My class preparations now are completed. In case you are interested, here are the specifics:
For Belmont University:
First-Year Seminar: “Ways of Knowing: Knowing Today by Imagining Tomorrow" (GND 1015), two sections
“We live on a minute island of known things. Our undiminished wonder at the mystery which surrounds us is what makes us human. In science fiction we can approach that mystery, not in small, everyday symbols, but in bigger ones of space and time.”
- Damon Knight
“That's really what SF is all about, you know: the big reality that pervades the real world we live in: the reality of change. Science fiction is the very literature of change. In fact, it is the only such literature we have.”
- Frederik Pohl
*What does it mean to be human?
*How do we know what, if anything, is consistent about the human experience, and what, if anything, is always in flux?
*Is change the only constant we can know?
One way in which each generation seeks an answer to these questions is by imagining its future. The way individuals conceive of tomorrow – technologically, scientifically, ethically, politically, socially, and philosophically – reveals a great deal about their time, culture, and intellectual tools. Such thought experiments tell us much about the people and their various ways of knowing in any given era; such “what if” propositions also provide new perspectives, suggest new avenues of inquiry, and experiment with new ways of knowing, as well.
This section of GND 1015 uses science fiction literature, film, television, art, and audio sources to illustrate and explore different ways of knowing. The class will investigate how Western views of tomorrow have evolved across time due to changes in technology, politics, culture, and the disciplines that shape and analyze each. Students will discover how the genre of science fiction has anticipated the future while reflecting the values, anxieties, issues, and intellectual climate of the present. Ultimately, the course texts, discussions, and assignments will challenge students to consider the question of what it means to be human from a variety of different approaches and viewpoints. Required texts include The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, 1984 by George Orwell, The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, and The Life of Pi by Yann Martel (FYS common book), as well as various short stories (by authors such as E.M. Forster, H.P. Lovecraft, James Tiptree, Jr., Judith Merril, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Philip K. Dick, and Lois McMaster Bujold, among others), films (such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Blade Runner, and Dark City, among others), radio broadcasts (War of the Worlds), and a novel of each student's choice (picked from a list provided by the professor).
"J.R.R. Tolkien in History, Political Thought, and Literature" (LIS 3600.01)
This course will explore the works, inspiration, and influence of J.R.R. Tolkien. Students will consider the historical era that directly inspired the world of Middle-earth, the political movements that adopted and reinterpreted Tolkien's symbols in the mid-to-late twentieth century, and the questions of religion, environmentalism, and war that now make Tolkien resonate in the the twenty-first century consciousness. In so doing, students will analyze "On Fairy-Stories," The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and other Tolkien works, as well as the films, art, and music inspired by them, as important examples of fantasy, art, and modern myth-making.
In the Spring Semester I will be teaching two sections of the First-Year Seminar: “Ways of Knowing: Knowing Today by Imagining Tomorrow," and one section of a new upper-division course I am developing entitled "The Trail of Tears."
In other news, I am happy to report that the schedule for the "Past Watchful Dragons" C.S. Lewis conference is now available online under "Schedule." Don't forget that the pastdragons community is available for updates on the event.
And last, I will miss H.P. Lovecraft's birthday while I am away. So, in expectation of August 20, I offer this quote of the day, from his homage to another of the masters. Happy birthday, HPL!
Eternal brood the shadows on this ground,
Dreaming of centuries that have gone before;
Great elms rise solemnly by slab and mound,
Arched high above a hidden world of yore.
Round all the scene a light of memory plays,
And dead leaves whisper of departed days,
Longing for sights and sounds that are no more.
Lonely and sad, a specter glides along
Aisles where of old his living footsteps fell;
No common glance discerns him, though his song
Peals down through time with a mysterious spell.
Only the few who sorcery's secret know,
Espy amidst these tombs the shade of Poe.
"Where Once Poe Walked," by H.P. Lovecraft