Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Spring 2015 Course Description (Already): “Magic and Literature”

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ENGLISH 3000: Critical Practices and Processes in Literary Studies

Thematic Title: Magic and Literature

Description: This course serves as an introduction to the English major, using literary depictions of magic from William Shakespeare to J.K. Rowling as its organizing principle. We will consider the ways a wide range of authors have taken up magic from a variety of critical perspectives, from feminist and Marxist analysis to genre criticism to postcolonial theory and beyond, as well as consider the possibilities and limits of reading “magic” allegorically. What is the relationship between magic and religion on the one hand, and magic and science on the other? How do stories about magic suggest powerful critiques of Western technologies of power and ways of thinking? Conversely, how do they reinforce our positions as good subjects of democratic capitalism? Why are stories about magic, and fantasy more generally, still largely understood as belonging to children’s literature, even as related speculative genres like science fiction and superheroes have enjoyed a renaissance of “serious” critical attention? For that matter, why does our society persist in raising its children in such magical worlds, only to finally spit them out as adults into this one? This course will help students develop fluency with academic discourses and habits of literary criticism that will serve them in their upper-division courses as Marquette, as well as develop their skills as writers and thinkers in their own right.

Readings will include The Tempest, Doctor Faustus, Arabian Nights, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, The Turn of the Screw, “The Yellow Wall-Paper,” Franz Kafka, Gabriel García Márquez, H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, J.R.R. Tolkien, Junot Díaz, Nalo Hopkinson, Disney’s Brave and Frozen, Marvel’s Dr. Strange, The Chronicles of Narnia, TV’s Game of Thrones, Dungeons & Dragons, and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Assignments: two shorter papers, one final paper, weekly forum posts, class participation

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