FYS 100 Watching the Watchmen: A Study in Modern Mythology

This course uses the graphic novel Watchmen to raise questions about what makes people tick—specifically what moves humans to act meaningfully. By watching how this layered and larger-than-life drama plays out, we will gain a better understanding of the human condition and the part we might play. Each participant will create personae to exemplify their own worldview and discuss the extent to which each is a hero and villain. A learning experience reserved for select first-year students, this seminar equips participants with best practices for college-level writing, research, and professional development.


Core Texts:

Doug Atkinsons, The Annotated Watchmen, http://www.capnwacky.com/rj/watchmen/

This is an excellent resource that notes many of the allusions, motifs, references, and influences that Moore and Gibbons use to construct their own myth.

Richard Bensam, ed. Minutes to Midnight: Twelve Essays on Watchmen, (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform,

This is an interdisciplinary anthology on Watchmen that will push us to leverage all that we’ve learned to make the most of the reading experience.

Diana Hacker and Nancy I. Sommers, A Pocket Style Manual, Seventh Edition (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2015).

This will be our go to resource for academic research and writing skills. I will make reference to this book when giving feedback on your work.

Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, Watchmen, (DC Comics, 1986-1987).

Our primary source.

Passport to Purposeful Life Work, Elizabethtown College. (Made possible by a generous grand from the Council of Independent Colleges Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (CIC NetVUE), funded by the Lilly Foundation.

This will be your guide to make the most of Elizabethtown College. You will complete a few of these activities in class, others in advising/mentoring sessions, and some individually.

Case Studies:

Comics and Graphic Novels as Genre

The Power of Mythology

Predestination and Free Will in a Post-Einsteinian World

M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable (2000)

Brad Bird’s The Incredibles (2004)

Myth and Storytelling in the Ancient World

Politics of Heroism

The Power of Artifacts

Critical Research and Writing

Fall 2015


In the first convening of this seminar, we met in the High Library’s Brethren Heritage Room. The artwork and resources in the space broadened our horizons on how people work out their lives through stories.

We attended a panel discussion on the Song of Songs, an epic love poem found in the Bible. Dr. Christina Bucher’s research helped us think through the symbolism of “the watchmen”discussed in the ancient text and our graphic novel.

The class also heard a lecture by Dr. Michael G. Long’s scholarship on children’s television host Mr. Rogers. Contrary to his persona, Fred Rogers was a counter-cultural figure, constantly pushing the late modern imagination of America’s tv audience, young and old. The show’s “Land of Make Believe” was a useful case study for thinking the serious messages presented in our mythologies.

This year’s mythic heroes operated in the following cultural settings:

  • WWII Germany
  • NYC in 9/11/01
  • The 2015 Baltimore Uprising
  • The Kent State Massacre
  • The 60’s Punk Music Scene
  •  The Sinking of the Titanic
  • The Cold War
  • The Airline Industry in light of Germanwings Flight 9525
  • Operation Desert Storm
  • The Trail of Tears
  • Prohibition
  • The Space Race

Student Noah Abbe brought the FYS into his ceramics course and did a project on Watchmen.


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