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Charting the Australian Fantastic: Ecocriticism, Migrant Fiction and Postcoloniality In Australian Speculative Fiction

Our course, “Charting the Australian Fantastic: Ecocriticism, Migrant Fiction and Postcoloniality In Australian Speculative Fiction”, takes a look at various genres of the Fantastic and explores how they relate to and interact with the boundaries of a national literature, specifically, the localized Australian particularities that infuse writing from the continent with its unique inflections.

It will allow students to manage an Australian Speculative Fiction blog on their own (with support from the lecturers), on which they will publish reviews and essays on topics surrounding Australian Speculative Fiction – the blog as part of the course will be maintained on the university-internal ILIAS platform where students can practice writing for publication in a friendly environment and receive peer review. Students will also eventually have the option to submit their entries to a blog that will be publicly available on the Centre for Australian Studies (CAS) website - this will ensure that students can gain ‘real’ journalistic experience in the blogosphere. Additionally, the blog will also allow students to cooperate with students from the University of Cologne, thus gaining important collaborative experience, which will be beneficial for both academic careers as well as extra-academic employment.

Specifically, the course will cover the genres of Sci-Fi, Fantasy Gothic/Horror, Dystopia/Utopia, and Magical Realism within the Australian context. In the winter term, the course will be offered at both the University of Cologne and the HHU. Students will thus be able to enter ILIAS discussions with students from either university.

We will approach selected texts with various media and from a range of critical strategies. Introductory videos and podcasts by the lecturers will guide the students in their readings; study questions, which will be submitted in regular intervals, will cultivate a deep engagement with the novels and short stories as well as with suitable critical texts. Students will enter conversations and discussions via an ILIAS-Forum, which will replace in-class discussions and allows for a safe space to debate various questions with fellow students, tutors and lecturers. Students taking the course for their Praxismodul as well as those interested in extracurricular work will be managing the aforementioned blog.

Selected texts will engage with questions of national literature as well as critical concepts including ecocriticism, postcoloniality and fantastic subversion. What does it mean to be authentically Australian? Does the Australian Fantastic break free from the molds of what are traditionally understood as Eurocentric genres? How do fantastic texts address ecocritical concepts to offer criticism on current environmental issues? What messages does Australian speculative fiction carry with regards to the relationship between Australian authors and their environment? Which authors actually qualify as Australian speculative fiction authors and why? How does fantastic writing differ depending on ethnic and cultural heritage of its writers?

The course will be offered to three different subgroups of students, who will have differing tasks and requirements. BA students will have access to the main content of the course as well as the general study questions. They may participate in the blog on a voluntary basis. Exams may be term papers or oral exams (for HHU students, Cologne students will have to follow different criteria). BA students hoping to attain a BN for the Praxismodul will have to work on the blog. MA students will be assigned a larger amount of readings and will have additional study questions.

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