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Editorial: Volume 3, Issue 1

In early 2011, the Southwest Popular/American Culture Association (SWPACA) Executive Team began discussions regarding a journal, which would serve as an outgrowth of the organization. We wanted to make more widely available some of the excellent scholarship that we were seeing on an annual basis at our February conference, as well as provide a venue for popular culture scholars outside of the SWPACA membership. At the same time, we knew that we needed to set ourselves apart from other publications focusing on popular culture studies; the result was a focus on pedagogy as well as popular culture, as indicated in the journal’s title.

Simultaneous to these discussions, two areas within the SWPACA organization began to gain momentum—Popular Culture and the Classroom, and Pedagogies and the Profession—eventually combining to become Pedagogy and Popular Culture area, which has continued to thrive, becoming one of the largest areas at the annual meeting. To celebrate this momentum, in 2013 the organization established the Popular Culture Pedagogy award, which honors the organization’s late Executive Director, Phil Heldrich, a writer/professor with a passion for teaching. The award is presented each year for a graduate student paper which addresses an issue in the application of a new, engaging, popular culture teaching strategy in a specific area of popular or American culture

The result of this growing interest is Dialogue’s Volume 3, Issue 1, Popular Culture Pedagogy: Theory and Application in Academia. This issue features several different approaches to the role of popular culture in the classroom, including case studies, curriculum development, applications, and reviews. The pieces variously incorporate research, theory, and best practices, ranging from classroom-ready exercises to reflections on the ever-increasing use of popular culture in secondary and higher education.

The article section of this issue includes a sociocultural and socio-constructivist examination of learning, and by extension teaching, in Orange is the New Black, The Walking Dead, Megamind, Sherlock, Exit Through the Giftshop, and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone; three autoethnographic assignment reflections which demonstrate the utility of popular culture artifacts as a tool for teaching and learning writing; and two discussions of using music to teach sociological theory and media literacy. The applications section focuses on Harry Potter in higher education and the role of Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Walking Dead, and King of the Hill in an educational psychology course.

We conclude the issue with our reviews, featuring a retrospective of the pedagogy panels at the 2015 Southwest Popular/American Culture Association conference, a discussion of the current state of online pedagogy, and a comparative analysis of adaptations of Much Ado about Nothing.  

With this first special issue on popular culture and pedagogy, we bring together insights into classroom practices in academia, providing a peek into the ways in which learning and teaching can be enhanced. We look forward to the continued expansion and discussion of the multifaceted ways in which education and popular culture interrelate.


Lynnea Chapman King
Editor in Chief


Anna CohenMiller
Managing Editor

“καλὸν ἀνθρωπίνου βίου κάτοπτρον”: Popular Culture as a Pedagogical Lens on Greco-Roman Antiquity (Essays in honor of Kirsten Day)

Kirsten Day and Benjamin Haller

The contributors would like to dedicate this volume to Associate Professor Kirsten Day of Augustana College. Kirsten’s outstanding research and often-unheralded labors have made the Classical Representations in Popular Culture area of the Southwest Popular/American Culture Association (SWPACA) a vital force for scholarship and teaching in the field of Classics.

Under Day’s leadership, the Classical Representations in Popular Culture area at SWPACA became a veritable symposium of ideas, sparking collaborations that pushed the scholarly conversation in new directions. We, her fellow contributors, wish to take this opportunity to express our tremendous respect and gratitude.

Diu verba et facta sapientium benignarumque vivent postquam corpora nostra pulvis et umbra inanis fient.
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Wounds That Will Not Heal: Heroism and Innocence in Shane and the Iliad

Carl A. Rubino
Hamilton College
Clinton, New York, USA



George Stevens’ film Shane, which dates from 1953, remains an especially successful version of the heroic paradigm that is established in Homer’s Iliad. Just as Achilles, the hero of Homer’s poem, considers abandoning the war at Troy in favor of a long and uneventful life at home, the film’s mysterious hero makes a futile attempt to abandon his violent past for a “normal life” as an ordinary farmer in the American west. In the end, however, the threatened status of the domestic world Shane is trying to enter makes it impossible for him to renounce his heroic nature and violent past.  Because he wishes to save his newfound friends, Shane, like Achilles, is compelled to become a hero once again. As a result, once Shane succeeds in rescuing his friends from danger, he is compelled to leave the community he yearned to join and for whose sake he risked his life.

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O Homer, Where Art Thou?: Teaching the Iliad and the Odyssey through Popular Culture

Mallory Young
Tarleton State University
Stephenville, Texas, USA



Like so many of my academic colleagues, I spend an inordinate amount of time lamenting our students’ lack of engagement, discipline, and preparation. The problems are naturally exacerbated when the subject is literature and the literature in question is, by its nature, far removed in time and place from students’ daily lives. At the same time, requirements to study literature have become compressed, if not eliminated entirely. Ancient Greek works, in particular, seem to pose special problems for unmotivated or unprepared students. As our students become less likely to have a prior context from which to approach ancient texts, the challenge of introducing those texts in a one or two-semester Western literature course becomes greater. And yet, how can we omit foundational works like the Iliad and the Odyssey from a general education? If we do include them, how do we remain true to the works while spending only two or three weeks considering them? Even after decades of teaching, I have not, I admit, fully managed to answer that question to my satisfaction. But I will share two approaches – one to the Iliad, the other to the Odyssey – that can be used successfully, I believe, in undergraduate survey courses on Western literature and culture. The two interpretive strategies, while different, share two central elements: each is based on a single theoretical framework that is easily accessible to lower-level undergraduate students, and both incorporate popular culture. In the case of the Iliad, I have used the twentieth-century lens of the Vietnam War provided through Jonathan Shay’s study, Achilles in Vietnam. For the Odyssey, I have drawn on two contrasting movies, each focused on an Odysseus-like character placed in a twentieth-century setting: Ulee’s Gold and O Brother, Where Art Thou?
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The Odyssey and Its Odyssey in Contemporary Texts: Re-visions in Star Trek, The Time Traveler’s Wife, and The Penelopiad

Mary Economou Bailey Green
Ryerson University
Toronto, Ontario, Canada



Homer’s The Odyssey is the archetypal quest story. The dialogue began with Homer, and contemporary texts and popular culture media have continued the tradition of deconstructing and recreating stories, addressing issues related to the human psyche. As Hardwick and Stray note, the relationship between ancient and modern is “not merely inherited but constantly made and remade,” one that we see in the following varied genres and versions that retell the Odyssean myth, relating re-visions of characters, relationships, structures, and themes. The original Star Trek episode “Who Mourns for Adonais” is an allegory of the Odyssean quest for human knowledge, while Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife presents a modern magical story of love, and Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad is a story of “slippery truth,” debunking the heroic and romantic. Continue Reading →

Theseus Loses his Way: Viktor Pelevin’s Helmet of Horror and the Old Labyrinth for the New World

Alison Traweek
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA



This article explores the relationship between the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, and Viktor Pelevin’s 2006 adaptation of it, The Helmet of Horror, particularly how it can serve as a case study for the nature and significance of adaptation. It examines the idea of memory, a central theme of the novel, and considers how three aspects of the original myth – the Minotaur, Ariadne’s thread, and the labyrinth itself – shape and inform Pelevin’s retelling. Each of these is unique to this myth in antiquity, and together, they structure the story. Each is also fundamentally connected to the idea of memory: the Minotaur is a living reminder of Pasiphae’s transgression, Ariadne’s thread is the mnemonic that allows Theseus to escape, and the labyrinth is a structure whose very nature is designed to challenge memory by creating confusion. Continue Reading →

300 and Fellini-Satyricon: Film Theory in the Tertiary Classroom

Leanne Glass
The University of Newcastle
Newscastle, Callaghan, Australia



Pedagogical practices in Reception-based courses on ancient Greece and Rome in film often focus on an individual film’s connections to its historical themes and meta-narrative. In contrast, courses based on Film Studies often focus pedagogical discourses on filmic techniques or the filmmaking process per se. Regularly, the two approaches remain discrete and discipline-based. Continue Reading →

The Labyrinth of Memory: Iphigeneia, Simonides, and Classical Models of Architecture as Mind in Chris Nolan’s Inception (2010) [1]

Benjamin Haller
Virginia Wesleyan College
Norfolk, Virginia, USA



Chris Nolan’s 2010 film Inception uses architecture as a language whereby to comment upon the relationship of the protagonist, Dom Cobb, with his deceased wife, Mal. This paper argues that three classical models – Homer’s tomb of Myrhine described in the Iliad, Iphigeneia’s dream of the collapse of the house of Agamemnon in Euripides’s Iphigeneia Among the Taurians, and Simonides’ Memory Palace mnemonic technique – manifest parallel uses of architecture as a metaphor for mind. Continue Reading →

Ovid and Mel Gibson: Power, Vulnerability, and What Women Want

Geoff Bakewell
Rhodes College
Memphis, Tennessee, USA



Knowledge of Ovid is invaluable for analyzing Nancy Meyers’s film What Women Want (2000).  Advertising executive Nick Marshall (Mel Gibson) is a sexist, chauvinistic ladies’ man who acquires the ability to hear what women are thinking. He is in effect a second Tiresias, and this article examines him in light of the gender-bending seer from the Metamorphoses. Meyers links Nick’s miraculous transformation to his attempt to listen to women while simultaneously cross-dressing. He subsequently becomes an intermediary between the genders, especially on sexual matters. The article further examines the Nick/Tiresias parallel in light of Ovid’s treatment of other Theban myths in Book 3.  Like Pentheus, Actaeon, and Narcissus, Nick is a frequent practitioner of the voyeuristic “gaze.” And like them, he is both deeply narcissistic and sorely lacking when it comes to self-knowledge.

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