English 149 - Summer Sessions I, 2018

Topics in Literature

    Topic: Superhero Comics & Narratives of Justice

Class Information

Instructor: Jerng, Mark
CRN: 51485
Time: TWR 10:00-11:40
Location: 229 Wellman


    “if the feeling of injustice is socially constructed, it also has the capacity to give rise to the critique of socially valid representations of justice” (Emmanuel Renault)

    “I don’t know what’s going on--But I do know who has the advantage--And no one can quite even the odds for the underdog--Like Bruce Banner, The Incredible Hulk” (Bruce Banner as he turns into the Incredible Hulk)

    Superhero comics are over-determined by their narrative drive toward justice. But is it a form of blind justice as when Bruce Banner admits “I don’t know what’s going on”? What counts as injustice and what is the appropriate response? From the mid-twentieth century on, superhero comics have shaped our visions of “socially valid representations of justice” and meditated on its limitations, its associated affects, and its social and political conditions. During that same time period, superhero comics reflect on shifting political and economic formations, including the Cold War, global anti-colonial politics, Civil Rights and anti-apartheid struggle, and the intensification of the prison-industrial complex and racial stratification. This course reads superhero comics alongside debates and thinkers in political philosophy and political economy in order to think about how we represent justice to ourselves, especially in relation to dynamics of difference, gender politics, economic circuits of property and circulation, and the shifting formations of criminality. Readings will be drawn primarily from the Marvel universe of superhero comics, but will draw on a few figures from DC comics as well.


    Short exercises
    Two papers
    Final Exam


    X-Men, Dark Phoenix Rising
    Wonder Woman (selected issues)
    Black Panther, Ta-Nehisi Coates
    Captain America, various authors
    Power Man & Iron Fist, Mary Jo Duffy
    Incredible Hulk, Stan Lee, Peter David, Greg Pak
    Monstress, Marjorie Liu