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ENGL 3246 Topics in Popular Culture: Fandom and the Digital Age


Christopher Haynes


Did you collect comics or cards as a kid? How about action figures or dolls? Did you live-tweet the most recent episode of Doctor Who or The Walking Dead? How about the most recent Marvel Studios summer blockbuster? If so, you’ve already participated in fandom, the social wing of popular culture. We love to collect and share stuff, whether it’s comics, books, mp3s, movies, hashtags, or YouTube videos. Ever asked yourself why? This course explores engagement with popular culture as an investment in bringing together the objects of the past and the technologies of the future. Fandom and popular culture in the 21st century reveal the ways that we create and distribute art across all sorts of media environments, as well as how we build social networks to talk about it, on a massive scale. This course combines reading/viewing the products of pop culture, close attention to the materials and media of their production and distribution, and critical inquiry into the communities that spread and sustain them. Along the way the course will train you to recognize relationships between popular art and the commercial forces that shape its reception. During the course we will attend 2 fundamental intellectual tasks: analysis and synthesis. Analysis means breaking things down into constituent parts, figuring out how they work. Synthesis is not less important, the process of building them back together into compelling and logical interpretations. You will perform both analysis and synthesis throughout the course, and you will carry them with you into your future academic and professional careers. We explore these fundamental tasks through practice in three skills: close reading, critical thinking, and analytical writing. Yes, all of these intellectual tasks and transferrable skills can be applied to Justin Bieber. I promise.


This course prepares students to…

  1. Access, analyze, and interpret art, literature, and other products of culture.
  2. Use networked digital media to build and engage communities of knowledge.
  3. Express critical thinking through clear analytical writing.

After successful completion of the course, participants will be able to:

  1. Identify and describe salient details of art, literature, and other products of culture.
  2. Synthesize meaningful relationships between details and express those syntheses in writing.
  3. Make interpretive claims about those relationships grounded in evidence and communicate those claims in writing.
  4. Thoughtfully reflect on specific experiences with art, its interpretation, and the media in which they encounter it.
  5. Access and evaluate various digital communication and composition tools.


  1. Kim Kardashian West – Selfish (ISBN: 978-0789329202)
  2. George R. R. Martin – Game of Thrones (ISBN: 978-0553593716)


Breakdown (subject to revision):

  1. Module I: Twitter Close Readings and Engagement – 30% (30 pts)
  2. Module II: Collaborative Reading – 30% (30 pts)
  3. Module III: 1-on-1 Essay Project – 30% (30 pts)



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