Summary of First Lecture for Coursera Course on Fantasy & Science Fiction.

  1. The speaker identifies himself by name and title.
  2. He says his presentation will introduce the student to the course.
  3. The lecturer asks: “What is fantasy?” He doesn’t answer himself. He says the course will explore fantasy literature, without having said what fantasy is.
  4. But he says that fantasy is broader and exists in other media beyond literature. He mentions Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis and shows a single still image.
  5. He connects fantasy then, still more broadly, to the imagination, to visions of the future, and to utopian fantasies, as embodied in Disneyland and Epcot Center–never mentioning any dates.
  6. He says fantasy ideas pervade industrial design, and he gives an example.
  7. He lists the words to which the word “fantasy” can be traced: Ancient Greek words, words related to Christianity and other religions, Indo-European roots and contemporary words related thereto.
  8. He says fantasies can be personal, and he points to Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus (whose era he names), but he points that personal fantasies also refer to some mythic power. (He still hasn’t defined fantasy in any way. And he doesn’t mention that Doctor Faustus is a play.)
  9. He says children use fantasy to try out social roles. He recounts a personal anecdote about his daughter playing with dolls, and he claims his daughter used the fantasy as a therapy of sorts.
  10. He says fantasies help us in practical ways by embodying our hopes and fears. He points to the fairy tale “Cinderella” as a “myth of obedience.” He says this story is universal.
  11. He quotes someone named “W. H. Auden” (whom he does not identify) explaining detective stories as containing a “fantasy” that “hidden guilt will be revealed.” He says detective stories allow us to live in a fantasy world.
  12. He claims that a common human fear is the fear of death. He refers to Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus, and Jesus’s raising of him from the dead. (No dates or time frames are given.) He calls this either a “miracle” or a “fantasy.”
  13. He connects this fear of death to W. W. Jacob’s short story “The Monkey’s Paw” (whose date he gives). He recounts the story, and he explains its “point” as the human inability to control “fate.” And he says that fantasy may paint an image of a better world, or a more frightening one–contrasting the ‘fantasy’ of Lazarus and that of “The Monkey’s Paw.”
  14. He describes the story of Frankenstein (whose date he gives but whose author he doesn’t mention: he doesn’t mention that it’s a novel, either). He describes this story as an ancient fantasy of raising up the dead. And he describes the ‘story’ as showing the fear of science’s power separated from morality.
  15. He introduce science fiction as a genre (without saying if Frankenstein belongs to it or not), and he lumps this with detective fiction and fairy tales as “fantastic genres.” (No mention of whether the Bible fits here or not.)
  16. He summarizes a sci-fi short story that foresees the dangers of nuclear power. Then he reframes science fiction as a mode of imaginative understanding–like playing with dolls. He cites Alvin Toffler, without saying who that is or what he wrote.
  17. He identifies science fiction as a “fantastic genre” which poses questions about what science means for “us.” And he claims science fiction can help us to understand our wishes for the future.


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