So in an hour or so, I’ll be off to Baltimore for Mythmoot III: Ever on…, the third installment of the (nearly) annual academic/fan gathering for the Mythgard Institute. As with last year, I will be presenting a paper. This year, my subject is Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, specifically about her descriptions of kindness and cruelty in that book, and how they fit in with other dualistic symbolism throughout the story. (See my last post on Le Guin and De Casseres for more on that topic.) For those interested in the book overall, I’ve also created a linked secondary bibliography.
I actually wrote the paper two years ago as part of Dr. Amy H. Sturgis’ Science Fiction Part II course. In an interesting confluence of events, she is offering the same course again this year. Classes begin next week (enrollment still open!). I highly recommend the course for anyone who is even remotely interested in science fiction. Regardless of whether you consider science fiction a fun escape or an avenue for exploring deep ideas that can’t be explored in any other medium – I happen to think it’s both – Dr. Sturgis’ class will give you an even better appreciation for the genre. If nothing less, you’ll get to engage with both classics and new material that you are unlikely to encounter in any other academic setting available today. I certainly did; just read my review of The Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction, one of the primary texts for the course, to get an idea.
The other class being offered by the Mythgard Institute is Beowulf through Tolkien, and Vice Versa, taught by the brilliant Dr. Tom A. Shippey. For those who don’t know (which is probably very few people who stumble on my little blog here), before Tolkien became famous for his Middle-earth stories, he was well regarded as an academic expert on Beowulf. Dr. Shippey has in turn established himself as an expert in both Tolkien and Beowulf, and the opportunity to hear him discourse on both of them together and explain how each one influenced the other is one that simply can’t be passed up. I will be auditing the class.
And of course, there are always the free Mythgard Academy classes for those who can’t commit the time, funds or mindshare to study at an MA level. We are just wrapping up with Watership Downs by Richard Adams, and voting for the next book has just been opened. (Voting is reserved for those who donate to the Mythgard Academy. Donations are used to provide infrastructure, like storage and bandwidth, to keep the Academy classes free.) The voting period is always a fun and freewheeling time, with people trying to solicit votes for the book they most want to explore in depth. I’ve nominated Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy for the third time now.
I should also note that for the last six months I’ve been the chief editor of the Signum Eagle, a student newsletter with tons of great work written by the students, faculty and friends of Signum University. The cynic in me always gets a little … um, cynical … when people say things like, “It’s been a challenging but rewarding experience,” but indeed, editing the Eagle has been both challenging and rewarding. Finding new content ideas and writers each month is not an easy task, and I’m usually up quite late the Sunday night before posting (it goes live on the 2nd Monday of each month, though there may have been a couple late publications) furiously finishing up any last-minute editing and linking. Perhaps the most fun part for me is the persona I’ve been able to develop for the eponymous Eagle, who likes to interject his take into things every now and then. I don’t know if anyone else enjoys such things, but hey, that’s the privilege of being an editor.
All in all, I really like what’s been going on with the Mythgard Institute and Signum University lately, and I like the direction the organization has been going. I’m really looking forward to my trip (which is now only a half hour away…) and seeing both familiar faces and new ones, as well as talking about all manner of speculative fiction – and likely many other topics as well.