Featured Undergraduate Courses

Summer 2019

  AML 4930 Superhero Comics
Prof. Eric Berlatsky
TR 1:15 - 4:25

Conventional wisdom dates the birth of the superhero to 1938, with the publication of Action Comics #1, and the introduction of the character of Superman. In fact, the archetype of the superhero predates Superman in a variety of iterations. One can turn to mythic figures like Heracles and/or Gilgamesh, to historical figures like Napoleon Bonaparte, to the Byronic Hero in drama or fiction, to the early science-fiction heroes of Wells and Verne, or to characters with dual identities like Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde. Most predictive of superheroes, perhaps, were Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel, masked men like Johnson McCulley’s Zorro, and the less well-remembered folkloric Spring-Heeled Jack. Heroes of penny-dreadfuls, dime novels, and pulp magazines all contained heroes that we might retrospectively call superheroes (The Shadow, Tarzan, John Carter of Mars, Doc Savage, etc.). The idea of the “superman” even arises in serious philosophical and political discourse in the work of Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche and George Bernard Shaw, among others. Nevertheless, the appearance of Superman spawned an explosion of imitators, particularly in comics, but later in television, film, and prose, of characters with super powers, dual identities, and the strange propensity to wear their underwear on the outside of their clothes. Recently, superheroes have all but taken over the summer blockbusters released by the Hollywood movie-machine. This course will focus closely on the history and meaning of the medium in which the idea of superhero primary developed, comics, and explore a variety of related questions. What is the mass attraction of superheroes? Why are they so popular, particularly in America, and why have they had such staying power? How are they related to the Cold War and other “current events”? How are they, inexorably, “queer”? What kinds of ideological problems do they present? What are their gender and racial politics? What do they tell us about ourselves and our society? In what ways are they a symptom of modernity? What are the differences between legality, morality, and ethics? These issues and more will direct our discussion and our reading over the course of the semester. Though a class in superheroes should, by definition, be fun, it will also be rigorous. More than anything, we will attempt to determine what the significance of the superhero is in American and world culture. Readings will include many, if not all, of the following: Golden Age Superman and Wonder Woman comics, Silver Age Fantastic Four and Spider-Man comics, Bronze Age X-Men comics, graphic novels like Watchmen and/or Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, and Grant Morrison’s Animal Man,non big-two superheroes like Kurt Busiek’s Astro City and some contemporary diverse superhero comics like G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel, Greg Rucka’s Batwoman and/or the Miles Morales Ultimate Spider-Man.

ENC 6930 Rhetorics of the Body
Prof. Barclay Barrios
MW 4:45 - 7:55

Rhetorics of the Body explores the ways in which rhetorics, both discursive and material, shape our perceptions of and experiences in bodies, with a particular focus on how those rhetorics discipline, regulate, mediate, and police various normative and non-normative bodies.  Units will focus on particular body-objects around which rhetorics have clustered, including children’s bodies, women’s bodies, queer bodies, and disabled bodies.  Readings are heavily theoretical but grounded through rhetorical artifacts discovered by and analyzed through class.

ENG 3425 Greek and Roman Classics
Prof. John Leeds
MW 6:30-9:40 (Davie)

This course follows the progress of ancient Greek and Roman literature from the legendary, heroic world of Homer's Iliad to the frankly political world of the historians Thucydides and Livy.  Close attention will be paid to the founding of democracy in Greece (especially as represented in tragic drama) and to the violent conflict between social classes that destroyed democratic institutions at Rome.  And, as they were motivated by these political struggles, we will examine the transcendental speculations of Plato and the ethical philosophy of Cicero.