A new class will be offered fall semester that takes a more modern approach to literature. Scott Rogers is reinventing the course English 3750: Television as Literature, where students will study the television show Firefly.
“The point is to demonstrate that we can apply the skills of literary analysis to the analysis of some television series,” Rogers said. “I’m not suggesting that we can or should do this to Jersey-licious, but we are living in the middle of a renaissance of television as an art form, and it seems ridiculous to ignore it.”
Rogers created the class in 2009 after hearing a presentation by Anne Jamison, a University of Utah English professor. She spoke about teaching a course on fan culture and television at a popular culture conference.
“She described how the students were amazingly interested and invested in the course because they were desperate to have their deep and abiding interest in these television shows vindicated,” Rogers said. “I had been writing and speaking about television for several years by then as a kind of side project from my main academic work, and it had simply never occurred to me to offer a course on the things I was treating as an academic hobby.”
This fall, students will study the television show Firefly, created by Joss Whedon in 2002. After 11 episodes aired, the show was cancelled and later released on DVD with 14 episodes. Whedon later released the movie Serenity in 2005, which starts up where the series left off.
Rogers said that he is excited to teach the class for the third time because many students realized they had simply never thought about looking at the television they were watching in a more critical way.
“I think that’s largely what college is about,” Rogers said. “We’re going to show you how to apply intellectual rigor to things you might not think worth it.”
Ross Morrill, a junior at WSU who took the TV literature course, echoed the sentiments that Rogers expressed about gaining access to new forms of literary art.
“I think that it extends the critical thinking that we learn in the English major to new parts of life,” Morrill said. “It teaches you to be critical even about things like television, which can often be very asinine.”
Morrill said that he loved the class because it gave him access to different literary forms that he was not used to studying. In the fall of 2010, the class studied the two television shows Dollhouse and Caprica.
“The shows that we studied had very modern ideas about existence and the nature of the mind, which I thought was very unique to study, as opposed to old literature that we normally study in literature classes,” Morrill said.
As soon as Morrill heard about the class from Rogers, he said he was on-board and excited for the opportunity.
“We are studying Firefly, which is a great show,” Morrill said. “If you like science fiction and westerns, imagine that meshed together . . . that’s Firefly.”
Eric Riddle, a senior at WSU, said he also heard about the class from Rogers and is excited to take television as literature for the first time.
“It is so appealing to me because I remember the emotion I had when I first watched Firefly, and it ended,” Riddle said. “I was sad knowing that there wasn’t anymore. So when I heard that there was a class about it from one of my favorite professors . . . I thought that this would be a great opportunity to learn a lot more.”
Another student who will be taking this class for the first time is Elizabeth Johnson, a junior at WSU. She said that she is excited to take this class for her English major requirements.
“I really enjoy the fact that there are different options for electives,” Johnson said. “I think it is really fun to experience literature in different ways . . . it keeps it fresh and exciting.”
Rogers said that the class will be offered Monday, Wednesday and Friday and is made for students all over the university. He said this class will be a great opportunity for both casual viewers and fans to talk seriously about their favorite show.
“Whether you have simply caught a few episodes of Firefly and liked it, watched all of Firefly and loved it, own the DVDs and watch them many times a year, own the DVDs and watch all the commentary, or if you own Browncoats T-shirts and follow Nathan Fillion on Twitter . . . this is the class for you,” Rogers said. “We’re going to get seriously nerdy about Firefly in fun and exciting ways.”