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


Christopher Haynes
Email: christopher.haynes@colorado.edu


How can what you love (what you watch, what you read, what you share) make the world a better place?

This is the guiding question of “Topics in Popular Culture: Fandom in the Digital Age.” In an increasingly media-saturated world, being able to confidently negotiate media environments, critically interrogate the products of culture, and participate in meaningful and rational conversation are vitally important skills. Through its attention to popular art and cultural expression, and the use of outward-facing platforms like Twitter and Google, this course fuses the “real” and the “academic,” inviting students to draw what they love into meaningful encounter with what they study. 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 the political and commercial forces that shape its reception. During the course we will attend to two 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.


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


  1. Kim Kardashian West – Selfish(ISBN: 978-0789329202)
  2. Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist(selections provided on Canvas in PDF)
  3. Beyoncé – Lemonade (2016 visual album)
  4. Selected Beyoncé videos: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLZkbMFuUeoh7y6_YZ0EqVn92ZGfoIvylR
  5. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly(2015 album)
  6. Selected Kendrick Lamar videos: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLZkbMFuUeoh4y_Uat2DHxYcykJ6Ff1CdL
  7. G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona – Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal(ISBN: 978-0785190219)
  8. “Nosedive” (Black Mirrorseries 3 episode 1) Note: available to stream on Netflix – if you don’t have Netflix, you can use a free trial to access. Remember to cancel afterwards!
  9. If you can’t access the full episode, please refer to this playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLZkbMFuUeoh4CZg-XeOIlGUJIamww2CNC


    1. Slack Weekly Engagement and Self-Assessment: 70 pts (10 pts/wk + definitions essays)
      • First Week and Final Week Definitions Posts: 20 pts (10 pts/post)
      • Weekly Engagement and Self-Assessment: 50 pts (10 pts/wk)
    2. Making Fandom Project: 20 pts
    3. Activities Bundle: 10 pts total (breakdown below)
      • Introduction Reflection Video and Post, Responses (5 pts)
      • Closing Reflection Video and Post, Responses (5 pts)


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