Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Syllabus, with texts and reading schedule

UH 300-003
Magic for Beginners: 21st Century Fantasy
Spring 2007

2-4:30 p.m. Wednesdays, 283 Nott
Teacher: Andy Duncan
All students in this class must be enrolled in the University Honors Program.

  • Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke (2004; Bloomsbury, 2005; Tor, 2006)
  • The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror 2006: 19th Annual Collection ed. Ellen Datlow, Kelly Link and Gavin Grant (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2006)
  • The Empire of Ice Cream by Jeffrey Ford (Golden Gryphon, 2006)
  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman (2002; HarperTrophy, 2003)
  • Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link (2005; Harvest, 2006)
  • Spirited Away, a film by Hayao Miyazaki (2001; Disney Video, 2003)
  • Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett (2003; HarperTorch, 2004)
  • Handouts, online materials or reserve-room materials TBA.

    Course Description: As a literary genre, fantasy includes Harry Potter, fairy tales, ghost stories, Dr. Seuss, The Wizard of Oz, The Lord of the Rings and Dracula; small wonder Brian Attebery calls this ungainly, ill-defined assemblage of texts a “fuzzy set.” In this interdisciplinary class, we will investigate the possibilities of the impossible in the new century by focusing our crystal ball on a few fantasy texts published since the year 2000.

    Course Objectives: By semester’s end, students will be more sophisticated consumers of fantasy, better able to discern the taproots of Story that underlie the hype; they also will be able to talk and write about it with more critical insight. No previous experience with magic is required.

    Attendance policy: Attendance and class participation (in class and online) are required. After two absences, your final grade will be lowered one letter for each subsequent absence. After five absences, you will receive an F for this course. Arriving late or leaving early counts as half an absence. In case of illness, injury or crisis, let your teacher know ASAP. Don’t just vanish.

    Papers: You will write two non-fiction papers, each at least 2,000 words long, on topics of your choosing that are approved in advance by your teacher. Papers should pertain to one or more of the fantasy texts being discussed in this class, but they may extend their focus beyond those texts as well. You will do a five-to-10-minute class presentation on each topic as you are working on it.

    Blog: Each of you will receive (and accept) an invitation to join Blogger and the class blog at http://magicintro2007.blogspot.com. Here our class discussions will continue beyond Wednesday class meetings. Participating on the blog – through original posts and replies to others’ posts – is an important part of your semester grade, so get in the habit of visiting daily and contributing frequently. The minimum class requirement is three posts per week per student, at least one of which must start a new topic or thread, and at least one of which must be a response to a classmate’s post. More frequent posts are highly encouraged. Also chiming in from time to time may be invited guests from the world of fantasy publishing (as opposed to the fantasy world, which we all inhabit).

    Other assignments and expectations: You will keep up with all the reading and will participate in all class discussions, orally and online. You will lead at least one class discussion of a text that has been assigned you.

    Grade formula:
    Two 2,000-word papers @ 20% each: 40%
    Two 5-to-10-minute paper presentations @ 10% each: 20%
    Blog participation: 20%
    In-class participation: 20%
    We will follow the UA guidelines for plus-minus grading.

    Format requirements: Both your papers will be handed in electronically. E-mail them to your teacher as PC-compatible Word attachments. Papers must be in 12-point Times New Roman, double-spaced, with ragged right margins and page numbers in the upper-right corners. Papers that don’t fit this format will be returned unread for correction. Papers also must adhere to the prevailing style manual of the student's discipline (MLA, Chicago Manual, etc.), so that all sources are acknowledged and referenced correctly.

    Disabilities: In accordance with the federal Americans With Disabilities Act, your teacher, the University Honors Program and the university are committed to providing appropriate support for students with disabilities, including learning disabilities. Any student who wants to request disability accommodations need only contact UA’s office of disability services at (205) 348-4285 and get the paperwork to me.

    Academic misconduct: Academic misconduct includes all acts of academic dishonesty and any knowing attempt to help another student commit academic dishonesty. Academic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to: (1) Cheating – using or attempting to use unauthorized materials, information or study aids. (2) Plagiarism – representing words, data, works or ideas as one’s own when they are not. (3) Fabrication – presenting as genuine any invented or falsified evidence. (4) Misrepresentation – falsifying, altering or misstating the contents of academic documents such as schedules, prerequisites and transcripts. Cases of academic misconduct will be turned over to the University Honors Program for disciplinary action that could be as severe as suspension from the university.

    Schedule of class meetings, reading assignments and due dates.

    All readings will be discussed on the days listed. This is a living document, subject to change.

    Jan. 10: Getting acquainted.
    Jan. 17: Link, Magic for Beginners.
    Jan. 24: Gaiman, Coraline.
    Jan. 31: Pratchett, Monstrous Regiment.
    Feb. 7: Ford, The Empire of Ice Cream.
    Feb. 14: Paper presentations.
    Feb. 21: Stories from The Year’s Best: Youmans, “An Incident at Agate Beach”; Hand, “Kronia”; Ford, “The Scribble Mind”; Hill, “My Father’s Mask”; Allende, “The Guggenheim Lovers” (64 pages total).
    Feb. 28: Miyazaki, Spirited Away. First paper due.
    March 7: Stories from The Year’s Best: Sherman, “Walpurgis Afternoon”; Roggie, “The Mushroom Duchess”; Coover, “The Last One”; Richter, “A Case Study” (38 pages total).
    March 14: No class; spring break.
    March 21: Stories from The Year’s Best: Sterling, “Denial”; Waldrop, “The Horse of a Different Color”; Ryman, “The Last Ten Years”; Goss, “A Statement in the Case” (54 pages total).
    March 28: Stories from The Year’s Best: Hirshberg, “American Morons”; Roden, “Northwest Passage”; Cady, “The Souls of Drowning Mountain”; Mieville et al, “The Ball Room”; Wallace, “Vacation”; Shawl, “Cruel Sistah” (66 pages total).
    April 4: Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.
    April 11: Clarke, continued.
    April 18: Clarke, continued.
    April 25: Paper presentations.
    May 2: Final class. Semester wrap-up.
    May 7 (Monday): Second paper due.

    About your teacher: My collection Beluthahatchie and Other Stories (2000) won a World Fantasy Award, as did my story “The Pottawatomie Giant” (2000). My novella “The Chief Designer” (2001) won the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for best science fiction story of the year. I contributed essays to the Hugo Award-winning Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction (2003) and the Stoker Award-winning Horror: Another 100 Best Books (2005). With F. Brett Cox, I edited the anthology Crossroads: Tales of the Southern Literary Fantastic (2004). I have taught at the Clarion and Clarion West writers’ workshops (2004 and 2005, respectively). My latest book, non-fiction, is Alabama Curiosities (2005). My new story “A Diorama of the Infernal Regions; or, The Devil’s Ninth Question” is upcoming in the anthology Wizards, edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois (Berkley, May 2007).