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LanguageFantasy StudiesCreative Writing • General Humanities • Other

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 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.
Precepted by Robert Steed.

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)

"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 Sociolinguistic Examination of Four Spring Holidays

In this module, we will discuss the origins and outworkings of four major holiday which occur this coming spring: Purim (March 6-7), Nawroz (March 21), Easter (April 9), and Eid al-Fitr (April 21). First, we will discuss the assigned literature and what we know about the culture in which the holiday first originated. Then, we will discuss how the holiday is currently celebrated in various areas of the world and in particular traditions. As we identify what people groups observe the holiday we will consider the anthropological specifications of those people groups in order to imagine in what ways the given holiday might form or reflect the cultural characteristics of that people group.
Precepted by Eve Droma.

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.

Buddhism 1: 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.

Buddhism 2: 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.

Buddhism 3: 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.

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.

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.

Eat This Book: Literature and Food

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

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.
Precepted by James Tauber.

Elementary, My Dear Shakespeare

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

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.

Exploring The Dark Forest

The second volume in Liu Cixin's The Three-Body Problem series continues the story of Trisolaran alien invasion and the range of human responses to that threat. As with the Three-Body Problem module, we will read and discuss the novel, both for its inherent interest and for the ways it can serve as an accessible gateway to various aspects of Chinese history, culture, and science fiction.
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.

Exploring The Three Body Problem

First ever Asian winner of the Hugo award for best novel, as well as winning the Chinese Yinhe (“Galaxy”) award for best novel, and nominated for the Nebula award for best novel, The Three-Body Problem is an exploration of both humanistic and technological themes in the context of Chinese history and contemporary society, all set in a narrative of alien invasion. There are few novels better for beginning to explore Chinese science fiction, so please join us as we take a deep dive into this fascinating masterpiece!
Precepted by Robert Steed.

Gaelic History 1 First in the Series

This series would likely comprise several modules as there's lots of time to cover.

Module 1 will begin with a look into what does "Celtic" mean and the language branches, Hallstatt and La Tene period artifacts, and what that tells us about the culture. Then we explore what Rome can tell us about Celtic culture through their lens up to Caesar's campaign in Gaul, Hadrian's Wall, Boudicca and the Iceni and hopefully we can cover the formation of Scotland.

Module 2 will essentially cover the period of the Middle Ages. We will explore what daily life looked like and talk about material culture and clan structures. We will also explore religion and the introduction of Christianity with the monastic cultures and manuscripts.

Gaelic History 2 Continuing Series

This series would likely comprise several modules as there's lots of time to cover.

Module 1 will begin with a look into what does "Celtic" mean and the language branches, Hallstatt and La Tene period artifacts, and what that tells us about the culture. Then we explore what Rome can tell us about Celtic culture through their lens up to Caesar's campaign in Gaul, Hadrian's Wall, Boudicca and the Iceni and hopefully we can cover the formation of Scotland.

Module 2 will essentially cover the period of the Middle Ages. We will explore what daily life looked like and talk about material culture and clan structures. We will also explore religion and the introduction of Christianity with the monastic cultures and manuscripts.

Gaelic History Series Series

This series would likely comprise several modules as there's lots of time to cover.

Module 1 will begin with a look into what does "Celtic" mean and the language branches, Hallstatt and La Tene period artifacts, and what that tells us about the culture. Then we explore what Rome can tell us about Celtic culture through their lens up to Caesar's campaign in Gaul, Hadrian's Wall, Boudicca and the Iceni and hopefully we can cover the formation of Scotland.

Module 2 will essentially cover the period of the Middle Ages. We will explore what daily life looked like and talk about material culture and clan structures. We will also explore religion and the introduction of Christianity with the monastic cultures and manuscripts.

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.
Precepted by Larry Swain.

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 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.

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.

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.

Isaac Asimov's Foundation I & II

Winner of the Hugo Award for Best All-Time Series in 1966, Isaac Asimov's Foundation series has grown from its many short stories in various serial publications into a solid and complete whole, with adaptations and prequels, and side series as well. Let's take a spoiler heavy, thoughtful and fan approach to this alternate future of humanity. Caveat: All the Foundation novels are listed in the Reading list, but there may be spoilers about the Robot and Empire series as well.
Precepted by Carrie Gross.

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

This module 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.

Literature and Justice

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

Literature and Mental Health

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

Literature of Hospitality

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

Malory’s Morte Darthur: Book I First in the Series

This course offers the first in a series on 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. 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.

Malory’s Morte Darthur, Part 2: Sir Lancelot, Sir Gareth, & War with Rome Continuing Series

This course marks the second part in a series on Thomas Malory’s Morte Darthur, but you do not need to have taken the first part to join. This module explores Books II, III, and IV of the 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 ready for any fan of the Arthurian cannon.
Precepted by Liam Daley.

Malory’s Morte Darthur Series 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.

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.

Medieval Drama: The Towneley Plays

In this course, we will "perform" and discuss a group of medieval plays formerly known as the Wakefield cycle. These plays, which include the famous "Second Shepherds Play" are considered masterpieces of dramatic craft, designed to bring fifteenth century English audiences into raucous-yet-reverent contact with sacred history--in a time when there was as yet no "fourth wall." As we read and reenact these plays, we will practice our Middle English, talk about staging and affective piety, and learn about these plays' suppression in newly-Protestant England, as well as their rediscovery in the early twentieth century.
Precepted by Chris Pipkin.

Medieval Monsters: Grendel

In this course, we'll wrestle a bit with Grendel (no sword required) and explore the murky origins of the best-known medieval monster--trying to get to the bottom of some of the most enduring questions in Beowulf-scholarship: Is Grendel a spirit, a man, or a giant? Are we meant to sympathize with him? Why doesn't he speak? And why does he have a bag? This is primarily a close-reading of relevant passages in Beowulf (translation provided), but we'll pick up clues along the way from potential sources, analogues, scholarship, and modern adaptations.
Precepted by Chris Pipkin.

Medieval Travels: The Book of John Mandeville

In this course, we'll read the medieval bestseller, The Book of John Mandeville, journeying with its fictitious author to Jerusalem...and beyond. We'll find ourselves in the medieval Holy Land, as well as in the fabled realm of Prester John, the territories of monstrous peoples, the garden of the trees of the sun and moon, and finally at the very doorstep of Eden. What does this very popular travel account show us about the way Western medieval Christians viewed themselves in relation to the rest of the world? And how can Mandeville's account, with its hodge-podge of facts, monster legends, and miracle stories, serve as a guide for travelers today?
Precepted by Chris Pipkin.

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.
Precepted by Jeremy Larson.

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.

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 Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, as well as the idiosyncratic but popular series Mushi Shi.
Precepted by Robert Steed.

Novel Romani: Gypsies in Victorian & Modern British Literature

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

Old Norse Sagas in Translation: Sagas of Heroic Legend

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.

Participation, Creation, and Poetry: Barfield's Saving the Appearances and Poetic Diction

Owen Barfield, one of C.S. Lewis's closest friends and a core member of the Inklings, was one of the most original thinkers of the 20th century (although he did not think of himself as such). Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry sets forth the core theory of ongoing and evolving participation in creation which forms the core of Barfield's thought. Poetic Diction, a work that influenced not only Lewis but Tolkien as well, applies Barfield's theory to language in particular. In this module we will first read Saving the Appearances and then use that work as a basis for understanding Poetic Diction.
Precepted by Clayton McReynolds.

Philosophy in a World of Chaos: Voltaire’s Candide, or Optimism

Why do bad things happen to good people? How can we know which is the best philosophy to live by in a world of chaos? This course shows how Voltaire’s raucous comic novella answers those questions. Join the young Candide on a series of misadventures that includes war, shipwreck, earthquake, religious persecution, dismemberment, amorous monkeys, New World discovery, royal dethronement, and the French. Along the way, he experiences love and loss, acquires a group of misfit companions, and encounters a host of competing philosophies – each trying to explain how the world got the way it is and how to make living there bearable. Though primary emphasis will be placed on the novel, we will also look at short excerpts both from Voltaire’s philosophical writing relevant to the novel and from Leonard Bernstein’s musical dramatization of the work.
Precepted by Liam Daley.

Plague Literature

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

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.

Poetry as Practical Ecology

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

Poetry in Tolkien's Time

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

Ransom The Field Linguist? A Sociolinguist’s Reading

Have you ever read The Space Trilogy and been bothered at how terribly quickly and well Ransom picked up the heavenly languages? Let’s be bothered together! This module will look at each and every mention of philology in Lewis’s other worldly series and analyze what exactly Ransom would have needed to do in each learning situation, evaluate whether the language and culture learning was realistic, and along the way discuss how philology differs from field linguistics.
Precepted by Eve Droma.

Reader's Theater: The Tempest

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

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.

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.

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 Late Romances

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 recovered of true love.
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 “Henriad”

This module looks at Shakespeare’s trilogy of coming-of-age history plays depicting one of England’s most popular medieval monarchs—King Henry V. Beginning with Henry IV, Part 1, we see the young Prince Hal change from wastrel, drunkard, and companion of highway robbers into the royal figure his war-torn country needs. After relapsing in Part 2, we finally see him 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, Henry finally learns what it means to “act” the part of a king in the ways that matter most.
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.

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.

Such an Odyssey!

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.

Tales of Saki: The Best Short-Stories You’ve Never Heard Of!

Something dangerous and unexpected is lurking on the periphery of polite Edwardian society. In an oeuvre of short-stories that is shockingly not more widely known, master of dark social comedy H. H. Munro (alias “Saki”) offers a world populated by duchesses, vicars, foreign ambassadors, and idle London playboys – but also escaped hyaenas, talking cats, werewolves, and malevolent pageant gods. This course examines 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 shocking reversals, and a knack for 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.

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 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 Picture of Dorian Gray: “It was a poisonous book”

This course offers a close examination of Oscar Wilde’s gothic masterpiece on identity, guilt, and the power of art. In a Faustian bargain, Dorian enjoys seemingly eternal youth while his painted likeness bears the physical (and moral) consequences of a life of debauchery and wickedness. But Dorian learns that sooner or later, as the old saying goes, everyone gets the face they deserve. Focusing mainly on the text of the novel itself, this seminar will also touch on its publication history, its reception in Victorian society, and the life of its author – Wilde’s rise to international celebrity, his “fatal friendship” with Alfred Lord Douglas, and his trial and imprisonment for “gross indecency” in which this novel was presented as evidence of Wilde’s guilt.
Precepted by Liam Daley.

The Seven Deadly Stories

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

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.

Three from the Big Three

Three Science Fiction Masters of the 20th Century stand out above the rest. Their contributions garnered them the label 'The Big Three.' We will look at three novels of Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein and discuss as fans and modern readers the impact of their contributions.
Precepted by Carrie Gross.

Tolkien on Stage

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

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.

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.

Weird Languages

Many people do not realize the variety of languages structures and strange language phenomena that exist in the worlds languages. This class will introduce a number of features that can be found across the globe. These include object agreement, verbs that necessarily encode the shape of items, ergativity, discourse particles, languages with 20 grammatical gender classes, pronoun hierarchies, circumfixes and infixes, and the complex systems of taboo words that arise in some languages. We will look a number of these, at what is rare, common, surprising, but all of which are real. Language families from Africa, the Caucasus, Siberia, Australia, and the Americas.
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney.

Wisdom Literature: The Book of Job

Let's do a close, detailed, literary reading of the Book of Job in the Bible, taking our time to contemplate each verse, sentence, phrase, and word. What literary techniques does the author use? How is the book structured? What genre conventions does it use or subvert? We will ponder these questions and others as we move slowly and respectfully through this beautiful ancient text.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.
If you have any questions about the SPACE program, please reach out to [email protected].