Hello folks! Mark here for a quick post. This year I had the chance to revise my teaching schedule by turning what had been a one trimester (twelve week) elective into two different trimester classes offered once per year. Over the years my Sci Fi Lit course has grown popular with my non-traditional, non-honors track students who were looking for a way to meet their junior-senior year reading course requirement. I wrote the class originally to give those students an alternative to the American/World Lit sequence and to allow myself a chance to teach some of my favorite genre stories.
I have had a nice run. When Jackson's LOTR films came out, I managed to scam a COUNTY-wide field trip for a special early showing of each movie. I took eight hundred kids, from about 12 schools to the theater for three years straight for a five buck thrill. I still get emails from kids who went with me, some of them from other schools, remembering the experience and wondering if I was going to try and pull off another coup for the Hobbit films. Sadly, those days are over, but one of the by-products of those times have been full classes every spring. Yes, I do use the LOTR films in my class. In fact I use quite a few films, novels and short stories in the class. That is one of the cool things about our genre: when done right, or at least energetically, our stuff translates nicely to film.
I teach the class with the view that most of my students are reluctant or non-readers. Many of them are, however, pretty decent visual learners. Whereas some may see "watching the movie" as a cop-out, in my Sci Fi class I use film to introduce as many of the great stories as I can in addition to the assigned readings. I take my group as deeply into the literary qualities of those film-stories as I can. So far, the results have been favorable. So favorable that, as I mentioned above, I now have to schedule and plan for two classes. I had seniors who took the class as seniors asking for another offering. Hence, Fantasy Lit's creation this year. I like it because I get most of the honors kids for three years, but lose most of the rest after their sophomore year. At times I feel like I lose touch with the pulse of the regular dealing with the divas and their college bound attitudes and expectations. The class is structured just enough for sanity, and I get the satisfaction of taking kids on a semi-wild ride through the weird.
I have only twelve weeks for this course, so I needed to make some decisions on what to read, what I could afford to buy, and how difficult to make the readings. Long just doesn't work in this case. I tried reading Dune the first year I taught Sci Fi. Nope. Had more success with the mini-series spaced with selected chapters. Anyway, I knew I had to find about 8 weeks of material to add to what I have used from Fantasy in the past. My term will consist of a short fiction unit with stories from Cherryh, Tolkien, LeGuin, McCaffery, McKillip, and some of the bits I can glean and pc from my old copies of Lin Carter's Year's Best Fantasy--loved some of those old stories. Again, I'm limited by ability, time and a conservative base. For novels, I intend to read A Wizard of Earthsea, a detailed synopsis of Tombs of Atuan and all of The Farthest Shore. I love the other books in Ursula's sequence. They are on heavy rotation with the interested set after we do the units. I'm adding McKillip's The Forgotten Beasts of Eld and adding back The Hobbit. We are going on a full on excursion to Middle Earth this year. I'm even planning on using the fan films Searching for Gollum and Born of Hope in addition to several stand alones that I use for various archetype studies. Anyone here remember the cartoon 9, Watership Down?, The Iron Giant, and the campy but still fun Willow?
What I'm getting at with this rambling piece of self-congratulations is a question: If you were blessed with the chance to teach a course like Sci Fi lit or Fantasy lit, what would you use? What would be your rationale for your choices? As you can probably surmise, I'm a bit on the side of the old tried and true with my tastes. Would you make different choices? Let me know what you think.