4 US universities offering Star Wars courses

star wars shows
The long-lasting impact of Star Wars has pierced the halls of universities and colleges, many of whom offer specialist courses on the franchise. Source: Ethan Miller/AFP

Forget May the Fourth — June is quickly rising in ranks to become one of the best months for Star Wars fans with the release of the highly-anticipated series, “Obi-Wan Kenobi”. This, combined with other Star Wars shows like “The Mandalorian”, “The Book of Boba Fett” and “Ahsoka” — to be released next year — is making the franchise one of Disney’s most popular. 

It’s an incredible feat given the fact that the first film, “A New Hope”, was released more than 40 years ago — and fascination with the franchise has not dwindled since. From non-fiction self-help books to lessons on mindfulness, people far and wide continue to learn and seek guidance from the Star Wars shows, movies, and wider universe about understanding the world around us. 

Much of this has to do with the complexity the franchise brings, asking us to delve into the world filmmaker George Lucas has created. How did Star Wars creators use real-world speech patterns to craft the many in-universe languages? What does Anakin’s fall to the dark side tell us about human nature, and writing a memorable character? How has Star Wars changed the landscape of filmmaking, and what can aspiring directors learn from it? 

With such fascination surrounding the franchise, it’s no wonder that its effects have trickled into the classrooms of colleges and universities. Here are some Star Wars courses that universities have taught and continue to teach on their campuses. 

New Star Wars shows like “Obi-Wan Kenobi” and “The Mandalorian” has invigorated public interest in the franchise, prompting courses on it at major US institutions. Source: Jesse Grant / AFP

University courses influenced by Star Wars shows, movies, and more

West Valley College

West Valley College is a public community college in Saratoga, California. It’s highly-ranked for a number of things: being among the best interior design schools, top for court reporting, and more. 

One of the subjects it performs well at is in theatre. In this arena, West Valley College offers a truly dynamic programme. This includes a Film Studies course that spans across everything from Writing for Film and Television to Practical Effects and Motion Graphics. 

No film studies course would be complete without studying actual pieces of cinema themselves — and in this, West Valley College delivers in spades. Star Wars shows and movies are explored among these. Here, the course will encourage “critical analysis from an audience perspective” which includes “readings, lectures, and discussions” around the “cinematic development of the Star Wars Film cycle”. 

Other “Survey of Film” topics include the exploration of genres like Horror and Science Fiction, Superhero Cinema, Western and Musicals, and Gangster and Detective. 

Luther College

Luther College, as a private liberal arts institution in Iowa, strives to produce courses that invigorate and broaden students’ mindsets. In this, it comes as no surprise that the college has introduced a science fiction film course that delves into the particulars of the genre — with a special focus on the Star Wars shows, films, and other media.

Led by English associate professor Andy Hageman, the course “allows students to explore specific areas of film and cultivate visual media knowledge”. They do so by analysing and comparing two Star Wars films: “Star Wars: A New Hope” and “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”. 

“The combination of different exposures to Star Wars makes it a vibrant topic for discussion and it introduces some surprising perspectives,” Hageman told the college’s student magazine. “In particular, international students connect the films to their own experiences of journeying far, far from home and navigating new cultures, relationships and values. Often they see Star Wars as a socially-shared story with immense power to connect and communicate.”

The Star Wars landscape reflects some of the most pressing topics in our world, from theology to the impact of cinema. Source: Robyn Beck / AFP

San Francisco State University

As a public research institution, San Francisco State University offers a wide variety of courses spanning across its 118 bachelor’s, 94 master’s, and 5 doctoral degrees. It has an Experimental College system in place — giving students the space to take a range of innovative courses that align to their interests and challenge their worldview. 

This includes a “Philosophy and Star Wars” course, which takes a deep dive into the philosophical aspects of the franchise. Here, students will be introduced to topics in philosophy with “Star Wars as the anchor to make deep abstract thought more accessible and relatable”. Topics explored range from Ethics to Metaphysics to Eastern Philosophy. 

The other courses on offer are just as interesting. Here’s a glimpse into the courses students at San Francisco State University are treated to: “We Didn’t Ask for This: Sexual Harm on the College Campus”, “The Radicalization of Broadway”, “Critical Character Study within Anime”, and “Lucid Dreaming”, among others. 

The University of Notre Dame

Founded in 1842 in Indiana, the University of Notre Dame is a private Catholic research institution. It has an exquisite campus spanning across traditional Gothic architecture and outdoor sculptures, making for a truly unique place to pursue one’s studies. 

For Star Wars fans, though, the university’s main draw is in a one-credit course called “Unmasking the Way: Theology of and For The Mandalorian”. As implied, the course centres around the theological undertones of Star Wars show “The Mandalorian”, which sees a bounty hunter break away from what is expected of him to protect a child, Baby Yoda. 

Assistant teaching professor Kevin Sandberg says the Star Wars show invites audiences to draw parallels to key concepts in Christianity. “If you look at the episode titles of ‘The Mandalorian’, they’re replete with religious imagery: the child, the sin, sanctuary, redemption,” he told student-run newspaper The Observer. 

Students discuss the “consequences of sin and the cycle of life”, along with “heroes, myths and creeds”. “What struck me as theological from the very beginning was that an innocent child was to be massacred and otherwise was saved and taken from the clutches of evil, i.e. the story of the nativity of Jesus,” Sandberg said.