and language and then discussing translation choices, plot development, character and setting descriptions, and overall themes. With two hours to spend on each book, students can enjoy a slow reading pace, little to no homework, and lots of class discussion.
Precepted by Faith Acker

Such an Odyssey 4 Continuing Series

This 6-module series will work slowly through the 24 books of Homer’s Odyssey. Each week we will read one book of the Odyssey aloud together, comparing editions and language and then discussing translation choices, plot development, character and setting descriptions, and overall themes. With two hours to spend on each book, students can enjoy a slow reading pace, little to no homework, and lots of class discussion.
Precepted by Faith Acker

Sunshine, Fleas, and Desperate Pleas: Eight Amorous Verses by John Donne

Although a priest, Renaissance poet John Donne was on paper a playboy, a quality the first publishers of his poems sought to downplay by censoring scandalous words, leaving some verses out of the collection, and placing the raciest poems they included near the end of the volume. While the publishers may have found these difficult to align with his staid churchman persona, Donne’s earliest readers collected these poems with joy, sharing them in private verse collections and prioritising his most sensual poetry over his complex religious lyrics. In this module we will read and discuss eight of Donne’s most popular amorous verses, paying particular attention to his puns and allusions, superficial treatment of women, and beautiful literary structures and styles. (Warning: this module is not for the faint of heart: Donne is just as explicit as Shakespeare! Think carefully before inviting your parents to join you.)
Precepted by Faith Acker

The Andre Norton Nebula Award

Join Dr. Sara Brown and Sparrow Alden as they read their way through the winners and nominees of the Andre Norton Nebula Award for Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction. How do these books speak to their special audience? What do they reflect about changing society? How do they build or break down their readers' connection to modern culture? How do they use heritage and world mythology to bring their stories to life?

Each time this module is presented, we will choose two different Norton Award novels to read, enjoy, discuss, and analyze with various critical tools. Mostly we're going to read great books and have fun working to understand them at deeper and deeper levels.
Precepted by Sparrow Alden and Sara Brown

The Argonauts: Apollonius of Rhodes

The journey awaits! In this standalone module, we will read Apollonius of Rhodes' epic Argonautica from start to finish. Guided by a twisted prophecy, our hero Jason embarks on a journey across the roaring waves. His goal: the golden fleece. Jason cannot do it alone, and must assemble the greatest team the Greek world has ever seen-- the fighter Hercules, the seer Idmon, the bard Orpheus, and many more. Their quest will lead them to ancient tombs, magical intrigues and battle with the ravening harpies. Each week, we will read one book of the Argonautica, following our heroes' adventures in a world of gods and magic. Packed with fascinating detail, this module is a perfect introduction to classical myth and epic!
Precepted by Julian Barr

The Haunting of Hill House

The Haunting of Hill House (1959) by Shirley Jackson is a classic of Gothic horror, a haunted house tale lauded by critics, loved by readers, and repeatedly adapted for stage and screen for more than half a century. What makes this novel a successful example of its genre? Why has it spoken to generations of readers? How does its messages represent and/or transcend its time? In this module we will explore the context and inspirations for The Haunting of Hill House, its popular and critical receptions, its place in Shirley Jackson’s larger body of work, and its impact on contemporary readers.
Precepted by Amy H. Sturgis

The History of the Symphony: After Beethoven

This module will be a chronological listening tour of the history of the symphony after Beethoven. We will explore the symphony’s subsequent development in the romantic era, and its rethinking in the 20th century. We will listen to some key works together and discuss some of the innovations introduced in those particular works.
Precepted by James Tauber

The History of the Symphony: Beginnings to Beethoven

This module will be a chronological listening tour from the precursors of the symphony in the baroque era to the birth of the symphony in the classical era culminating in the works of Beethoven. We will listen to some key works together and discuss some of the innovations introduced in those particular works.
Precepted by James Tauber

The Iliad in Translation, Part 1

Homer's Iliad is the foundational text of Western Literature, focusing on powerful perpetual problems of human life and experience: the desire for glory, the destructiveness of war, the struggle against overwhelming fate, the complex and powerful bonds of family, and the unexpected value of pity. Its impact can hardly be underestimated, as the list of its direct descendants stretches from "The Aeneid" to Milton's "Paradise Lost" and beyond, and the works that it has inspired are too many to count. Whether you are a newcomer or an old friend of the text, there is always something new, arresting, strange, and poignant to be found in the story that started it all. Come join in the exploration!
Precepted by Patrick Lyon

"The Last of Us" in Adaptation

HBO’s new “The Last of Us” TV show (2023) is widely hailed as the best adaptation of a video game. “The Last of Us” video game (2013) tells the story of a cynical older man befriending a young girl during a zombie apocalypse. The game received praise for its subtle storytelling and strong characterizations. The lead creator of the game is also a showrunner and insisted that HBO remain faithful to the game. However, the show uses the freedom of TV to expand upon the backstories of characters. In this course, we will watch the TV show and play the video game simultaneously. We will then discuss how the genre/medium of each affects adaptation choices.

Note: Students do not need to have watched the show or played the game beforehand, but will need to have access to both. Students can also watch a walkthrough of "The Last of Us" in lieu of playing the game.
Precepted by Dominic Nardi

The Life and Legend of St Nicholas

Who was the real historical figure behind Santa Claus? In this module, we will read aloud the earliest biographical sources about fourth century bishop, St Nicholas of Myra. Your preceptor will facilitate discussions of Nicholas' historical context and examine the development of his legend. Together, we will examine Byzantine stories of Nicholas' benefaction and miracles, his role as patron saint of seafarers, students and merchants (among others), and how he came to embody the tradition of gift-giving in Christendom. A wonderful end-of-year treat!
Precepted by Julian Barr

The Making of a King: Shakespeare’s “Henriad"

"What art thou that counterfeit’st the person of a king?” This is the question asked (in more ways than one) by Shakespeare’s coming-of-age trilogy about England’s most popular medieval monarch—King Henry V. Beginning with his youth in King Henry IV, Part 1, we see the riotous Prince Hal grow from wastrel, drunkard, and companion of highway robbers into the royal figure his war-torn country needs. After relapsing in Part 2, to the great consternation of his dying father King Henry IV, we finally see Hal lead his subjects on the battlefields of France as the mature king in Henry V. Charting his course between the demands of his kingly father, the peculiar philosophy of his friend and mentor, the exuberant Sir John Falstaff, and the dangers posed by a series of political and military rivals, Prince Hal becomes King Henry V by learning what it means to “act” the part of a king in the ways that matter most.
Precepted by Liam Daley

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

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

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

The (Other) Canterbury Tales

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

The Other in the Ancient Egyptian World

The Egyptians had a complex view of non-Egyptians. They were both threatening enemies but also potential Egyptians. This course will look at how the Egyptians viewed and depicted the other, the role of the other, and the change in many cases, of other to countryman. This will include a survey of art, literature, and magic as it relates to depicting, describing, and affecting the other and how this reinforced the Egyptian identity. Who were the “others” in the Egyptian worldview? How were they to be interacted with? Who where the Egyptians in their own view?
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney

The Science of Reading: Teaching Your Kids How to Read

Is your child struggling to learn how to read? Do they have trouble sounding out words, or understanding the meaning of new words? Do you struggle to explain why "one" begins with an o, and not a w? Then come learn more about the Science of Reading!

This introductory module will show you all about the Science of Reading, and why everyone should understand these fundamental linguistic principles throughout their reading journeys (not just kids!). We will discuss the history of the American Reading Wars and how they have impacted reading instruction, what happens in your brain as you learn to read, and how to use systematic, "building-block" approaches in your own home when reading with your little ones. If you're interested in the "why" and "how" of reading, then this module is for you!
Precepted by Elise Trudel Cedeño

The Story of Cinema: A SPACE Odyssey

How did cinema develop from a curiosity of the early 20th century to the multi-billion dollar industry it is today?

The story of the rise of filmmaking as both mass entertainment and an art form is a tale of epic proportions that is still in the making. From Victor Fleming to Tarantino and John Ford to Spielberg, the medium of film has turned into the backbone of modern storytelling. Just as the novels of Dickens and Cervantes captured the attention and imaginations of generations of audiences, the classics of cinema will provide food for thought and discussion for generations to come. Take a deep dive with us into the greatest and most fascinating movies that cinematic history has to offer as we make an Odyssey through the stories that made film the art form that it is today. Join in with our analytical discussions led by a professional film critic and movie podcaster, and together we will explore the enduring quality of the best that film has to offer.

For the first module of this series, "The Story of Cinema: A SPACE Odyssey," we will be exploring some of the most unique and innovative space and science fiction films in history:

• Class 1: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
• Class 2: Star Wars (1977)
• Class 3: Alien (1979)
• Class 4: Blade Runner (1982)
• Class 5: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
• Class 6: Minority Report (2002)
• Class 7: Interstellar (2014)
• Class 8: Arrival (2016)
Precepted by Patrick Lyon

The Trojan Quest: Aeneid 1

Troy has fallen, but the journey has just begun... This 3-module series will work steadily through the 12 books of Virgil's epic Aeneid, whose influence in the medieval period eclipsed even Homer. Each week we will read one book of the Aeneid in translation, focusing on Virgil's approach to characterisation, plot structure and themes. With two hours to spend on each book, students can enjoy a relaxed reading pace and friendly class discussion.
Precepted by Julian Barr

The Wars of the Roses: Shakespeare’s "King Henry VI"

King Henry V is dead. His son, Henry VI, is young, weak, and will later prove insane. As war with France escalates, in-fighting between fractious and power-hungry English nobles sparks a new war at home: the War of the Roses. Shakespeare’s "King Henry V", Parts 1, 2, and 3 depict this decades-long civil war between the houses of York and Lancaster with a mixture of tragedy, thwarted romance, and dark comedy, ending in the rise of the house of his own reigning queen—the Tudors!
Precepted by Liam Daley

The Witch-cult Hypothesis and Its Afterlives

Imagine a witch. Perhaps, she is a solitary crone, living in a cottage on the outskirts of the village, in equal measures reviled and grudgingly respected by the villagers for her knowledge of midwifery and healing herbs. Perhaps, she is a self-possessed attractive young woman, persecuted by an oppressive authority for her feminist outlook. Perhaps, she is sexually liberated, she conducts strange rituals tied to the land’s fertility, she speaks of the Old Faith as a secret knowledge passed on in secret alongside the official religion. This image of the witch owes much to Margaret Murray’s Witch-cult Hypothesis, an idea that people accused of witchcraft in the medieval and early modern period in the Western world, were the inheritors of a prehistoric fertility cult, which survived as a covert practice alongside Christianity for millennia. Despite being rejected as academically spurious, Murray’s work continues to be incredibly influential for practitioners of modern witchcraft and in popular culture.

In this course, we will take a close look at Murray’s claims, and place them in a historical and cultural context. We will venture outside the academic setting to read witchcraft handbooks and genre fiction, where the witch-cult hypothesis continues its fascinating afterlives.
Precepted by Anna Milon

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

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

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

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

Tolkien and the Romantics: Forging Myth and History

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

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

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

Tolkien and the Romantics: Imagining and Dreaming

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

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

Ubuntu: An Introduction to African Philosophy

Ubuntu has been described as Africa's greatest gift to the world; a philosophy that covers various aspects of humanity, human life—being human. In this module we will be discussing ubuntu as a concept that covers:
- moral philosophy
- human dignity
- human rights
- substantive equality
- human connection
... And, how ubuntu can help explain and address the current most pressing problems.

The module will help in making the philosophy understandable to all audiences, especially considering its uptake and misrepresentation in the media and various platforms. The module goes beyond the usual simplifications of the philosophy and gives an in-depth and yet understandable analysis of the practical concepts within the philosophy, including their usage in solving contemporary problems, from personal/intimate to structural problems.
Precepted by Ishmael Bhila

Victorian Gothic: Exploring Dracula

When we think of Gothic Horror, Bram Stoker’s Dracula immediately comes to mind. In this Module, we will explore the reasons why we are drawn to this compelling yet terrifying character, and how Stoker was connecting with Victorian anxiety towards the Supernatural and the Other.
Precepted by Sara Brown

Video Game Storytelling

Video games are an exciting new medium for storytelling because they give players agency within the story world. In this class, we’ll look at recent examples of games that use interactivity to tell stories not possible in any other medium. We’ll see how games encourage players to identify with characters’ emotions through gameplay; incorporate world-building into the setting; and handle the branching pathways of player choice. The games we’ll play are relatively short and are accessible to students who have never played video games before.
Precepted by Dominic Nardi

Video Game Studies

Inviting students to share their delight in, and deepen their appreciation of, video games, we will discuss examples of the art, music, gameplay, and story from a range of influential titles. We will introduce and experiment with some of the theoretical frameworks that have been applied to video games as media objects and cultural artifacts. But mostly, we will enjoy learning more about the medium and the games we already love. Aside from links and selections shared throughout the module, Gabrielle Zevin's novel Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow. will be the only required reading.
Precepted by Wesley Schantz

Video Game Studies: The Hex

Join us in a creaky old tavern, in a forgotten corner of the video game universe, to unravel a murder mystery. Daniel Mullins' The Hex experiments with video game genres to tell its story of two game developers and their creations, worlds and characters alike, vying for freedom and survival. The Hex is available on Steam (and videos of playthrough can be found for those who would rather not play the game.)
Precepted by Wesley Schantz

Warring States Era Chinese Philosophy: Attaining Flow

Confucianism, Daoism, Legalism, Mohism---these Chinese philosophical systems all have their foundational roots in the Warring States period of Chinese history (475–221 BCE), and as such share a set of common interests, even if their proposals for attaining those interests greatly differ. In this module we will cover the basic concerns of each of these systems, paying attention to their differences as well as their similarities, and perhaps most importantly, seeing how their proposals for the attainment of human flourishing may still have something to offer to contemporary people.
Precepted by Robert Steed

Wild Beasts at the Tea Table: The Unnerving Tales of Saki

Something dangerous is lurking on the periphery of polite Edwardian society. Master of dark social comedy H. H. Munro (pen name “Saki”) offers a world populated by duchesses, vicars, and idle London playboys—but also escaped hyaenas, talking cats, werewolves, and malevolent pageant gods. When these wild, menacing forces intrude into a world of decorous familiarity and boredom, the results are shockingly funny (or sometimes just shocking). This course will examine a selection of Saki’s short fiction, along with a brief look at his biography and historical context. Marked by a combination of acid wit, sudden terrible reversals, and a knack for precisely conveying the unmentionable, Saki’s stories are essential reading for anyone interested in the gothic tale, the comic anecdote, or the craft of short fiction writing.
Precepted by Liam Daley

Zen History and Thought: An Overview

In this module we will examine the origins and development of Zen Buddhism from its roots in Mahayana and Daoist thought through its formative years in China and its spread to Korea and Japan. Among other topics, we should have time to cover the Patriarchs of Zen, the Five Houses of Zen, and major figures within the tradition. We will also gesture towards Zen's impact on East Asian arts and culture more generally.
Precepted by Robert Steed
If you have any questions about the SPACE program, please reach out to [email protected].