Teaching Dark Lord

Jon Noble jon_p_noble at yahoo.com
Mon May 13 20:04:15 EDT 2002

I feel very sorry for your class, and for you for
having to put up with them. I have two daughters
probably of about their age who love "Darklord"(of
course they have grown up with fantasy). perhaps you
you suggest people read "tough guide to fantasyland"
in conjunction with "Dark Lord". It is perhaps the
best critique of the genre I've ever read. My only
problem with "darklord" was that it didn't seem to
know if it was satire or serious, although in the main
it combines both quite well. Maybe you'd better give
the class Terry Pratchett! As for not liking "LOTR"
when I was at uni the traditional punishment for this
was having one's eyeballs plucked out and fed to the
crows :-)

Jon Noble

"It is better to be a librarian than part of the
collection"  Garth Nix - Lirael

--- jackie e stallcup <jstallcup at juno.com> wrote:
> Well, we started Dark Lord of Derkholm in my
> Adolescent Literature course
> today.  Boy, what an experience.  To give you some
> background, this is a
> senior level English course at California State
> University, Northridge,
> designed for English majors who intend to teach at
> the high school level.
>  We're near the end of the course, and so far, we've
> had a really fun
> semester for the most part, with most of the
> students being very open to
> the texts and seeming to enjoy the books and the
> discussions.  To prepare
> for these last couple of weeks of class, we read
> another fantasy novel,
> Mr. Was, and a chapter explaining fantasy and
> science fiction in our
> textbook.
> How else to say it? Almost to a person, they hated
> Dark Lord.  I was so
> disappointed!  Although I assured them that after we
> have finished
> discussing it, they should at least appreciate it,
> I'm not so sure. 
> Several said that they had trouble getting into it
> (this was true both of
> die-hard fantasy fans and readers who don't like
> fantasy).  One of my
> fantasy fans who didn't like it also says that she
> doesn't like Lord of
> the Rings and feels really badly about not liking
> either this book or
> LotR.  Another didn't like Derk and his habit of
> tuning out instead of
> communicating with his wife.  Some said they felt
> like they couldn't join
> the world of the novel (which seemed odd to me,
> since the characters are
> so real; well, perhaps that's the problem--they
> wanted fantasy characters
> to go play with rather than real characters that are
> facing icky real
> life issues).  I sensed a lot of frustration in
> general.  One student was
> very disdainful and said that she could see, maybe a
> nine year old
> enjoying it, but not a teenager (and by implication,
> certainly not
> adults).  She said it was far too simple (perhaps
> not the most tactful
> thing to say in her small group, as one of the other
> small group members
> had just said she found it too complex).  That
> struck me as odd, frankly.
>  What do you all think?  I wonder if that is a
> general sort of knee-jerk
> reaction to fantasy.  This particular student has
> been a staunch defender
> of "the classics" from day one and has been very
> dismissive of every
> adolescent text we've read, so I suppose a
> disdainful reaction to fantasy
> is not so unexpected from her.
> I know that the book is, well... odd, like so much
> of dwj's work.  One of
> the things that she is doing is playing with our
> expectations of fantasy,
> and that's what I really liked about it and thought
> that they would
> appreciate.  So that's where I started our
> discussion:  we put on the
> board all kinds of things that one expects from the
> genre of fantasy.  In
> the next class, we're going to start there and look
> at how jones is using
> but also playing with these expectations and I hope
> that that will clear
> up their confusion.  Some of these expectations
> include 1. issues of
> gender roles, 2. adult/child relationships (what
> were those parents
> thinking???) 3.  symbolism (it's hard to tell what
> side querida is on,
> partly because jones makes use of negative symbols,
> such as snakes, to
> describe her) 4. particular themes 5.  language
> issues... etc.
> A final thought:  no one seemed to find it funny at
> all, but I think it's
> hilarious in places.  Maybe I should point out the
> humor?  Ah, but if you
> have to explain the joke... sigh.
> Any comments?
> Thanks!
> Jackie Stallcup
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