Avatar The Last Airbender: Ancient Wisdoms, Modern Horrors
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5:00-6:30 p.m.

In this course, students will discuss and analyze the American children’s animated TV show Avatar: The Last Airbender (ATLA) as a literary and artistic work. The show centers on a 12-year-old boy who is both the reincarnation of a global peacekeeper called the “Avatar” and the sole survivor of the genocide of his people.

Throughout the show, Aang and his companions struggle to resolve a war that has been ongoing for over one hundred years between the remaining three nations of the world. Students will analyze the show holistically as a cultural and artistic artifact, considering the show’s medium and its narrative content to explore issues rooted in the show’s execution. Students will explore central narrative themes including imperialism, genocide, nationalism, gender, and the intersection of traditional Eastern philosophies and modern manifestations of power, such as the study of the nation-state of Ba Sing Se and the Earth Kingdom.

We will be watching the series in its entirety (64 episodes divided into three “books” or seasons) as well as viewing supplementary video essays and reading supporting articles to deepen our interpretations and suggest theoretical frameworks through which to encounter the show. The show will additionally serve as a case study to consider questions of what constitutes literature in the digital age, as well as how children’s media specifically does or does not accomplish the objectives of literature.

The vast majority of the class material will be covered in class and we will emphasize discussion learning. There will also be optional asynchronous discussions that will focus on topics from the show that are not talked about during class. The final for the class will be a choice between an essay or a recorded presentation.