In a Galaxy (Not) So Far, Far Away: Star Wars at 40

"A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away …" On May 25, 1977, these ten words introduced to the American public what would become a popular culture juggernaut. At least, so it would seem. However, the text of Star Wars began to spur the public imagination before the film hit theaters, as the first film's novelization was published in November 1976, trailers teased the story and its larger implications as early as the 1976 Holiday season, and Marvel issued Star Wars comics a few weeks before the film was eventually released (a decision that saved the now-iconic comics publisher from bankruptcy). For the current generation of movie enthusiasts, this merchandizing extravaganza may not appear unusual, maybe even somewhat tame, but in 1976/1977, this approach to the commodification of film (along with the chance 'discovery' of the summer blockbuster in 1975 when a particular shark movie set box office records) launched the Hollywood blockbuster phenomenon. Despite (or maybe 'because of') becoming one of the biggest success stories in entertainment history, Star Wars never lost its cultish roots, as fans have been latching on to the space saga.

On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Star Wars' original cinematic release, this undergraduate seminar will explore this gigantic transmedia empire. In the course of the semester, we will query the ways in which the little film called Star Wars not only caused shock waves in Hollywood, but also became the very thing it swore to destroy (well … maybe not quite, but which it definitely tried to undermine with its independent roots). On our journey, we will discuss topics such as the paratextual beginnings of texts, the politics of Star Wars, and fan culture.

By the end of the semester, you will understand the intricate interconnections between Star Wars, the mediascape surrounding the movie franchise, and American culture. In this seminar, you will fine-tune your ability to 'read' and understand movies and popular culture at large. In particular, you will become attuned to discourses on the contemporary mediascape, in which transmedia storytelling has become virtually omnipresent and the dividing lines between 'producers' and 'consumers' have practically disappeared.

Syllabus

Sample Student Feedback:

"Thanks [...] for the great seminar! I really enjoyed working [on] the topic and working with you."

"Thank you [...] for the great show you put on for us during this semester!"

"I would like to thank you both very much for organizing and leading this amazing course—I went in expecting to learn a lot about Star Wars (and I did), but I was also able to deepen my knowledge of fantasy, science fiction, popular culture, and all the awesome topics orbiting these admittedly very big fields."

"The instructors made their best efforts to offer an interesting, varied, and extensive program—which they clearly succeeded in. The use of various media and the level of interactivity in every single class were simply astounding. Clearly, the instructors invested a lot of time and effort into preparing the course, which you could see (and feel). On top, they were always available and ready to help when needed."