Tuesday, July 20, 2010

AGTO Day Two: The Seminar

On Monday, after a hearty English breakfast, the seminars began. Literature and the Fantastic is being lead by Maria Cecire, a Rhodes Scholar whose doctorate is in connecting classic texts to children's fantasy literature. The seminar will be mostly discussion based, starting with Tolkien and Lewis, then moving to Pullman and then to more contemporary authors like J.K. Rowling and yes, there will be talk of Twilight.

Maria gave us a packet of the facsimile of the original Lewis Carroll manuscript (just the first few pages) which was then called Alice's Adventures Under Ground. It is written in his own hand with his own illustrations. We talked about things that struck us, and how Alice's voice is mature for child, which makes sense since Victorian children were expected to be little adults, but she still acts like a child, not thinking, just dashing ahead. We looked at how Lewis Carroll was playing with words, physics, and twisting everyday school lesson for the amusement of the Liddells, who he was telling the story for.

We then looked at what made something a fantasy book. Fantasy is anything that can't realistically happen, but it's happening because of magic, not through science. There might be mythical creatures and is sometimes derived from the ancient. There's also different levels of fantasy. You've got your high fantasy, which I think of as books like Lord of the Rings or the Wheel of Time series. It's a completely different world. Our world doesn't come in at all. There are different languages and a system of government and everything. Then there's fantasy like Harry Potter. Our world as we know it is there, but then there's also this whole other fantasy world. Then there's fantasy books were the world is realistic but with one fantastical element, like Twilight.

Then we field tripped to Christ Church. Why was a fantasy class going to Christ Church, you ask? Well, many fantasy writers used Christ Church as an inspiration for their worlds, AND a lot of the filming for Harry Potter was done there. The Golden Compass actually did a lot of filming there too, but that movie was so awful it's best not to think about it.

The church itself is of course amazing and beautiful, but we were all really excited about seeing the Harry Potter hall. It's a lot smaller than it seems in the movie. They tripled it digitally. When you first walk into the hall, on the right there is a painting of Charles Dodgson (aka, Lewis Carroll). He's looking quite serious:

The hall:

The high table:

This beautiful staircase was also used in Harry Potter. Check out the ceiling:

Another part of the church:

We went into the Cathedral, which had gorgeous stained glass windows. Here's a look:In this window, the center women is St. Catherine of Alexandria, but it's a picture of Edith Liddell, Alice's sister:

And this is a statue of Alice's father, who was a Master of Christ Church:

We ended our first seminar by the river were Lewis Carroll first began to tell the story of Alice in Wonderland. There are some people going for punt on the river:

Tuesday's class is going to be focusing on Tolkien, and we have some excerpts from his lecture "On Fairy Stories" to read for next time.

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