Sarah Wingo, Humanities II team leader and subject librarian for English, literature and theatre, taught an eight week honors course last semester. Her course, “Superheroes as Modern Mythology,” looked at comic books and their heroes as modern mythology. Wingo focused on the DC and Marvel comic books and movie franchises and also explored fan culture, history and other topics related to comic books.
When asked how a librarian with her background in Shakespeare and other early modern English playwrights became interested in pop culture comic book superheroes, Wingo answered, “[O]ne of the things that always fascinated me about Shakespeare … is that during his time Shakespeare wasn’t seen as the highbrow cultural icon that he is today. Shakespeare’s plays were a form of popular entertainment. … I’m interested in popular culture and popular entertainment, whether it be in Elizabethan England or 2015. I’m interested in what it says about us as a society and how we engage with it as a society.
Wingo went on to explain that she had watched the Batman, Spiderman and X-Men series in the 1980s and ‘90s and more recently her partner, who is interested in comic books and related media, has stimulated her interest in comic books and superheroes. She said, “It is easy to dismiss comic books and superheroes as childish, but just like Shakespeare they are responding to their times and dealing with cultural and societal themes that are important to the society in which they are created.”
As a finale to the course, Wingo invited Kallie Stahl, a graduate assistant to Falvey’s Scholarly Outreach team, to give a presentation on her current research on fandom. Fandom, according to Stahl and the “Urban Dictionary,” consists of a “community that surrounds a TV show/movie/book, etc.” The community may include message boards, online groups and other forms of communication.
Stahl is a second year graduate student, working on a master’s degree in communication. Her interests are popular culture, new media and cultural studies. Her research on fandom focuses on “Castle,” a popular television program.