Washington, Sept 28 : Comic characters Donald Duck, Wonder Woman, Batman are set to enter the academic curriculum of Dalhousie University next year.
The University is set to introduce a new course Comics and Cartoons that will trace the history of cartoons and comics, from 18th- and 19th-century political propaganda to the golden age of Marvel and DC.
"The department was looking for this kind of a course for a while, since before I came here," said Anthony Enns, cultural theorist and Dalhousie professor.
"There are many different ways to teach (this course)," said Prof. Enns.
"One obvious (way) would be to take a strict literary approach-read more highbrow comic books and make an argument for comic books as literature... If you were going to teach the course that way, I think you would probably not bother to teach superheroes. I think that would be a mistake,"
"So much of graphic material is made up of the superhero genre. It would be wrong to just ignore it," he added.
Talking about the teaching pattern he said, "I was thinking I was going to do a unit on Wonder Woman. Is Wonder Woman a strong feminist figure, or is she a kind of a sex kitten? ... (William Moulton) Marston, the creator, was really into S and M, he loved being tied up ... there's some aspect of sexual titillation to the Wonder Woman character."
"For Batman, I'm going to do homosexuality ... There are some articles championing Batman as a sort of queer hero."
"(Frank) Miller's Dark Knight Returns turns Robin into a woman... (Miller) really tries to avoid the whole Batman/Robin relationship."
A possible unit on Donald Duck will present the imperialist ideology.
Prof. Enns is also well-versed in more traditionally highbrow graphic novels, such as Art Spiegelman's Pulitzer-winner Maus, a Holocaust fable told, like Orwell's Animal Farm, through the use of animals-as-people.
"I'm going to look at it through this question of racial representation. The choice to represent Jews as mice and Nazis as cats... It's offensive, but in an intentional way... it's impossible to accuse Maus of being Nazi propaganda. That's silly... but (Art Spiegelman) is definitely playing on the history of Nazi propaganda."
Enns hopes the course will be accessible to all students.
"It's going to be less English-oriented... It's really going to be more like sociology or anthropology. Cultural studies ask the question of 'what do comic books reveal about the culture that produced them?' That answer is different for every single comic," he said.