[DWJ] Best of 2017??

deborah.dwj at suberic.net deborah.dwj at suberic.net
Thu Jan 19 18:34:38 EST 2017

On Wed, 18 Jan 2017, Jameela Lares wrote:
> Is one of your objectives a big-picture overview?  In my department, we tend to assign fewer books but do more close reading, etc.

My two biggest course objectives are to come to an understanding of "genre", and how it's fuzzy and undefinable to point to something and say it's SF, or fantasy, or sometimes even realism; and to point to the massive sea change between the 20th and 21st centuries.

As an aside, my three rough historical divisions of English-language SF & Fantasy are:

1. The Victorians, which I don't teach, because there's a Victorian lit class.  These are wobbly -- I'd classify Nesbit as way more mid 20th century in vibe than Victorian, though probably that's because she had an outsized influence on 20th century writers.

2. Early 20th century (Stratmeyer Syndicate, golden age of comics, pulps, through to C. S. Lewis, P. L. Travers, Andre Norton, and then onward.)

3. 1990s-present. It's easy to draw a line in 1997 with Rowling, but I also note the rise of teen SFF tv (Sabrina the teenaged witch, 1996; Buffy, 1997; Charmed, 1998; Roswell, 1999) and kids' SFF tv (Animorphs and Powerpuff Girls, both 1998) and mainstreaming and accessibility of fanfiction and fandom for and by kids and teens (fanfiction.net, 1998; livejournal, 1999), and crossover or kid/teen SFF movies (Star Wars: TPM, 1999). And HP is both a meaningful and an arbitrary line -- I could just as easily draw it in 1995 with His Dark Materials, or a few years later with Twilight.

I have them do close reading in their papers but we do less in class.  But I am beginning to think that's a weakness. I'd rather do some real drill downs to get into the messy genre issues -- especially because then we could have the politics and social justice conversations they (and I!) want to have, get them out of the way, and move on to close readings for genre.

But I do love the opportunity to introduce them to excellent modern books they don't otherwise know.


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