The Marvel Cinematic Universe as Literature (Roundtable)


Cultural Studies and Media Studies / Interdisciplinary Humanities

Mary Ellen Iatropoulos (Independent Scholar)

Derek McGrath (SUNY Stony Brook)

With dynamic individual superhero/superhuman characters populating a world of complex, interwoven mythologies and origin stories, the films and television series of Marvel Comics Studios present an experiment with long-form transmedia storytelling that is at once both commercially successful and critically acclaimed. Given the ongoing debate in film criticism and media studies surrounding the degree to which analyzing films as literature is useful, that such a commercially popular phenomenon also emphasizes artistic elements (e.g., narrative continuity, highly stylized cinematic aesthetics) renders the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) a fascinating site in which the conflict and tension play out between accessibility and esotericism, between "highbrow" and "lowbrow" art. How can scholars of literature use explorations of the MCU to understand or glean fresh insight into the ways in which modern cinematic storytelling functions as literature?

This roundtable sessions welcomes submissions undertaking literary analysis of the films, TV shows, and paratextual media products that comprise the MCU. Approaches may include analysis of one or more films; storytelling across genre and medium; adaptations of the original Marvel Comics to film and television; and applications of various schools of literary and media theory to MCU properties.
With dynamic individual superhuman characters populating a world of complex, interwoven mythologies and origin stories, the films and television series of Marvel Comics Studios experiment with long-form transmedia storytelling. With twelve films and three television series released in less than a decade, all adhering to the same continuity and fictional universe, how can the Marvel Cinematic Universe reveal or offer fresh insight into the ways in which modern cinematic storytelling functions as literature? Approaches may include analysis of one or more films; storytelling across genre and medium; adaptations of the original Marvel Comics to film and television; and applications of various schools of literary and media theory to MCU properties.