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Winter is coming ... and so is the course

game of thrones

Western students can explore the fantasy world of George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones filled with blood, sex and violence with one of the university’s most prolific and respected English literature scholars this fall.

As soon as John Leonard heard talk of a new Game of Thrones course being suggested in the Department of English and Writing Studies, he quickly emailed the chair to volunteer. Most would question why a renowned Miltonist would want to teach a course about the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. The reason: Leonard is a fan.

“My course is about the books – not about the TV show,” Leonard explained. “One word of warning for any prospective students taking the course: You are not going to be able to ‘wing it’ on the TV show. It doesn’t mean the TV show is off-limits – I like the TV show, too – but this is a literary course in which the TV show may come in tangentially. It is not a popular-culture course about the TV show.”

The course, ‘Winter is Coming’: A Game of Thrones, will be a serious study of the first four volumes of Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.

“My approach is not to ask the question, ‘Why are millions of people watching this show or reading these books?’ My approach is, ‘What is it in these books that makes them of interest to us as students of literature?’” Leonard said. “One of the reasons I initially volunteered for this course is I was thinking of my 19-year-old self. My favourite book was The Lord of the Rings and then I discovered Paradise Lost. I’ve never looked back since.

“I look back on The Lord of the Rings with affection, as a work that brought me to other even more valuable and important things. One of the angles I want to take with this course is to be a gateway (to other works).”

This article appeared in the Fall 2016 edition of Alumni Gazette
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