Fantastic Places, Unhuman Humans

« Return to Course Catalog

One Section Available to Choose From:

Course DatesLengthMeeting TimesStatusFormatInstructor(s)CRN
June 28, 2021 - August 11, 20216/28 - 8/116 WeeksOnlineCancelledOnlineJim Egan

Course Description

What can the grotesque, monstrous, and even alien creatures found lurking in an extraordinary range of literature across many centuries reveal about the different ways humans have imagined what it means to be human? How have we constructed the conceptual boundary between what we qualify as human and what we categorize as robotic, animal, android, or alien? What, in the end, makes the human “human”?

Join me as we dive into these and related questions in a distinctive way through the gamified structure of this course. Using simple tools, you’ll create your own avatar and begin a virtual journey led by a humanoid and professor through various imaginative realms.

The course relies on strategies and techniques for motivating and engaging students drawn from the world of table top and online gaming. Professor Egan leads students through the various literary worlds they encounter, out-of-which grow quests and adventures--which include brief analyses of passages from the literature as well as more creative assignments such as diagraming, found poetry, imitations, and computer-generated visualizations.--designed specifically to improve students' analytical and critical thinking abilities and writing skills as a means of moving on to the next literary world.

Each work of literature presents a different set of challenges to conventional notions of what it means to be human: the creature in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, the aliens in H.P. Lovecraft's short stories, various hard-to-define beings in some of Margaret Atwood's stories, and the androids in Philip K.Dick's Androids Dream of Electric Sheep all put in doubt what distinguishes those we call human from those we exclude.

Professor Egan offers a distinctive set of skills as someone who has both taught at Brown for over 25 years while also serving for a number of years as a member of and ultimately co-chair of the AP English Literature and Composition Development Committee. This committee helps set the standards for AP English Literature and Composition courses across the world and prepare the yearly exam for AP English Lit and Comp courses.

As a result of completing this course, students will have learned:
• How to develop their skills as close, careful readers of literary language, form, and structure
• The techniques of using close, careful analysis of language, form, and structure as the basis for producing engaging, organized, and focused university-level critical analysis papers

Each of these learning outcomes can serve as the foundation for analysis of material across a wide range of university classes and disciplines.

Prerequisites: Students should be rising high school juniors or seniors who have taken high school English courses, preferably either honors level English, AP English Language and Composition, or AP English Literature and Composition.

Course Information

  • Course Code: CEEL1012

Program Information


Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences for students completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

Visit Program Page View Course Pricing Information Sessions Learn How to Apply