Posted by: Doc Comics | August 22, 2013

UNT’s fall 2013 Mythic Rhetoric of Superheroes

The MYTHIC RHETORIC OF SUPERHEROES class is returning this fall 2013! Offered in UNT’s Department of Communication Studies as a COM 4849 Special Topics in Rhetoric course, open to undergrads or grads of all majors at UNT or TWU in Denton TX, seats will fill fast so register here! The class meets Mon&Wed 3:30-5pm. Be sure to tell your superfriends by sharing this blog on Facebook, they’ll be glad you did!


But some might wonder: “Why superheroes?”  Sure, thanks to the moral panic that triggered The Comics Code, comic books are widely perceived to be kid stuff funny books but this in no way diminishes their ideological power.  At their best (and even worst), superheroes offer profound meditations on virtuous power, ethical dilemmas, contemporary anxieties, political hubris, and utopian possibility amidst cynical despair (and, in the case of Civil War, the real world implications are provocative).  Indeed, these are the philosophical functions of creative imagination and, thus, superheroes can function as Socratic invitations for popular audiences to contemplate enduring existential issues. The mythic rhetoric of these superhero fantasies can therefore spark reflective deliberation and dialogue over perspectives, presumptions, values, policies, and potential consequences of our ideological commitments.   In fact, this class begins with how themes of raceclass, and gender or sexuality are entangled within the politics of representation (whether intended or unconscious) that implicates all popular culture.

The more I examine the mythic rhetoric of superheroes, the more I am amazed at how many contemporary issues and theoretical conundrums occupying scholarly inquiry are also being addressed or “worked through” at the level of the popular imaginary.  Indeed, while the eyes of John or Joan Q. Public might glaze over when debating the intricacies and ethical implications of Nietzsche, Heidegger, Hobbes, Locke, Constitutional Republicanism, or the ‘unitary executive’ premise of Bush Doctrine, most folks become very engaged when you put these same ideas in masks and capes to have them slug it out!  Despite the recurring oversimplifications of critics dealing in sterotypical generalizations, superheroes reflect and inspire because they are projections of both the worst and best in human impulses. These modern myths don’t simply invite us to interrogate their meanings, they demand it. But sign up for the course to see what you think!

You can pick-up your class comics readings at More Fun Comics & Games on the Denton Square with a sweet discount when you bring in your course syllabus!


  1. i really wish there was a MOOC of this, or if it were on iTunesU….

    • MOOCs are still emerging as a viable format, but you can follow along here on the blog, follow the links, and participate with your own observations in comments!

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