The Marvel Cinematic Universe as Literature (NeMLA 2016 Roundtable 15845)

full name / name of organization: 
Mary Ellen Iatropoulos, Independent Scholar / Derek S. 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 (or not), 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 popular culture and cinematic aestheticism, between accessibility and esotericism, between high art and low art. How can scholars of literature use explorations of the MCU to understand or glean fresh insight into the ways in which the MCU's approaches to modern cinematic storytelling function as literature?

This roundtable session 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.

Please do not directly send abstracts by email. Abstract submissions should be processed by the NeMLA database and user-based system. To this end, presenters should upload their abstracts at by choosing session # 15845, and following the instructions to create a user account. Please contact NeMLA Support Staff regarding any questions you have about using the new system.

About NeMLA 2016:

Northeast Modern Language Association
47th Annual Convention
Hartford, Connecticut
March 17-20, 2016
Hosted by the University of Connecticut

In spring 2016, the Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA) will meet in Hartford, Connecticut, for its 47th Annual Convention. Every year, this event affords NeMLA's principal opportunity to carry on a tradition of lively research and pedagogical exchange in language and literature. The convention will include a full array of sessions, workshops, literary readings, film screenings, and guest speakers.

Hartford features some of the most significant historic and cultural sites in New England: the adjacent and interconnected Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe Houses; the artistic and cultural collections at the Wadsworth Atheneum; classic and contemporary performances at the Hartford Stage, Theater Works, and the Bushnell Center for Performing Arts; archives and research opportunities at the Connecticut Historical Society and Connecticut State Library and State Archives; unique and offbeat museums for kids and families such as the Connecticut Science Center and the CRRA Trash Museum; and much more. Both Adriaen's Landing (the newly completed area around the convention center) and the historic downtown feature a variety of restaurants, shops, and parks.

This convention will feature approximately 400 sessions, dynamic speakers and cultural events. Interested participants may submit abstracts to more than one NeMLA session; however, panelists can only present one paper (panel or seminar). Convention participants may present a paper at a panel and also present at a creative session or participate in a roundtable.