The Meaning of Star Wars

The Meaning of Star Wars

This May the Fourth, join Dr. Amy H. Sturgis as she explores Star Wars from its inception through its many reinventions and innovations to find its true meaning(s).

START:
DURATION: 12 weeks
ID: LITB 5310
CREDIT: 3

Disclaimer: The information on this page is provided as an overview. The course outline, readings, and assignments may be subject to change in the final syllabus as determined by the lecturer and/or preceptors.

INSTRUCTORS:

Amy H. Sturgis
Visiting Lecturer
Dr. Sara Brown
Sara Brown
Language and Literature Department Chair; M.A. Thesis Coordinator; Lecturer; Preceptor

As the Star Wars franchise thrives in its fifth decade, speaking to audiences across the globe and generations, we should consider the causes of its impressive longevity and ongoing relevance. What makes Star Wars the phenomenon that it is? How has multimedia Star Wars storytelling – through movies, television series, novels, comics, games, audio dramas, toys, and theme park attractions –consistently reflected its influences and reinforced its themes?

Dr. Amy H. Sturgis invites you to join her in exploring Star Wars from its inception through its many reinventions and innovations to find its true meaning(s). In so doing, this class will trace the development of Star Wars and investigate its big ideas, such as the cycles of history, the corruption of power, the effects of colonialism and imperialism, the nature of balance, and the promise of redemption, as well as the difference between selfless love and selfish attachment and the tension between free will and destiny. We will also consider the relationship between the inspired auteur, the collaborative artistic community, and participatory fandom and transformative works, as well as analyze the reasons why Star Wars is considered to be an example of modern mythmaking. Join us as we discuss Star Wars as a commentary on and conversation about history, human nature, spirituality, heroism, and the lasting impact of stories.

SPECIAL NOTE: A live class meeting is currently scheduled for this semester with Rebecca Roanhorse, two-time Star Wars author, winner of the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and John W. Campbell Awards, and nominee for the World Fantasy and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Awards. 

Course Schedule

This course includes two live 90-minute lectures per week with one 60-minute discussion session as assigned.

Week 1: “You’ve taken your first step into a larger world.” OR Why talk about Star Wars and its meaning(s)?

Week 2: “What is there?” “Only what you take with you.”

  • Required viewing: Star Wars Episodes IV-V (A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back)
  • Required reading: How Star Wars Conquered the Universe by Chris Taylor (Introduction-Chapter 15)

Week 3: “Tell your sister you were right.”

  • Required viewing: Star Wars Episode VI (Return of the Jedi)
  • Required reading: How Star Wars Conquered the Universe by Chris Taylor (Chapters 16-Conclusion)
  • Suggested viewing: Empire of Dreams: The Story of the Star Wars Trilogy documentary (available on Disney+ and on YouTube)

Week 4: “Don’t look back.”

  • Required viewing: Star Wars Episodes I-II (The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones)
  • Required reading: The Star Wars Heresies by Paul F. McDonald (Introduction-Chapter 18)

Week 5: “So this is how liberty dies: with thunderous applause.”

  • Required viewing: Star Wars Episode III (Revenge of the Sith)
  • Required reading: The Star Wars Heresies by Paul F. McDonald (Chapter 19-Afterword)

Week 6: “The greatest teacher, failure is.”

  • Required viewing: Star Wars Episodes VII-VIII (The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi)

Week 7: “A choice to be better” featuring a live discussion/Q&A with Rebecca Roanhorse

  • Required reading:
    • “Postcards from the Apocalypse” by Rebecca Roanhorse
    • Resistance Reborn by Rebecca Roanhorse

Week 8: “That is Star Wars for *you*.”

  • Required reading: “Magic Lamp” by Marnie
  • Required viewing:
    • Looking for Leia Episode 2: “The Stories We Tell”
    • Troops

Week 9: “We are all Luke Skywalker.”

  • Required viewing: Star Wars Episode IX (The Rise of Skywalker)
  • Suggested Reading: The Legends of Luke Skywalker by Ken Liu
  • Suggested Listening: Two What the Force? Podcast Interviews of Ken Liu, author of The Legends of Luke Skywalker

Week 10 (July 6 and 9): “Rebellions are built on hope.”

  • Required viewing:
    • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
    •  Solo: A Star Wars Story

Week 11: “This is the Way.”

  • Required viewing:
    • Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 3, Episodes 15-17 (“Overlords,” “Altar of Mortis,” and “Ghosts of Mortis”)
    • Star Wars: Rebels Season 4 Episodes 13-14 (“Wolves and a Door” and “A World between Worlds”)
    • The Mandalorian Season 1 Episodes 1-3 (“The Mandalorian,” “The Child,” and “The Sin”)
  • Suggested viewing:
    • Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 6, Episodes 11-13 (“Voices,” “Destiny,” and “Sacrifice”)
    • Star Wars: Rebels Season 3 Episode 20 (“Twin Suns”)

Week 12: “It’s true. All of it.”

Required Texts

Required Viewing (Disney+ subscription recommended)

  • Star Wars Episodes I-IX
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story
  • Select episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars: Rebels, and Star Wars: The Mandalorian

Required reading:

Further required and suggested readings/viewings will be provided by the course instructors in the final syllabus.

Notes: Students are invited to watch whichever editions of the films they prefer. The class will discuss the differences between the versions but there is no required edition. Additional required and recommended short texts for reading/viewing/listening will be noted in the weekly schedule.

Course History

This course has been offered in the following semesters.

The Meaning of Star Wars
SemesterPreceptor(s)
Summer 2020Jessica O’Brien & Dr. Sara Brown