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Blithe Spirits and Demon Lovers: The Fantastic Imagination from Coleridge to the Present Day


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Literary Studies, research master Literary Studies, research master Arts, Literature and Media and the two year educational master in English from ICLON.


This course explores one of the richest seams in English-language cultural life – the creation of some of the greatest works of Gothic, of children’s literature, of the fantastic, and of science fiction. Why do we enjoy the fantastic? What are the cultural meanings of dreaming? How does British literature and film represent the supernatural, the fabulous, the uncanny, the numinous and the strange? How do such texts illuminate our sense of British and Irish culture and history?

Using the insights of psychoanalysis, political theory, and literary theory we will attempt to answer these questions and others. The course will include children’s books, ghost stories, Gothic fictions, science fiction, dystopias, and the fantasy film. We will examine the following themes in fantastic fictions made in Britain from the 1800s to the early 2000s: the production of fear; the imagination of childhood; nostalgia; the double; transgression and containment; kitsch; the fictionalization of reality; the uses of the unreal; the representation of dreams and fugitive states; the critique of science; frontiers and otherness; conformity and individualism; innocence and corruption.

Course objectives

  • Course objective 1
    This course will extend and deepen the power of students’ critical analysis through in-depth consideration of texts.

  • Course objective 2
    Students will explore critical debates surrounding the fantastic, modernity, and identity.

  • Course objective 3
    The course will aim to provide for literature students the critical skills necessary for the analysis of literary texts.

  • Course objective 4
    Regarding literary works, it will also aim to extend the students’ skills in the reading of narrative and the understanding of the relationship of a text to its historical/cultural/social context.

  • Course objective 5
    Students will be encouraged to share analytical and critical views on the texts ascribed in class discussion, perhaps including short presentations, and will focus research skills in the writing of a final research paper.

  • Course objective 6
    In their papers, the students will show that they have developed the relevant skills for researching and writing on the fantastic.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

  • Research

Assessment method


You must submit two essays of 3200-4000 words (50% each). Both essays must contain a significant element of research.
Essays are assessed according to the following criteria: your ability to come up with a ‘thesis statement’ in relation to the topic in question, one that your essay / assignment will coherently and insightfully develop; the quality and sophistication of the central argument; the depth and appropriateness of your research; the scholarliness of your referencing and presentation; the deployment of structure; the quality of the writing; and the originality and depth of your analysis. Any student who plagiarises their work will be in trouble for doing so.
All essays will be expected on a date (to be announced) during the exam period. Late / resit essays will be graded, but will not receive any comments.
Students who are studying for the Research Master are expected to write two essays of 3500-4200 words that include additional methodological reflection and scholarly research.
Students who are studying for the MA in Education should focus at least one of their two essays on the ways in which you could apply what you have learnt in the course to the teaching of short stories in the classroom.
Attendance is compulsory. Students can miss a maximum of two seminars, provided they present a valid reason beforehand. Students who have missed more than two seminars will have to apply to the Examination Board in order to obtain permission to further follow and complete the course. Students must produce essays that are their own work, without plagiarism or recourse to AI writing tools.


  • Two essays of 3200-4000 words (50% each).


Resit essays can be submitted in the resit period. In exceptional circumstances, with the agreement of the tutor and the Study Co-ordinator, essays may also be submitted after that date.
If a student fails an essay, they will have the opportunity to retake it.

Inspection and feedback

Students will receive their essays back with feedback attached. Those who wish to meet afterwards to review their work may do so.
How and when an essay review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the essay results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the grades, a review will have to be organized.

Reading list

Michael Newton (editor), Victorian Fairy Tales (Oxford World’s Classics, 2015)
J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999) (Bloomsbury Children’s Book, 2014)
Michael Newton (editor), The Penguin Book of Ghost Stories (Penguin Books, 2010)
J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (1954-4) (HarperCollins, 1995)
Michael Newton, The Origins of Science Fiction (Oxford World’s Classics, 2022)
C. S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet (1938) (HarperCollins, 2005)
Ursula Le Guin, The Word for World is Forest (1976) (Gateway, 2015).

In the short story anthologies, we’ll likely read stories by George MacDonald, Dinah Craik, Oscar Wilde, E. Nesbit, Rudyard Kipling, Elizabeth Gaskell, Charles Dickens, Margaret Oliphant, Henry James, Edith Wharton, Mary Shelley, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, George Eliot, E. M. Forster, and W. E. B. Du Bois, among others.

Films (to be watched on DVD or via a legal streaming service):
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Pinocchio (1940)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
The Birds (1963)
Blade Runner (the Director’s Cut, 1992 version for preference – but the Final Cut version, 2007 is also fine)
It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
Students who wish to do so can also read Daphne Du Maurier’s short story, ‘The Birds’ – which is most easily available in Daphne Du Maurier, The Birds and Other Stories (Virago, 2004) – though this is not a compulsory set text.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.
General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Arsenaal


For the first week of the course make sure you have watched in advance The Wizard of Oz (1939) and Pinocchio (1940). On one occasion we will study two (short) books in one week, and we’re reading one big book, The Lord of the Rings. The film weeks are in part designed to give you more reading time and you should plan your reading wisely. When it comes to the books and especially to the films, even if you have read or watched them before please make sure that you do so again in the week before the class. It is really important that you read or watch them attentively and that they are fresh in your mind.
There may possibly be screenings of some of the films, but the onus is on you to find a way to watch them beforehand. Some will be available in DVD form in the library. None of the films are particularly obscure and you should be able to find them on a good screening service too.
I look forward to meeting you in class!