Download the PDF version of the course policies and syllabus.
"First sentences are doors to worlds."
"An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all."
"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire."
URSULA K. LE GUIN ASKS, in a now famous eponymous speech and essay, "Why are Americans afraid of dragons?" Central to her question and her argument about the reading, enjoyment, understanding, and analysis of literature, particularly fantasy and science fiction, is an engagement with the imagination, with other worlds, with our own world, with recovering the value of these things, and with growing up but not outgrowing our desire for the fantastic. She says, "For fantasy is true, of course. It isn't factual, but it is true. Children know that. Adults know it too, and that is precisely why many of them are afraid of fantasy. They know that its truth challenges, even threatens, all that is false, all that is phony, unnecessary, and trivial in the life they have let themselves be forced into living. They are afraid of dragons, because they are afraid of freedom." This class will take up Leguin's fascinating and provocative question and explore a long yet often dismissed or narrowly defined tradition of "fantastic" literature (and other media) including, in whole or in excerpt: Homer, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Shakespeare, Samuel Johnson, Mary Shelley, Oscar Wilde, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Albert Einstein, Ray Bradbury, J.R.R. Tolkien, Allen Ginsberg, Samuel R. Delany, William Gibson, Maureen F. McHugh, Octavia E. Butler, and J.K. Rowling.
IN OTHER WORDS, what is fantastic literature? Is it more than just children's stories or mythologies or flights of fancy? Is it important? How do we read and understand fantasy or science fiction? What might the literature of the fantastic, in all of its incarnations, reveal to us and reveal about us? A requirement for this class is a well-developed curiosity about the world, about the culture we live in, and about the cultural productions we imagine, produce, and consume. Lister and Wells, authors of "Seeing Beyond Belief," argue for just this kind of curiosity, a methodology for unpacking cultural productions, such as poetry or novels or images or film; they say, "Cultural Studies allows the analyst to attend to the many moments within the cycle of production, circulation and consumption of [a text] through which meanings accumulate, slip and shift" (459). They argue that our understandings of identities, meanings, and power, as well as the intersections of cultural and social locations like race, gender, class, nation, and sexuality, can be excavated through the analysis of the texts we create and consume. This class will spend the quarter reading, thinking, writing about various fantastic literatures and how and what these texts argue, reveal, narrate, hide, perpetuate, and complicate the world we live in. We will try to answer Le Guin's proposition that "fantasy is true" and the question, "Why are Americans afraid of dragons?"
FINALLY, as a class, we will engage the techniques
and practices of
reading and enjoying literature.
We will identify and develop different ways to read different kinds of texts -- from verse
to prose to visual and digital -- and understand and develop strategies, habits, and
perspectives of reading, thinking, and writing. Foremost, we will read with pleasure
and for pleasure. We will also rhetorically read, close read, read for analysis. And
lastly, we will read and deploy literature as theory, as dramatizing the concerns,
wonders, struggles, and politics of lived life and experience.
"Imagination is more important than knowledge."
Required Course Texts & Materials
• ENGL 200D Course Reader (available at Ave Copy, 4141 Univ. Way NE @ 42nd)
Response Papers (40%)
"When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the
gift of fantasy has meant more to me than any talent for abstract, positive thinking."
"Fantasy is an exercise bicycle for the mind. It might not take you anywhere, but it tones
up the muscles that can. Of course, I could be wrong."
"Politicians should read science fiction, not westerns and detective stories."
Requirements & Grading
Your grade should not be the sole exigence or motivation for this class. It is the hope of the course that you walk away from English 200 with something more. Find some pleasure and some edification and some knowledge from this class (or any class really) and success is usually not far behind. With that in mind, your grade will be a reflection of engagement, effort, close reading, critical thinking, writing, and participation.
Response Papers (40%)
The majority of the writing you will do for this class is in the form of short, critical, analytical response papers. These single-spaced, one-page writings serve as reactions to, close readings of, analyses of, and articulations of the texts and connections you see, read, and talk about in class. These responses are more than just summaries and will be graded on clarity, focus, coherence, critique, and your ability to concisely formulate arguments. You will be required to generate a response paper approximately every week for a total of 8. See the response paper prompt for more details All response papers are submitted electronically through Collect It: https://catalysttools.washington.edu/collectit/dropbox/changed/720.
Critical Review (10%)
You will be required to write a short, 500-750 word, single-spaced critical review of a text not covered by the course that you believe is a telling example of the literature of the fantastic. You will locate a text, close read the text, and generate an academic critique and assessment of the text's value as fantastic literature. In other words, what text might you include in a class like ours? You must have your text approved by the instructor. The critical review will be turned in and published on the course blog and is due by the last week of class.
Mash-Up "Mixed-Paper" Final Project (20%)
Your final paper project will be a "mixed-paper," a mash-up that collects together five of your short, response papers, revises them, and incorporates the addition of images, verse, and other kinds of evidence, all of which is framed by an introduction and conclusion. The "mixed-paper" asks you to think critically about the course questions and texts, to make connections, and to create an argument across texts and different kinds of evidence. See the "mixed-paper" final project prompt for more details and explanations.
Participation and Preparedness (30%)
Preparedness and participation forms a large component of your final grade. It is essential that you prepare for class, attend class, and participate. Missing class may seriously compromise your ability to do well in this class. Again, negative participation will hurt your participation grade. Participation is determined by 1) your respectful presence in class, 2) your willingness to discuss, comment, and ask questions, 3) your preparation for class, which includes bringing required materials to class and doing all of the assigned reading for class, 4) your engagement in group work, 5) your use of the class blog, 6) and your interactions with me and other students. Finally, failure to turn in homework, incomplete assignments, or late papers will negatively impact your participation grade.
Part of your participation grade will be a readings oral presentation. You will be required to sign-up at least once during the quarter, to read the texts assigned for a particular day, to generate a critical question, and to get class discussion started for the day. You do not need to turn anything in for the presentation. Presentations are 3 to 5 minutes.
Beyond the written assignments, you will participate in the
class web log.
Please bookmark the blog address, check the site regularly, and feel free to comment
and post regularly. The class blog will be used for announcements, assignment reminders,
updates to the syllabus, as well as questions, inquiries, provocations, and an extension
of in-class discussion. Blog commenting and posting will be taken into account in
evaluating class participation. See the class blog for details on blog etiquette and
rules of engagement.
Download the PDF version of the course policies and syllabus.
"I don't pretend we have all the answers. But the questions are certainly worth thinking
"The real origin of science fiction lay in the seventeenth-century novels of exploration
in fabulous lands. Therefore Jules Verne's story of travel to the moon is not science fiction
because they go by rocket but because of where they go. It would be as much science fiction
if they went by rubber band."
"Thought flows in terms of stories--stories about events, stories about people,
and stories about intentions and achievements. The best teachers are the best
story tellers. We learn in the form of stories."
Attendance is strongly recommended. If you are absent, you miss the explanation of an assignment, an in-class exercise or workshop, the discussion of a reading, and overall, the class as a community of learning. It is in your best interests to come to class. Also, you are expected to be in class on time. Class will start immediately at the appointed time. In the first minutes of class I may make important announcements, establish the agenda for the class meeting, begin immediately with an important lesson, or field questions. Therefore, it is particularly important for you to arrive on time, especially for a fifty-minute class. If you come in after I start class, even by only a few minutes, you are late and I will mark you as such.
Chronic or conspicuous attendance problems
will negatively affect your class participation grade. If you know you are going to miss
class, please let me know ahead of time (via email), provide any pertinent documentation,
and we will make any necessary arrangements. And when you do miss class, always find
another student to get class notes and see me in order to make up missed work in a
timely manner. If you miss a great deal of the quarter, you are recommended strongly to
take the course during a quarter in which you can more easily attend class.
Response Paper Formatting
1) 1" margins top, bottom, left, and right on each page.
2) Response papers are single-spaced, block paragraph format.
3) Standard Times Roman Font, 12 point only.
4) Correct MLA citation and bibliographic format.
For further details, see the response paper prompt assignment sheet.
All papers must be typed or produced on a word processor. Word processing is preferable because it makes the mechanics of revision -- rearranging, adding, and deleting -- easy. If you do not have your own computer with word processing capability, computer labs are available on campus with a variety of software that is easy to learn. All documents should be saved in Microsoft Word format, preferably in Word 97-2003 format; if you do not have access to Word, then save your documents in RTF or Rich Text Format.
All papers must follow the manuscript format outlined by the assignment. All papers must use MLA citation and documentation conventions. All papers must be neatly printed (in black), stapled in the top, left-hand corner if necessary, and not be three-hole punched. Papers that do not follow these format guidelines will not be accepted. They will be returned unread to you. Papers will be regarded as late until they are resubmitted in the proper format. Response Papers have their own format, and the Critical Review and "Mixed-Paper" Final Project will have different manuscript guidelines detailed by their assignment prompts.
Always make a backup copy of every paper you turn in, lest you be one of the unhappy people whose paper is eaten by the computer. You may even want to take the precaution of e-mailing your paper to yourself as an attachment at least a couple of times during the drafting process and certainly BEFORE you exit the document for the last time and leave the computer lab, your friend's computer, or even your own computer. This way, even if you lose your disc or your paper gets mysteriously erased, you still have a copy in your e-mail files.
Over the course of the quarter, your assignments will receive feedback and comments that will identify what you are doing well and what still needs improvement. Your grades assess your fulfillment of the assignment, the quality of work, detail, analysis, and argumentation, overall effort, and finally, style, polish, and risk taking. Consider the following evaluation rubric as signposts or a kind of legend to your progress and evaluation:
• Outstanding (3.7-4.0): Offers a very highly proficient, even memorable demonstration
of the trait(s) associated with the course or assignment goal(s), including some
appropriate risk-taking and/or creativity.
All assignments must be done completely and turned in on time. Lateness will subtract from your assignment's final grade and work must be turned in by the next class meeting after the original due date. Note that I will not comment on late work. However, you still need to complete late work or you will receive a zero. If you miss class on the due date of a paper, you must notify me and make arrangements to get the paper to me as soon as possible. Unless previously arranged, I do not accept assignments via email. Furthermore, all work must be seen and checked by my to be eligible for your final project! Remember that a paper has not been officially handed in until it is in my hands. Never turning anything in late is always the best policy.
My office and office hours are listed at the front of the course policies. I am available during that time and by appointment to help you. I encourage you to come see early in the quarter even if it is just to talk about the class, about the assignments, or about school in general. I may ask you to meet with me when I think a conference would be useful. My office is located in the ground floor of Padelford Hall (northeast of the HUB), Room B-33. See http://www.washington.edu/home/maps/northcentral.html?pdl.
I am also available electronically by email and the course blog. Email and the blog are the best means of contacting me. I will do my best to answer your emails and blog posts, usually within twenty-four hours. If there is an emergency and you need to reach me, please contact the Undergraduate English office in A-2H&G Padelford. Furthermore, when time permits, I will supplement my office hours with virtual hours via AOL Instant Messenger (AIM nickname: EDagogy); if I am logged in, during reasonable hours, you are more than welcome to discuss the class or ask questions. Please, when you initiate an IM conversation for the first time, please identify yourself to me; also, be patient because my responses may not be immediate.
You can find additional writing help at the English Department Writing Center (EWC) http://depts.washington.edu/wcenter/ located in B-12 Padelford Hall. Call (206) 685-2876 or email wcenter @ u.washington.edu with questions or to make an appointment. You must make an appointment to see a writing tutor.
The Odegaard Writing and Research Center (OWRC) is a good resource for this class and other classes. OWRC is located on the third floor of Odegaard Library and offers a variety of services including help with papers, brainstorming ideas, help with reading, and research. See http://depts.washington.edu/owrc/ for more information.
Moreover, the Center for Learning and Undergraduate Enrichment (CLUE) is also a good resource. CLUE is located in Mary Gates Hall Commons and offers tutorial sessions for most freshman lecture courses, skills courses, access to computer labs, and drop-in centers for math, science and writing. See http://depts.washington.edu/clue/ for more information.
Further resources, both on- and off-campus can be found on the Links page of the course website:
"SF is the literature of the theoretically possible, and F is the literature of the
"It is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top."
"Without this playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth. The debt we
owe to the play of the imagination is incalculable."
"If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities."
"I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living,
it's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope and that enables you to
laugh at life's realities."
Plagiarism, or academic dishonesty, is presenting someone else's ideas or writing as your own. In your writing for this class, you are encouraged to refer to other people's thoughts and writing -- as long as you cite them. Many students do not have a clear understanding of what constitutes plagiarism, so feel free to ask questions about these matters at any time. Plagiarism includes:
• a student failing to cite sources of ideas
If you have any doubt about how to cite or acknowledge another's writing, please talk to me. It is always better to be safe than sorry. As a matter of policy, any student found to have plagiarized any piece of writing in this class will be immediately reported to the College of Arts and Sciences for review. For further information, please refer to UW's Student Conduct Code at http://www.washington.edu/students/handbook/conduct.html. Play it smart, don't plagiarize!
If you have a registered disability that will require accommodation, please see me
immediately. If you have a disability and have not yet registered it with Disability
Resources for Students in 448 Schmitz Hall, you should do so immediately. Please
contact DRS at 206-543-8924 (Voice) or 206-543-8925 (V/TTY) or 206-616-8379 (FAX) or
via their website at
I will gladly do my best to provide appropriate accommodation you require.
"I was attracted to science fiction because it was so wide open. I was able to do anything
and there were no walls to hem you in and there was no human condition that you were stopped
"Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race."
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