Classic Works of Imagination, Symbol and Allegory

Classic Works of Imagination, Symbol and Allegory

General Course Description

In this course, students will get an opportunity to see the development of the popular fantasy and science fiction and other symbolic and allegorical genres, with which our modern culture has a fascination. We will be looking at the works from a literary as well as historical perspective. Our discussion will begin with such critical works as the "Preface" to Lyrical Ballads, in which Wordsworth states that the rise of the Gothic genre was a result of the Industrial Revolution.  Authors and works studied will include Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, G. K. Chesterton, Daniel Defoe, Hawthorne, Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Dickens, Mary Shelley, H.G. Wells and others.  We will study the symbolic, allegorical, psychological and spiritual aspects of fairy tales, fables, Gothic, fantasy, mystery and science fiction and explore the historical milieu, scientific interests and theories that spawned these genres. A sample of reading follows.

Fable, Fairy Tale, and Myth: Selected Fables by Aesop; Grimm’s Fairy Tales: Mother Holle; Classical Myths retold by Thomas Bulfinch; “The Swineherd” by Hans Christian Andersen; Animal Farm by George Orwell; A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

The Ghost Story: “Mrs. Veal” by Daniel Defoe; “On Being Found Out” by William Makepeace Thackeray; “A Ghost” by Guy de Maupassant

Classic English and American Gothic: “The Valley of the Shadow of Death” by John Bunyan; “Punishment in the Red Room” by Charlotte Brontë; “Miss Havisham” by Charles Dickens; Hawthorne’s Gothic Journal Entry; “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” by Nathaniel Hawthorne; “Edward Randolph’s Portrait” by Nathaniel Hawthorne; “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe; “The Creation of Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley; Criticism of the Gothic Novel by William Wordsworth; Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Fantasy and Adventure Genre: “The Mock Turtle’s Story” by Lewis Carroll; “Gareth and Lynette” by Alfred Tennyson; “The Enmity between Two Parties and Nations” by Jonathan Swift; “The Lion” by Edgar Rice Burroughs

The Science Fiction Genre: “The Birthmark” by Nathaniel Hawthorne; “When I Grow Up” by Richard E. Lowe; The Good Neighbors” by Edgar Pangborn; “One Out of Ten” by J. Anthony Ferlaine; “Toy Shop “by Henry Maxwell Dempsey; “Earthmen Bearing Gifts” by Fredric Brown; “The Next Logical Step” (Edited) by Benjamin William Bova; “The Star” by H.G. Wells; The Time Machine by H. G. Wells; Anthem by Ayn Rand

The Detective and Mystery Genre: “The Redheaded League” by Arthur Conan Doyle; “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” by Arthur Conan Doyle

Miscellaneous: “Shooting an Elephant” by George Orwell


  1. Students will write about the literature or about topics suggested by the literature. Compositions will include one expository, one argument, and one narrative composition.

  2. Students will write three 2-page critical compositions on literature read.

  3. Students will write one research paper and oral report on any topic dealing with the Victorian period.


Student will learn words taken from the literature read.

Poetry and Memorization

Student will review poetics, including scansion and rhyme. Student will commit at least six poems to memory, memorizing a stanza of poetry every week:

  1. The First Spring Day by Christina Rossetti

  2. Pied Beauty by Gerard Manley Hopkins   

  3. Expostulation and Reply by William Wordsworth

  4. The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

  5. To Autumn by John Keats

  6. A Hymn to God the Father by John Donne

Grade Level of Course Material

The course is intended for upper middle school and high school students, depending on reading comprehension level of the student (grades 8-10).