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Institute of Continuing Education (ICE)


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Over the last two centuries fantasy writing has become a very successful commercial genre, and three creations in particular have gripped generations – Carroll’s Wonderland, Peake’s Gormenghast and Tolkien’s Middle-earth. But why write – or read – fantasy? And is it any more than the escapism of which it is often accused? This course begins with some sharp reconsiderations of what we mean by ‘fantasy’, before looking in turn at Carroll, Peake and Tolkien with their astonishing creations, and asking what purposes their fantasy has served, for themselves and for their very many readers?

NOTE: This course deals in detail with written fantasies that include violence and warfare, and will touch on other works that include death and sexual violence. Debates around Carroll’s supposed paedophilia will also be discussed in one session.

Essential reading for the course: 

Carroll, Lewis. Alice in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass (1871), in The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition (edited Martin Gardner, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2000)

Peake, Mervyn. Titus Groan (1946) and Gormenghast (1950), in The Gormenghast Trilogy (London and New York: Vintage, 1999)

Tolkien, JRR. The Lord of the Rings (in 3 volumes, 1954-5; in one vol., with corrected text, London: HarperCollins, 2007)



Who can book?

Our weekend courses are open to participants over the age of 18 and courses are taught at approximately first-year undergraduate level. No academic qualifications are required and most courses are suitable for students who are new to the subject. Please ensure that you complete any required reading before the course starts to enable you to fully participate.

English language requirements

Teaching is in English (unless a foreign-language course). If your first language is not English, you will need to satisfy yourself that you have the required near-native command of the language to get the maximum benefit from studying with ICE.

Accessibility and additional support for students 

We make every effort to meet the requirements of those students with additional needs. Please let us know about any additional requirements at the time of booking so that we can offer you the support and advice you require before and during your course(s).

You can also refer to our Further information for students with additional requirements section on our website.

COVID-19 Guidance

Please ensure you read our latest guidance and advice regarding COVID-19 found on our Booking terms and conditions page.

Course dates

19 Nov 2021 to 21 Nov 2021

Course duration

1 weekend

Apply by

14 Nov 2021

Course fee


Accommodation fees

Single room: £70 per night

Double/Twin room £60 per person, per night (2 people sharing)


Institute of Continuing Education
University of Cambridge
CB23 8AQ
United Kingdom

Qualifications / Credits


Course code