Summer Abroad UK - Instructor

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Oxford — Portal to Fantasy 

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Amy Clarke

University Writing Program

Amy Clarke is a continuing lecturer with far too many years of teaching experience. After getting a Ph.D. at UC Davis, she taught at St. Mary’s College of Moraga and Sierra College, before returning to the University Writing Program. For the UWP she specializes in scientific writing and writing in the health professions, but she has also taught courses in writing in history, education, and advanced college composition. As much as she loves to teach writing, she loves to teach literature even more. She taught the English department’s science fiction course for a number of years and more recently has given seminars on the Harry Potter and Twilight phenomena, examining in particular the massive popular appeal of these series. She has published books on Ursula K. Le Guin and on the Twilight phenomenon and has been featured on NBC News and NPR, as well as in The Washington Post and The Christian Science Monitor. Amy was honored to win the 2014 Academic Federation Excellence in Teaching Award, thanks in no small part to letters of support from Oxford: Portal to Fantasy alumni. 

A Message to Students and Parents

My parents planted the travel seed in my brothers and me early on, taking our family from one end of North America to the other, but they also taught us the value of connecting to place. So my own travels have always involved going somewhere new but staying as long as possible, really getting to know it. As a starry-eyed UC Berkeley literature major, I set out to see with my own eyes the places I had read about—Paris, London, Dublin, Florence—and to study Spanish in one of the coolest places on the planet, Salamanca, Spain. While I was in graduate school, wanting a more extended version of the “abroad experience,” I took a teaching position at the University of Bordeaux for a year. There I learned one of those mixed lessons: it’s hard to be a foreigner but wonderful to extend in new directions. Knowing the value of such experiences, I’ve taken my own kids traveling (as members of the McGregor clan they loved Scotland most), and I’ve served on the UC Davis Study Abroad committee. Now I am delighted to be able to offer Oxford—Portal to Fantasy, a course on some of the great fantasy writers of our times, set in the town that inspired them. I had several goals in mind when I designed this class. I wanted students to experience one of the world’s oldest universities in an immersive fashion, staying long enough to feel they belong there. At the same time, I wanted a venue that would allow us to explore the dual phenomena of writers being inspired by place and of readers making pilgrimages to those places. What is behind the impulse to do more with a story than simply read it? On a larger scale, I am most fascinated by the way that the Narnia books, the Lord of the Rings, and the Harry Potter series have created a truly world-wide sense of shared experience, a global cultural commons. What is it about our times that we so embrace fantasy literature? Oxford is the perfect place to find out!