My Journey into the Perilous Realm: a Non-English Student Studies Fantasy Literature

As a non-English major, my English courses are often few and far between. This term, I am taking ENGL 227, with the vague course title of “Prose Fiction.” The course itself is centred around the theme of fantasy fiction, a genre I have had little interaction with other than Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, along with other “mainstream” fantasy literature.

All other English courses I have taken have been pretty cut and dry: read some Shakespeare, a few poems, and finish off with a contemporary novel. This course, however, has turned my expectations for UBC English courses on its head. The professor, Dr. Daniel Justice, strives to allow for creativity in all assignments, and has made the fantasy theme as immersive and as interesting as possible for people who aren’t necessarily “fantasy geeks.”

As the bulk of my courses have been history ones so far, I am more used to reading large amounts of primary sources or journal articles, so the reading load for this course has taken me by surprise. The lecture is 3 hours, once a week, and we have been reading at a steady pace of one novel per week. I swear I read 1000 pages last week in total for all my classes. I think I understand why English majors say they don’t want to read outside of their classes; I didn’t even want to read an online CNN article that my friend sent me.

Although this course is outside of my comfort zone in many ways, I find it an interesting lens to read literature through, as well as an exercise in stepping outside the box that many university courses are in. The process of buying the assigned books was part of this exercise. Most fantasy books have garish covers, complete with dragons and other supernatural creatures wielding some sort of weapon. However, in class we discussed the importance of confronting our own preconceptions about fantasy literature. People who enjoy fantasy literature aren’t necessarily less intelligent, or less well read because of their taste in fiction. I was faced with these preconceptions at the bookstore as I bought the assigned books. Not only did I receive a lot of judgemental stares as I bought some books that might be deemed “childish,” but I also found myself feeling unnecessarily embarrassed about the books I was purchasing. Although I have only been in this course for 4 weeks, it has already shown me the importance of embracing multiple genres of literature and accepting the value that all genres hold.

Although a lot of work and a lot of reading, this class is fun, engaging, interesting, and different, and I don’t think I can say that about a lot of the classes I have taken at UBC.

Rebecca Silver is a second-year Arts student with an intended major in History and minor in International Relations. She loves all things Russian, curling up with a good book, and dogs.

Image: “Unicorn” by Tomai Ashdene via Flickr. License: CC BY 2.0

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