ENG10180 Comics and Fantasy

Academic Year 2023/2024

Friedrich Nietzsche infamously declared that God is dead. Later, Carl Jung diagnosed the distinctive illness of the twentieth century as that of a godless age in search of meaning. The twentieth century witnessed a rejection of old, official myths (God, the immortal soul, the nation state, etc.), which are supplanted by new ones that first emerge in so-called low, popular culture. Fantasy texts address various crises of meaning, by providing readers and audiences with new myths, new gods. This course will explore the connections between fantasy, popular media and crises in the conception of the modern self, as mapped through events such as WWII, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, the triumph of late capitalism, and present-day fundamentalist terrorism. Sigmund Freud asserts that fantasy fulfills unconscious wishes, or 'lacks'. What do our enduring popular myths of roughly the last 100 years reveal about us, individually and collectively? Why are characters like Aslan, Superman, Batman and Bilbo Baggins such enduring figures of the modern imagination, easily translating from medium to medium (cheap paperbacks and comics, to film and TV)? Do they represent a hunger for old authority? Or, could they be archetypes of new humanist liberation? The course will address these questions and others through analysis of a selection of key comics and fantasy texts, including the following:

J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit; Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns and Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli's Batman: Year One; C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's The Avengers; Jim Starlin's The Infinity Gauntlet; Chris Claremont and John Byrne's Uncanny X-Men; Alan Moore's Watchmen; Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's All-Star Superman; Ann Nocenti's Daredevil; Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea; J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets; George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones; Neil Gaiman's American Gods.

Note, prescribed texts are subject to change.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this module, students will be able to:

Outline major developments and trends in popular fantasy texts from the 1930s to the present

Describe various significant features of a series of canonical modern fantasy texts

Explain how the set texts respond to various contemporary cultural crises

Compare different treatments of key themes, such as agency, morality and meaning, across a range of texts

Construct a creative and analytical response to major questions raised in the module in one of a range of formats

Indicative Module Content:

The nature and function of myth

The concept of new myths

The twentieth century crisis of meaning

The interrelation of fantasy and mythology

The origin and construction of the modern myth of the superhero

The function of superpowers, mutations, and human flaws in superhero comics

Transmediation of superhero comics and fantasy novels to film and TV

The growing mainstream popularity of the formerly marginal genres of superheroes and fantasy fiction

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
The two hour-hour class is divided into a one-hour lecture followed by one hour of Q&A and discussion. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered
Assignment: Choose one of three assignment formats: 1) academic essay of 2000 words; 2) poster or comic strip presentation A3 size with 1000 word script; 3) multimedia presentation of 10 mins Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded No



Carry forward of passed components
Remediation Type Remediation Timing
Repeat Within Two Trimesters
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Students can request to view their graded final assignment after results have been published.