This book gives an outline of a course on worldbuilding, a discipline of constructing imaginary worlds. A world -- also known as a fantasy world or world of the imagination -- is a fictional place like Middle Earth, Oz, or Wonderland. Worldbuilding has recently become important in many media, including in games, fiction, film, and television.
Douglass Parker, a scholar known for his work on translation of classical drama, also had a lifelong love of books. Fascinated by the World of Oz in the 1930s, Science Fiction and Fantasy in the 1940s, and Tolkien in the 1950s, he eventually developed a Parageography course that focused on the design of imaginary worlds. `Introduction to Parageography' was offered at the University of Texas regularly for 25 years, from 1982 to 2007. The enrollments were large, and the reception by students was enthusiastic.
As the main project of the course, students were assigned the quest of building a world of their own. Parker was a jazz trombonist, and believed a way to learn about one's self is through challenges of creativity. (A quote of Thelonius Monk used in the course: "the cats I like ... are the cats who take chances".) Although creativity is not often a goal in university courses, it was in the Parageography course. He referred to it as 'a course in applied creativity'.
This is a PDF sourcebook, with bibliographies and links to resources related to worldbuilding. Designs of about 20 worlds were studied, using course readings that are included among the bibliographies. The worlds reached back into myth and folklore. Their timelessness and power is reflected by their effect on audiences: people are wholly drawn in, and become part of a journey and its challenges. Briefly: the course design combined a rigorous curriculum about this powerful medium with ideas on creativity and an extremely popular independent student project on worldbuilding.
A primary reason for writing this book was that the course gives a roadmap for new worldbuilding courses. The set of worlds used can be changed without difficulty; the same course design can work with a new set of worlds. In other words, the basic outline of the parageography course is also an outline for new courses.
This hyperbook (PDF ebook with hyperlinks that query web resources) has 3 parts:
Part 1: Overview of the course
Part 2: Course notes from 1982 (1st offering)
Part 3: Course notes from 1995.
The course notes consist mainly of outlines for each lecture, with just enough detail to lay out topics that were covered. The entire book is about 400 pages long.
Parker spent years designing the course to cover great worlds, make the subject fun, remove judgement, and put students in the role of creative designers. It became a very popular course at the University of Texas.
Attribution License: this PDF eBook is freely-downloadable with CC-BY license (free copying, distribution, display of the work & making derivative works provided you credit this work). It's enough to cite as: Douglass Parker, Parageography Worldbuilding Course, 2019 (douglassparker.org).
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