By Alex Dalenberg

June 16, 2013 

Sure, we touch on science fiction and fantasy here on the blog, but if you’re interested in some rigorous backgrounding, I came across an interesting looking class that just got started at  Coursera.

It’s called Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World, taught by University of Michigan professor Eric Rabkin who has published extensively on the topic.

If you’re not familiar with Coursera, it’s one of a handful of education startups that follows the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) model. For no charge, you can sign up and digitally sit in on university classes from the likes of Stanford, Yale and others designed for a Web audience.  

Interestingly, Rabkin — at least according to his online bio — was the first professor to offer a writing-intensive MOOC.

Here’s the course description.

Fantasy is a key term both in psychology and in the art and artifice of humanity. The things we make, including our stories, reflect, serve, and often shape our needs and desires. We see this everywhere from fairy tale to kiddie lit to myth; from “Cinderella” to Alice in Wonderland to Superman; from building a fort as a child to building ideal, planned cities as whole societies. Fantasy in ways both entertaining and practical serves our persistent needs and desires and illuminates the human mind. Fantasy expresses itself in many ways, from the comfort we feel in the godlike powers of a fairy godmother to the seductive unease we feel confronting Dracula. From a practical viewpoint, of all the fictional forms that fantasy takes, science fiction, from Frankenstein to Avatar, is the most important in our modern world because it is the only kind that explicitly recognizes the profound ways in which science and technology, those key products of the human mind, shape not only our world but our very hopes and fears. This course will explore Fantasy in general and Science Fiction in specific both as art and as insights into ourselves and our world. 

Might be worth checking out.