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Jul 26 2017
by Avery Lumeng

8 Colleges Where You Can Take a Class on Superheroes

By Avery Lumeng - Jul 26 2017

Whether you prefer comic books, movies, television or music, one thing is clear: we are living in an age of superhero entertainment. Ever since Superman's creation in the 1930's to provide hope during the Great Depression, consumers have used super-heroics as a form of escapism, as well as a means of fantastical self-reflection. This has led to a surprisingly expansive academic field of study of superheroism. Here are just some of the colleges and universities where you can take a course on superheroes (and perhaps even learn to work out like one). 

1. University of Washington

At the University of Washington, students can take a 200-level English course on "Superheroes." After teaching a course on science fiction and fantasy novels, English Professor Tom Foster realized how the development of themes of evolution in science fiction was similar to how historical events impact comic books. Foster's class examines different superheroes and how current events impacted their storylines and genesis, from the emphasis on Superman's immigrant origin in the 1930's in response to Nazism to the rise of African American superheroes in the 1990s in response to racial tensions. 

2. University of Baltimore

While other courses focus on comic books, the University of Baltimore hosts a course focusing on comic movies: specifically, the Marvel Universe, in "Media Genres: Media Marvels." The class examines traditional storytelling structures of hero stories and how those translate to modern superhero movies, and why Marvel films have experienced such success.

3. University of California-Irvine

Since 2012, students at UC-Irvine have learned how superheroes can go up, up and away in "Science: from Superheroes to Global Warming." In the physics course, students learn how to apply principles of mechanics and motion to the logic of superheroes. Even better, there's good news for those of us who love superheroes but don't go to UC-Irvine: the syllabus and all the course material is available online through UCI Open!

4. University of California-Davis

UC-Irvine isn't the only California school where you can learn about the science of superheroes. At UC-Davis, freshman engineering students can take "Materials Marvels: The Science of Superheroes." As technology advances, fantastical inventions are becoming reality. In the class, instructor Ricardo Castro urges his students to consider real-life applications of technologies like the Iron Man suit in order to introduce basic engineering concepts.

5. Hendrix College

Colleges don't just offer courses on superheroes as a genre; some colleges focus in on specific superheroes. Hendrix College in Arkansas offered a psychology course plainly titled "Batman." Beyond the course content, the class also became a place where students said they felt the most self-confident. "There's nothing too nerdy to say in a class called Batman," Professor Travis Langley told Hendrix College News. The class may be over, but Dr. Langley's interest in Batman's psychology isn't. He has published "Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight," currently available on Amazon.

6. University of Victoria

Another college, the University of Victoria in British Columbia, offers a Batman course, but of a slightly different ilk. There, students in the education department can take "The Science of Batman," a physical education class focused around the athleticism of Batman. Maybe that can motivate students to lose the Freshman 15 once and for all.

7. University of Iowa

Batman isn't the only superhero who is special enough to get his own class. At the University of Iowa, professor Anna Barker teaches "Wonder Woman Unleashed: A Hero for Our Times," an honors class examining mythological, historical and comic-book women. Students read everything from Sophocles' Medea to Gloria Steinem articles to the Wonder Woman comics themselves.

8. Rice University

Rice University is the unrivaled superhero of, well, superhero courses, offering two different courses on different superheroes. In the 2013-14 school year, the school offered "Introduction to Superman," a seminar analyzing Superman's universe and its importance to our own world. Playing out Batman v. Superman in the form of college courses, Rice also offered a seminar entitled "Intro to Batman," which was about examining the history and evolution of Batman, from the goofiness of early iterations to the dark seriousness of Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight."

Many people regard comic books and superheroes as childish fantasies which haven't earned a place in the real world. However, superheroes exist to inform our understanding of ourselves and our society's history. The study of superheroism isn't just the study of fantasy and science fiction — it's the study of humanity itself. 

Lead Image Credit: ralpoonvast via Pixabay

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Avery Lumeng - Wellesley College

Avery is a politics junkie and statistics nerd from Ann Arbor, MI. She is attending Wellesley College as a member of the class of 2021 in the fall, majoring in political science and minoring in mathematics. // Twitter: @avery_lumeng // Instagram: @averylumeng

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