In this course, we will study fantastic fictions that invite readers to immerse themselves in enchanted alternative worlds. Revisiting familiar fantasylands such as Narnia and Middle-Earth, we will also journey through less well-known magical realms created by more contemporary writers such as Ursula Le Guin, Daniel José Older, and Tae Keller. How do authors employ the tools of fiction to craft such convincing alternative worlds? Are these fantasies an escapist solution to the problem of moderna disenchantment, or can we tell some other, more complicated story about their emergence and function? And finally, what difference does it make (if any) that these narratives were written for young people?
Since creative writers are themselves astute critics of fantasy, we will take inspiration from Ursula Le Guin, Philip Pullman, Zetta Elliot, and other artists for whom criticism itself constitutes a creative act. Engaging with the form as well as the content of these essays will enable us to discuss how we ourselves can employ metaphorical language, rhythmic prose, and other artistic techniques to enliven our analytical writing.