Happy birthday to marthawells and aragornlover. May you both have a wonderful day and a fantastic year to come!
My heart and thoughts go out to maidoforange, terrylj, llembas, and everyone else affected by Gustav.
The classes I'm teaching for Belmont University began mid-week last week, so this is the first full week for us. (For those of you who don't know, Belmont has been chosen to host the U.S. "Town Hall" Presidential Debate on October 7.) I am teaching two upper-division seminars this semester:
Worlds Gone Wrong: The Dystopian Tradition
Over the centuries, thinkers have used dystopias -- stories of worlds gone wrong, of worst-case scenarios -- to warn their contemporaries about what they viewed as dangerous trends in politics, economics, science, religion, and/or popular culture. This class will consider a variety of historical and current dystopias in literature, film, television, and music. Students will explore the specific conditions that inspired these dystopias, the general warnings inherent in them, and the broad trends in dystopias over time. Students also will generate and analyze their own dystopian visions and consider what they tell us about our understanding of and concerns for the world today.
Native American Film and Fiction
When Kiowa author N. Scott Momaday penned House Made of Dawn in 1968 (and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1969), he inspired a new wave of contemporary Native American literature. Authors such as Leslie Marmon Silko, Louise Erdrich, and Sherman Alexie, among others, have inherited his leadership role in contemporary Native literature, and they have used this medium to explore the historical experience and present-day realities of their people. Similarly, Cheyenne/Arapaho director and producer Chris Eyre, with his pathbreaking 1998 film Smoke Signals, ushered in a new era of Native American cinema. Today Native film flourishes through both major and independent productions; these movies capture the contemporary urban Native American experience as well as reservation life and historical memory. In this class, students will trace the development of modern Native American literature and film and analyze the artistic choices made in both in order to understand better the past and present of Native America.
I've already learned that I'll be able to offer my upper-division Harry Potter seminar again in Spring 2009:
Harry Potter and His Predecessors
This course discusses the ancestors to the Harry Potter phenomenon, examines the specific works and traditions that inform the Harry Potter universe, and, most importantly, considers why the Harry Potter books and films are so popular today. In the process, students analyze 1) how the young readers' fiction of a given historical period prioritizes certain lessons and values, 2) what this tells us about the way a culture conceptualizes childhood in a given era and how this changes across time, and 3) how the lessons and values of young readers' fiction can reinforce and/or subvert the mainstream status quo. This course takes both a theoretical and historical approach to popular literature in general and J.K. Rowling’s works in particular.
"In fact, if romances are fantasies of love, and mysteries are fantasies of justice, I would now describe much SF as fantasies of political agency."
- Lois McMaster Bujold, Guest of Honor Keynote Speech from Denvention 3