About this course

In the 1950s, two Oxford dons drew on their knowledge of myth, language and literature, and rejuvenated fantasy writing in Britain. At the end of the century, another and very different Oxonian reinterpreted Milton and Blake, creating an ambitious philosophical fantasy for the modern age. This course traces the history of epic fantasy in the twentieth century through the work of JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis and Philip Pullman. We will examine the place of fantasy fiction in literary and critical thought, and discover how these three writers have defended and theorised their use of the fantasy genre.

Reading Tolkien’s medieval fantasy The Lord of the Rings, Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, and Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, we will discuss myth and mythmaking, the origins of myth, morality, religion, desire and the representation of identities. We will also ask what role the city of Oxford plays in these writers’ imaginations, and how closely they are bound to one another through friendship, inspiration and antagonism.

The course includes a field trip to visit the Kilns, CS Lewis’ home, and to colleges, pubs and other locations in Oxford of relevance to all three writers.


Subject Areas

Check with your home institution for specific information on fulfillment of major / course requirements.