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Every few semesters, Weber State University offers students classes to analyze TV shows and novels. These classes are offered mainly to English major, but attract other undergraduate students as well.
“I every now and then will teach a class on television,” said Scott Rogers, who teaches a class on zombies. “A couple of years ago, I taught a class on ‘Firefly.’ Sometimes, what I am doing is approaching the class as if the entire season of the television show were a novel. With the class on ‘Firefly,’ we taught it as if it were one coherent narrative stretched from the first episode to the last. Other times, there will be a different agenda.”
This semester, the English department is offering two such analysis classes: Rogers’ class on zombies and a class about the “Harry Potter” series.
“I think if you’re going to do something like that (a class on ‘Firefly’), you should take Introduction to Fiction (instead) — like, the one we are doing in there actually does literature and goes more in depth than TV,” said Mikayla Bowers, a WSU sophomore. “There is a difference between literature and television. Television is a lot less creative, and they usually do it for the masses. It’s not for educational purposes; I watch television so I don’t have to think.”
The classes put an educational spin on stories some students love to watch, read or talk about with friends in their spare time.
“If you have a good instructor, you can take any topic and make it really interesting, and of course it is an added bonus if you are interested in the topic,” said Hal Crimmel, director of the Master of Arts program in the English department. “The ‘Harry Potter’ and zombie courses are very popular right now, and it would be interesting to learn a little bit more about why those topics are so interesting at this moment.”
Rogers said these classes offer many unique advantages that students usually don’t get from a standard English class or creative writing course.
“You are in a room with a whole bunch of people who just want to talk about what they have been assigned for that day,” he said. “There is a chance that they have already been talking about it for several hours, and maybe they spent the weekend talking about it. The way that I have done it in the past is this class counts as an English 3750, which is a variable topics class.”
The zombie class Rogers teaches skips the older history of zombies and looks at how representation of zombies has changed between 1968 and now. The big question for the course is why there is more of a fascination with zombies now.
“Taking a zombie or ‘Harry Potter’ class would be a great option for an English degree, or any other degree for that matter,” said Ashley Horstman, a WSU junior and psychology major. “Taking a class like this would create a fun environment for the students and would be a nice break from major coursework. Sometimes students get so focused in their majors and minors that they need a break from courses like those.”
The class on “Harry Potter” is new this semester, offered to undergraduate students and any other students who want to take it.
“The class is an opportunity we have never offered before, and it’s sort of a dream class for me to teach,” said Jennifer Mitchell, the WSU professor teaching the class. “I used ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ because it’s one of the perfect texts to play with literary theory.”