Batman Stalks into Senior English Curriculum


Mallory Brown reads “Return of the Dark Knight”

Mariana Aguirre, Staff Writer

Senior year English looms with ominous course requirements like Oedipus Rex, Hamlet, and poetry of the Romantics; but following on the heels of such intimidating works stalks a different kind of assignment. Seniors delight in the study of tales of that defender of the moonless night, Batman.

Yes, Batman.

Jaime Donohoe’s English class is studying a graphic novel about this superhero, and if having comic books for homework sounds like fun, seniors will contest that it is far more educational than it appears. “It’s part of a larger sci-fi unit,” Donohoe explained. This unit includes study of Battlestar Galactica, Bladerunner, and Man in the High Castle.

Titled Batman: Return of the Dark Knight, the graphic novel features an older Batman, returning to his duties with a new, and surprisingly female, Robin. It boasts a more complex storyline, deeper emotional searches, while maintaining the charm of America’s favorite hero. Anything but a childish story, Donohoe affirmed that many students are confused by the style. “It’s difficult to read,” he said. “Whether you’re reading Batman or Hamlet, the skill set is still there; you use the same analytical skill to draw meaning out of it.”

He did not arbitrarily assign such a work as a “break” for students; Tori Seelig affirmed its educational value: “It connects different kinds of writing.”

Donohoe assigned Batman to challenge the seniors’ conception of literature. He claimed that he wanted to “open their eyes to the ‘lower art forms’…It’s like looking at graffiti versus walking into the Louvre.” Not only are seniors encouraged to consider the various forms of art, but also different interpretations and representations of singular themes. “It ties in with a lot of themes we’ve talked about,” Donohoe added, including isolation and the search for meaning. These themes are thought-provoking and draw from existentialist theory; Donohoe said that some of the questions emphasized during this unit include “What is it to really be human?” and “What is reality?”

Citing famed psychologist Carl Jung, Donohoe and the class dissect Return of the Dark Knight into representations of the unconscious, repressed emotion, and general angst stewing beneath the threshold of awareness. “The Joker definitely represents what Batman could become is he lets shadow overtake him”, the English teacher proclaimed.

Although the idea of a literary comic book may seem perplexing, Mallory Brown agreed that “it’s much better than reading Hamlet.”