TITLE: "BETTER LIVING THROUGH FANTASY"

With the recent popularity of Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings (in both their written and cinematic incarnations), fantasy is no longer merely a realm of the hopelessly geeky: it has gone mainstream. Are contemporary fantasies merely an escape from social reality, or does fantasy force us to confront the real? In this course, students will develop critical reading and analytical writing skills through the exploration of the genre of contemporary fantasy. We will examine both written texts (short stories by contemporary fantasy authors and some genre criticism) and visual texts (films and television shows) in order to consider how current social issues -- such as gender, race, class, and sexuality -- are reflected and explored in the genre. Throughout the semester, we will work to define fantasy and ponder its potential to affect social change; does fantasy generally uphold the current social order and perpetuate stereotypes and cultural myths, or does it contain the possibility of social critique and change? Students will investigate this problem through analytical argumentative academic essays which examine fantasy texts through the lens of social issues.