Graduate Liberal Studies Program

Course Description

GLS 592: Star Wars: A Complete Saga?

Instructor: Mika Elovaara

A Light Saber Battle

"Star Wars is the quintessential American mythology, an American take on King Arthur, Tolkien, and the samurai / wuxia epics of the East, dressed in the space-opera trappings of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon and festooned with a variety of nostalgic Hollywood influences - serial-adventure swashbuckling, WWII movie dogfights, movie-Nazi villains, saloon shootouts. … [It] is pop mythology - a "McMyth," as a recent critical article put it - but in our McCulture even a McMyth can be vastly preferable to no myth at all, and certainly to other, less wholesome mythologies. Even for those who generally prefer more traditional fare, there is still much to enjoy and appreciate in these half-baked, stunningly mounted fantasies of good and evil in a galaxy far, far away."
- Steven D. Greydanus-

Considering the immense success the Star Wars trilogies have enjoyed worldwide, it might be surprising that the original plan for the extent of the Star Wars saga is, in fact, arguable. Even the creator of the saga himself, George Lucas, has reportedly made contradicting statements regarding his original plans. Some believe that when Lucas made episode IV: A New Hope in 1977, he only intended to make one film, but its success gave him inspiration to come up with a saga of at least six films. Others claim that he started with episode IV because that was the most feasible out of the six films he had planned. Whatever the case, the episodes in the first trilogy (episodes IV - VI) became cult material in an instant and they are still among the most popular films ever. Approximately 20 years from the release of A New Hope, Lucas thought the time was right for him to proceed with making three more Star Wars films - the first three episodes. As the films, which were chronologically set before the first three films, went into production, the term "prequel" became common global vocabulary. The result, some ten years later, is that there are now six Star Wars films (episodes I - VI), an animated film and TV series (The Clone Wars), and a plethora of literature (the Expanded Universe) supplementing the films - all part of the Star Wars saga.

While some fans probably consider that everything regarding the "galaxy far, far away…" is part of the saga, a lot of people still probably think that only the films count as the "true" episodes. Whichever your personal view, this course will provide you with more materials to base your opinion on.

Modified to suit an online learning environment and the brief and intensive schedule of summer school, this course focuses on examining Star Wars as a mythological saga as well as a cultural phenomenon. Keeping the course title in mind, we will read literature that supplements the events of the films and even continues the story beyond episode VI, The Return of the Jedi, and consider whether there is need or room for another Star Wars film. We will also consider if the "prequels" completed the saga in such a way that someone who has never seen any of the films, could, in fact, sit down and watch the films in the chronological order of the Star Wars universe (from episode I, The Phantom Menace, to episode VI, The Return of the Jedi), instead of watching them in the chronological order of the releases (IV - VI first, then I - III). Finally, we will also consider our course title from the viewpoint of cultural studies, studying various materials discussing and analyzing Star Wars and its legacy to film-making, the entertainment industry, and contemporary global culture.

The course materials will include works of fiction as well as critical and analytical readings and footage. It is not a prerequisite to be familiar with Star Wars when enrolling in the course; watching episodes I - VI will be expected as part of homework during the early part of the course. The class structure is based on extensive viewing and reading, discussions of assigned materials and relevant writing assignments.

This is the first time this class will be taught online. Developing online courses is consistent with the university's goal to remain up to date in contemporary pedagogical progress and to make higher education available to a wide student population. While the online environment will obviously make our class interaction different from the traditional on-campus classes, it is imperative that the students understand that consistent and continuous interaction is still at the heart of successful class dynamics regardless of the possible learning environment and medium.

In addition, completing the course successfully requires being able to use the internet throughout the semester and owning a webcam, speakers, and a microphone to interact with the instructor and your fellow students.

The course starts on ... , when the course syllabus and the first learning module for the class will be available for the students through Blackboard. Prior to starting the class, the students are strongly encouraged to familiarize themselves with Blackboard through tutorials or with the helpful staff at UNCW ITSD and TAC.

Tentative reading list:

  • Brooker Will: Using the Force: Creativity, Community, and Star Wars Fans
  • Henderson Mary: Star Wars: The Magic of Myth
  • Kapell, Matthew & Lawrence, John: Finding the Force of the Star Wars Franchise: Fans, Merchandise, and Critics
  • Perry, Steve: Shadows of the Empire
  • Rusch Kristine: The New Rebellion

Last Update: February 17, 2012