Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World

We understand the world — and our selves — through stories. Then some of those hopes and fears become the world.

About The Course

Fantasy is a key term both in psychology and in the art and artifice of humanity. The things we make, including our stories, reflect, serve, and often shape our needs and desires. We see this everywhere from fairy tale to kiddie lit to myth; from "Cinderella" to Alice in Wonderland to Superman; from building a fort as a child to building ideal, planned cities as whole societies. Fantasy in ways both entertaining and practical serves our persistent needs and desires and illuminates the human mind. Fantasy expresses itself in many ways, from the comfort we feel in the godlike powers of a fairy godmother to the seductive unease we feel confronting Dracula. From a practical viewpoint, of all the fictional forms that fantasy takes, science fiction, from Frankenstein to Avatar, is the most important in our modern world because it is the only kind that explicitly recognizes the profound ways in which science and technology, those key products of the human mind, shape not only our world but our very hopes and fears. This course will explore Fantasy in general and Science Fiction in specific both as art and as insights into ourselves and our world.

Work Expectations For further information about the coursework, please see the Work Expectations page.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Will I get a certificate after completing this class?

    Yes. Students who successfully complete the class will receive a certificate signed by the instructor.

  • What resources will I need for this class?

    For this course, all you need is an Internet connection, copies of the texts (most of which can be obtained for free), and the time to read, write, discuss, and enjoy some marvelous literature.

  • What is the coolest thing I'll learn if I take this class?

    In addition to dealing with some terrific fiction, this course aims to help everyone think more imaginatively, read more deeply, and write more powerfully.

Recommended Background

There are no prerequisites for this course.  However, the course will be conducted at the level expected of advanced undergraduate students.  Therefore, for all participants, reading comfortably in English at the undergraduate college level is desirable.  For those also participating in the writing and written responses, which is recommended, some experience in writing about literature is desirable. (A Note on Reading in Translation.)