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Searching for the Otherworld: From History to Science Fiction

Level 1 (CQFW Level 4), 10 Credits.

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The search for Otherworlds and alternate realities is probably as old as culture itself. Humans have dreamed, written and travelled in search of these illusive places. Plato’s Atlantis is one famous example, and the search for this legendary utopia has prompted men and women to undertake real exploration.

The search continues today in the popular genre of ‘mystery’ archaeology in which ancient civilizations are re-discovered though eccentric theories. Many other cultures, from the Incas to the Polynesians have offered their own alternate world vision, while philosophy and literature, science fiction and film use the motif to express both hopes and fears about the nature of society.

This course will examine a variety of ‘Otherworlds’ such as Atlantis and Lemuria, the Celtic ‘Land under the waves’, the mysterious inner earth of Jules Verne and the lost world of Conan Doyle. We will also look at some strange science fiction worlds such as Perelandra and Bladerunner.

Course schedule

  1. The Search for Atlantis: The history and origin of the Atlantis myth
  2. Strange Denizens of the Otherworld: Travellers tales and what they tell us
  3. The Mayan Underworld will look in depth at an unusual concept of the otherworld in both archaeology, art and text
  4. Viking voyages to the New World and their effect in both archaeology and fiction
  5. Journeys to the Centre of the Earth: Mount Etna as entrance to the underworld and the visions of Jules Verne & Conan Doyle
  6. Library Visit: This session will take give students the opportunity to examine some of Cardiff University’s rare books in Scolar
  7. Starships to New Planets: Perelandra, Bladerunner and the Voyage to Arcturus
  8. The Search for Cathay: European discovery of the East
  9. Odysseys: classical and modern ‘quests’ from Homer to ‘Oh Brother Where art thou?’
  10. The Future isn’t what it used to be: The Myth of Utopia from Thomas More to Metropolis

Who is this course for?

Anyone with an interest in the topic. No previous knowledge of the subject is assumed.

Learning and Teaching

Learning and teaching are undertaken by means of small group work. This is a 10-credit course, so there will be two-hour meetings once a week (20 contact hours in all) which will include group discussion, exercises, source analysis and presentation of material on PowerPoint and DVD. The aim is ensure that the classes are enjoyable and stimulating for all. This will encourage the development of knowledge and understanding of the topics and ideas discussed in the course.

Coursework and Assessment

To award credits we need to have evidence of the knowledge and skills you have gained or improved. Some of this has to be in a form that can be shown to external examiners so that we can be absolutely sure that standards are met across all courses and subjects.

The most important element of assessment is that it should enhance your learning. Our methods are designed to increase your confidence and we try very hard to devise ways of assessing you that are enjoyable and suitable for adults with busy lives.

You will not have a formal examination but you will be asked to produce some written work (1500 words). This may include a set of short responses to questions (such as a questionnaire or quiz), a course journal, an oral presentation, or a more extended essay.

Reading suggestions

Selections from literary works, TV and film will be provided during the course on Learning Central and in the Senghennydd Library.

The resources listed below provide background and context for the topics that will be considered in the course.

Library and Computing Facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University library and computing facilities. You can find out more about these facilities on our website under Student Information, or by ringing the Centre on
(029) 2087 0000.

Accessibility of Courses

Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and Dyslexia screening. Please contact the Centre on (029) 2087 0000 for an information leaflet.

Further Information

A range of further information can be found on our web site or in Choices. This includes the times and dates of courses and an explanation of accreditation and credit levels.