Fall 2019 - ENGL 383 D100

Studies in Popular Literature and Culture (4)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Buffy Studies

Class Number: 4638

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 2:30 PM – 4:20 PM
    WMC 3510, Burnaby

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 14, 2019
    12:00 PM – 3:00 PM
    RCB 8100, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units.



A study of popular literature and its cultural contexts. May be defined by genre, author, period, or critical approach. This course may be repeated for credit if a different topic is taught, though students who obtained credit for ENGL 363 prior to Summer 2015 may not take this course for further credit. Breadth-Humanities.


Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The first episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer aired more than twenty years ago, and the academic subfield of “Buffy Studies” probably peaked around 2005. (By 2009, Slayage: The Online Journal of Buffy Studies had become Slayage: The Journal of the Whedon Studies Association, and by 2012 it had switched from publishing quarterly to publishing just twice a year.)  So—even though a more multicultural Buffy reboot with a Black slayer and Black head writer is allegedly in the works—this is not a hip, edgy, or terribly current cultural studies course.  On the other hand, the current President of the United States showcases many of the traits allegorized and supernaturalized in the Big Bads of (at least) Buffy’s Seasons One, Two, Three, Six, and Seven, so we cannot simply write the show off as an outdated marker of 1990s/Third Wave/“grrl power” white feminism.  Furthermore, Buffy’s influence on a range of currently hip shows—from Orphan Black to Stranger Things to the new Veronica Mars—is unmistakable. So this is partly a class about Buffy—a show that, like television itself, was sometimes formulaic, sometimes jaw-droppingly brilliant—and partly a class about what we do when we write and think about popular culture.  So as we do close readings of the show’s 144 episodes and 7 seasons, and as we put it in the myriad 90s contexts of network television, indie rock, the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the rise of computer nerd culture (Bill Gates, Steve Jobs), “Generation X,” the Columbine massacre, and 90s white feminism, among others, we’ll also investigate why and how people—including us—write (and wrote) about that show.  As Amelie Hastie asks in one essay on Buffy, “How do we avoid falling into television’s own traps of ephemerality, obsolescence, and market demands?”  How do we write a cultural criticism that isn’t just dolled-up fanboydom/fangirldom?  What, as too many academics have already punned, are the “stakes” of writing about Buffy?  Put differently, if Buffy is so great, why hasn’t it produced any major criticism?  Conversely, if it’s so last century, why have its thematic concerns come roaring back so powerfully in this one?  Like the undead?


Students will read and write better. Students will become acquainted with the major strands of cultural studies from the Birmingham School to the present. Students will be able to apply those strands to Buffy as appropriate. Students will begin to be able to distinguish between major and minor cultural criticism, insightful and pedestrian scholarly articles. Students will interrogate their own critical practices and affects.


  • Attendance, Participation, and Discussion Questions 16.67%
  • First Paper (5-6pp) 16.67%
  • Midterm exam 16.66%
  • Final Paper (6-7pp) 25%
  • Final Exam 25%


Note: Attendance at all classes is expected.  Students who miss more than 3 classes without a valid reason (medical or family emergency) will receive “0” for the participation/attendance grade.  Repeatedly arriving late to class is disruptive and may also have an impact on one’s participation grade. Late papers will be marked down at the rate of one letter grade per day.   To receive credit for this course, students must complete all requirements.



The bookstore cannot provide competitive pricing on videos, so you will need to access Seasons 1-7 of Buffy on your own. Amazon Prime and iTunes are two current options.  The professor will use the DVDs, mainly because of the bonus features.

Department Undergraduate Notes:

IMPORTANT NOTE Re 300 and 400 level courses: 75% of spaces in 300 level English courses, and 100% of spaces in 400 level English courses, are reserved for declared English Major, Minor, Extended Minor, Joint Major, and Honours students only, until open enrollment begins.

For all On-Campus Courses, please note the following:
- To receive credit for the course, students must complete all requirements.
- Tutorials/Seminars WILL be held the first week of classes.
- When choosing your schedule, remember to check "Show lab/tutorial sections" to see all Lecture/Seminar/Tutorial times required.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html