Fantasy Literature


Fantasy Literature is an exciting and ever-popular genre which imagines new worlds and alternative universes. But far from being merely an escape from everyday life, these flights of imagination allow authors and readers of fantasy to think about vital issues in the world we inhabit, and how we might address them.

From its beginnings, modern fantasy literature has been and remains closely associated with the city of Oxford and in this day school five members of the University of Oxford will guide you through some of its highlights.

There will be an introduction to the genre, and a strong emphasis on the Oxford connection, with talks on Tolkien, Lewis and Pullman. You will also look at fantasy literature in its wider political and global contexts, including its significance to feminism. There will be something for everyone, and dragons aplenty.

Please note: due to the nature of the contents of this day, this is not suitable for people under 18 years old.

This event will close to enrolments at 23:59 BST on 5 June 2024.

Programme details

Registration at Rewley House reception (for in-person attendees)

How to approach fantasy literature: first steps on the perilous quest
Stuart Lee

Tea/coffee break

C.S. Lewis and fantasy: world-building and atmosphere
Michael Ward

Lunch break

The glamour of voice in the writings of J. R. R. Tolkien
Mark Atherton

Short break

Fantasy Oxford: Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials
Margaret Kean

Tea/coffee break

Dragons: from Tolkien and Beowulf to modern feminist fantasy
Laura Varnam

End of day


Description Costs
Course Fee - in-person attendance (includes tea/coffee) £99.00
Course Fee - virtual attendance £90.00
Baguette Lunch £6.50
Hot Lunch (3 courses) £17.60


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit or are a full-time student in the UK you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees.

Concessionary fees for short courses


Dr Stuart Lee


Dr Stuart Lee's current research is on the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, fantasy literature, WW1 Poetry, and also digital humanities. Stuart has worked extensively on Tolkien's fiction and manuscripts of publishing on his interactions with the poem 'The Wanderer', 'The Battle of Maldon', interviews with the BBC, and editing the Blackwells/Wiley Companion to J R R Tolkien (2014; revised edition scheduled for 2021), and two editions (with E. Solopova) of The Keys of Middle-earth. Stuart has also edited the Routledge Major Works four-volume set on Tolkien.

Dr Michael Ward


Michael Ward is an Associate Member of the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Oxford. He is the author of the award-winning Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis (Oxford University Press, 2008) and co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to C.S. Lewis (Cambridge University Press, 2010). He presented the BBC1 television documentary, The Narnia Code (2010).

Dr Mark Atherton


Dr Mark Atherton is a Senior Lecturer in English Language at Regent's Park College, Oxford University. His publications include There and Back Again: J.R.R.Tolkien and the Origins of The Hobbit (London: I.B. Tauris, 2012/2014), which covers the literary and linguistic interests of J.R.R. Tolkien and their influence on his fictional writings. Mark has also contributed a chapter ‘Tolkien and Old English’ to A Tolkien Companion, ed. Stuart Lee.

Dr Margaret Kean


Margaret Kean is the Dame Helen Gardner Fellow and Tutor in English at St Hilda’s College, Oxford and an Associate Professor in the English Faculty of the University of Oxford. Her research interests focus on the poetry of John Milton; the epic tradition and its reception history; children’s literature and YA fiction. Her most recent publication is an edited volume, Essays and Studies: The Literature of Hell (2021). Her current research is on the work of the contemporary author, Philip Pullman. For a taster of her current research, please visit

Dr Laura Varnam


Dr Laura Varnam is the Lecturer in Old and Middle English at University College, Oxford. She is the author of The Church as Sacred Space in Middle English Literature and Culture (2018) and the co-editor of Encountering The Book of Margery Kempe (2021). She has also published on Harry Potter, medievalism, Daphne du Maurier, and is working on a poetry collection inspired by the women of Beowulf.

Dr Ben Grant


Dr Ben Grant is a Lecturer in English Literature in the Department for Continuing Education, University of Oxford. He has a research background in postcolonial studies and cultural translation. His first book, Postcolonialism, Psychoanalysis and Burton: Power Play of Empire (2009), was about the iconic Victorian explorer and translator, Richard Francis Burton, who began his career as a spy in British India. Ben is also interested in all forms of brevity in literature, and his second book, The Aphorism and Other Short Forms (2016), aims to give a consolidated picture of the exciting and often marginalised genres of the aphorism and related short forms, such as the proverb and the fragment. Ben is currently working on life writing and autobiographical fiction, particularly in the work of Jenny Diski.


Please use the 'Book' button on this page. Alternatively, please contact us to obtain an application form. 


Accommodation is not included in the price, but if you wish to stay with us the night before the course, then please contact our Residential Centre.

Accommodation in Rewley House - all bedrooms are modern, comfortably furnished and each room has tea and coffee making facilities, Freeview television, and Free WiFi and private bath or shower rooms.  Please contact our Residential Centre on +44 (0) 1865 270362 or email for details of availability and discounted prices.

IT requirements

For those joining us online

We will be using Zoom for the livestreaming of this event. If you’re attending online, you’ll be able to see and hear the speakers, and to submit questions via the Zoom interface. Joining instructions will be sent out prior to the start date. We recommend that you join the session at least 10-15 minutes prior to the start time – just as you might arrive a bit early at our lecture theatre for an in-person event.

Please note that this course will not be recorded.