Monday, December 20, 2010

What Is Fantasy Good For?

Kayleigh Witkowski answers:

Throughout my literary education I never read Fantasy until this class in college. The subject always seemed non-essential to me, since it was not important enough to be taught in the classroom. Teachers always regarded Fantasy as a genre you read for fun or your own enjoyment. This approach to Fantasy that I learned through my teachers made me think that Fantasy was worthless and held no importance in the literary world. Upon completing the novel The True Game by Sheri Tepper, I have come to disagree with my former teachers. I think fantasy, in particular Tepper's novel, offers many valuable attributes and life lessons that would be perfect for an English classroom.

Within the English education major, you read a countless number of books in hopes to integrate them within your own classroom someday. I was aware of some of the more publicized versions of fantasy for adolescents such as The Giver and Harry Potter; however, many other fantasy novels, including Tepper's, were foreign to me. The criteria that many teachers look for when selecting books is on the basis of critical thinking, multiculturalism, morals or life lessons, and literary elements. In the few fantasy fiction books that I have read, I have noticed accounts of all these criteria. So why shouldn't fantasy be used in the classroom?

Tepper's novel The True Game offers its readers a story of morals, identity, and self-discovery through the main character Peter. Peter is on a quest throughout the novel to find his talent within his world. I believe many students will be able to find Peter very relatable and be able to make their own life connections to the story. There are some similarities between Tepper's novel and Rowling's Harry Potter, since both stories revolve around a young man searching for his identity within magical worlds. However, there is a central difference between the two novels in terms of narrative point of view. Within Tepper's novel, Peter tells the story as if he is talking to someone from his own world. This narrative technique causes the reader to construct Peter's world on their own through the dialogue and small hints the characters provide.

Within Tepper's novel Peter lives in another world from ours and is preparing for when he enters "The True Game." Due to the multidimensional setting of the novel, students have room for critical analysis and deconstruction of the two worlds, and comparison to our own. The True Game is a book for the creative imagination that provides the reader with a page-turning experience to discover what Peter's talent is and how his world works. Also, many students probably have not had the exposure to fantasy fiction within school; thus, the immersion of a new genre in their individual literary understanding could be beneficial. I have no doubt that Tepper's writing style and story of Peter will keep students engaged while reading it.

Within fantasy literature the idea of the 'real' is prominent. Presenting this genre to students can help them to speculate what is 'real' in literature as well as develop their own understanding of the issue. This discussion could also sidetrack into the topic of realism within literature and open up to novels such as The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane. Fantasy Literature also opens the door to creative thinking/writing within a student, and provides them with great examples of beautiful figurative language and literary techniques. Also, in regards to assessment within a classroom, students could opt for creative or aesthetic responses, such as re-writing the ending or creating a film.

Fantasy fiction does hold many positive attributes to a classroom. Tepper's novel, as well as many others, fit the criteria of a good book to provide to students. There are many activities and learning experiences that can be gained from incorporating Fantasy in the classroom. I think one answer to the question "What is Fantasy good for (if anything)?" is that fantasy would be good for education.

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