By the end of the course, you should be able to do the following:
- Trace the mythic and literary roots and evolution of the notion of "epic quest".
- Give examples of and describe key fantasy authors and protagonists.
- Identify the mythic, literary, and social significance of "fantasy" and "speculative literature" genres.
- Consider how commercial and other influences have affected the fantasy genre.
- Reflect on how the notion of "epic quest" relates to the context of a life journey.
Your online learning will include the following methods:
- Academic and non-academic articles, book excerpts and videos
- Participation in written discussions with other students
- Sharing of memories and/or creative responses to the course material
- Participation in videoconference seminars
For Liberal Arts for 55+ Certificate students: you will write a reflective essay.
Week 1: The fantasy quest: an introduction
The fantasy quest is “a journey as perilous for soul as for body—with a fixed purpose, a goal beyond itself” (Fleiger, 2017). We navigate through early the sea voyages in Homer’s Odyssey, biblical narratives, Beowulf and the Irish tales of Máel Dúin and St. Brendan.
Week 2: From Arthurian legend to Shakespeare
We learn about the fantasy genre’s inspirational legacy of medieval literature: heroes, heroines and magical characters on quests within the legends of King Arthur and the Round Table. Travelling onward to Shakespeare’s final play—The Tempest (1610)—we look at an enchanted shipwrecked crew on a remote island.
Week 3: World War icons Lewis and Tolkien
Fantasy literature icons C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) and J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973) have biographical links starting with their collegial friendship at Oxford and continuing through two world wars, as well as common influences from myth, Christianity and allegory, and the loves of their lives. We compare Lewis's and Tolkien’s fantastical characters, settings and storylines and their intergenerational impact from the 20th century into the second millennium.
Week 4: Contemporary speculative fiction
We will reflect on the “epic quest” within fantasy literature across two millennia, pointing towards contemporary speculative fiction as an innovative voice for liberation, decolonization and alternate futures. We will read pieces by decolonizing authors such as Celia Correas de Zapata from Latin America, Canadian Métis author Cherie Dimaline, and Afrofuturistic author Nalo Hopkinson.
Books, materials and resources
You will access reading material using SFU's online course management system, Canvas.