The Lessons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer

IS 101 04   Fall 2009


IS 101 is a first-year course which develops students’ critical inquiry and communication skills as they take responsibility for their education and actions within the context of becoming a Wartburg liberally educated person (1 cc, writing intensive, prerequisite EN 111, must be completed during the first year).


Instructor:                  Dr. Erika Lindgren                  

Phone:                        352-8201                                             314 Luther

Office hours:             WF 7:45-8:45 am, F 12-1 pm, and by appointment


Course Purpose/Description

IS 101:  Asking Questions, Making Choices is the first course in the Wartburg Plan of Essential Education.  It has been designed as an introductory level course which looks at content with the point of modeling how educated people formulate and respond to questions and choices of personal and social importance.  IS 101 is designed as a pre-disciplinary course which foregrounds broad processes of inquiry in the context of specific course content and experiences.  When students have successfully completed this course, they will have demonstrated that they have begun a lifelong journey through an educational process, a process which will help them ask (and perhaps answer) significant questions and make ethical and appropriate choices.


Half of the course is “common content”.  That is, all sections will consider and respond to the same materials and experiences designed by an interdisciplinary team of faculty members.  The other half of the course has been designed by individual faculty members and this half of each section will be unique.  This structure provides first-year students with common experiences which draw them together and also exploratory and highly individual experiences that may serve as models for personal explorations of their own.  The individual theme of this section is “The Lessons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer”- the witty and often irreverent television show which ran from 1997 to 2003.  We will use the show as a text that we will read/view to think critically about issues related to the common content of this course, and to lead us into discussion of other topics such as sexuality, relationships, feminism, Good and Evil, death, gender roles, and vampires.  This is a series that can be examined in this way because it was written not just as entertainment, or to turn a tired cliché on its head, but to also hold deeper meanings and possibilities.  As creator Joss Whedon has commented, “’Buffy’ is made by a bunch of writers who think very, very hard about what they are doing in terms of psychology and methodology.  We take the show very seriously.  We are perhaps the most pompous geeks of them all.  When somebody says there is a philosophy behind ‘Buffy’ that is the truth.  When they say there is symbolism and meaning in what we’re doing, that’s true too.”[1]  Whedon also expected his audience to read his series, often referring to what he called “the [Bring Your Own] subtext principle.”[2]  This readability has generated academic interest in the show, creating the field of Buffy Studies, several scholarly conferences, and an academic journal.



Course Goals and Outcomes

Both the common and individual class content are consistent with the following goals and outcomes.


Goal 1:  Students will understand the primary characteristics of a liberally educated person.

•Students will articulate and describe the primary characteristics of a liberally educated person.


Goal 2:  Students will become critical inquirers.

•Students will be able to identify and explain

            the thesis of a text

            the author’s position

            the assumptions, strengths, and limitations in a text

•Students will develop information literacy by

            designing and performing search strategies

            gathering and using appropriate information and materials for projects and assignments

            effectively evaluating the quality of information sources

•Students will assess their tolerance for ambiguity and reflect on the implications for their engagement in critical inquiry


Goal 3:  Students will become more effective communicators.

•Students will demonstrate effective communication through

civil discourse

            small group interactions

            various kinds of writing/composition


Goal 4:  Students will become responsible for their education and actions.

•Students will be able to demonstrate the attitudes and behaviors of active learners

•Students will develop an appreciation for and a commitment to continued engagement with the world beyond the classroom.

•Students will develop and utilize strategies for making successful adjustments to college life.

•Students will explore connections among their interests, aptitudes, and educational goals.


Required Texts/Materials

•Common content:                                                               •Individualized materials: online or on reserve

 IS 101 Reader: Asking Questions, Making Choices

Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn




This course is graded A-F [converted into a 1000 point scale) with common content material accounting for about 50% of the grade and the individualized content comprising the remaining 50% (see Writing Intensive requirements below).  Your final letter grade for this course will be based on evaluations of process skills (discussion, collaborative work, participation) as well as products (written assignments, projects, evidence of process work). 


Grading Breakdown- out of 1000 possible points


Buffy Notes and Conference                                               100     

Liberal Learner paper                                                        150

Faith and Learning, Leadership and Service paper           100

Buffy paper                                                                        150     

Final Project Proposal                                                         50

Final Project Reflection                                                       50

Final Project Presentation                                                   50

Out of Class Participation [10 assignments]                      100

In class Participation and daily assignments                     250     


Graded Assignments

Buffy Notes-  Each student will take notes about the episodes they view and write up summaries.  See handout about specific contents and rubric.


Liberal Learner paper-  A 4 page paper that explores the attributes of a liberal Learner.  This will eventually be revised to 6 pages to incorporate a discussion of Ishmael.  See separate assignment sheet.


Faith and Learning, Leadership and Service paper-  A 5 page paper that asks you to consider a question concerning our reading and discussion on the issues of faith and learning, leadership and service.  See separate assignment sheet.


Buffy paper- This 6 page paper will allow you to explore any issue related to the television series and relate it to the ‘real world.’  You will be expected to view extra episodes for material for your paper and use information generated by our ILAC session. 


Final Project- This project has 3 parts.  Part 1 is a project proposal of about 3 pages, due November 2.  Part 2 is a Reflection of about 3 pages on the project turned in when you do Part 3, the presentation. All 3 parts are equally weighted.   See separate assignment sheet.


Out of class participation- Each student will attend or participate in 10 new events over the course of the semester and write a typed half page to page long paragraph about the event, how it contributed to their education and what they got out of it.  The paragraph must be submitted within a week of the event.  Students should pick a variety of events or activities [political speeches, academic talks, new cuisine at a restaurant, Artist’s Series, the Opera Workshop, art exhibits, a worship service, literary readings, musical performances, dramatic performances, sporting events, and others- but not family visits, events or groups you already participate in].  Each event or activity should be different.  Events do NOT have to be on the Wartburg campus.  Students are expected to also attend a number of convocations during the Fall Term.  These are marked in the syllabus and count as one of the 10 events.


In-class participation and daily assignments- This class is all about communication, so you must participate by asking and answering questions, taking part in small group and all-class discussions, pulling your own weight in group projects, and general class activities.  Any short writing assignments or in class writing assignments will contribute towards this grade.  Just being present does not count as participation.


Writing Intensive

IS 101 is a writing intensive course, which means that you will write at least 20 pages or 5,000 words and at least 40% of the course grade will be based on the writing component of the course included in both the common and individual course content segments.  This writing will take a variety of forms ranging from quick in-class responses to formal academic papers. Your professor will provide feedback on a draft stage of at least one of your papers.




Late work

Late work will not be accepted unless prior arrangements have been made with the professor. It is important to remember that “catching up” is nearly impossible because of the volume and sequence of academic tasks.  Once an assignment is late, the student must either do twice as much work in the allotted time, or push all other assignments back so that they, too, are late.  It is important for you to note that no major assignments will be accepted without approval of preliminary work and that some participation credits simply cannot be made up.



Attendance is required.  Almost all sessions include time for student interactions and large and small group work that cannot be duplicated later by individual students outside of class.  Your attendance is vital and valued.  If you miss more than 10% of the class meetings, your final course grade will be docked.  In the case of absence due to documented illness or documented participation in College-related activities, alternatives may be arranged.


Honor Code/Plagiarism

Plagiarism is the representation of the work or ideas of others as your own.  Plagiarism can result from failing to cite a source, giving insufficient credit to the original authors, closely paraphrasing without attribution, and direct copying.  The Academic Policies Committee of Student Senate and the Honor Council have asked faculty to remind students that “[a]s a matter of personal commitment, students, faculty, and staff of Wartburg College are expected to demonstrate three simple principles:

1) All work submitted be your own.

2) When using the work or ideas of others, including fellow students, give full credit through accurate citations.

3) Maintain academic honesty both on examinations and class assignments.

 If you are uncertain about the ground rules on a particular assignment, ask for clarification.  All are responsible for abiding by these guidelines and opposing academic dishonesty by reporting any act that goes against these guidelines.[3]  All forms of plagiarism and cheating will result in severe academic penalties. In most cases the assignment will receive a zero and the instructor reserves the right to report this academic dishonesty to the student’s advisor and the dean.  In some cases, the students will be given a failing grade for the course

 Special Needs

"The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ( ADA ) provides protection from illegal discrimination for qualified individuals with disabilities.  Students requesting instructional accommodations due to disabilities must arrange for such accommodations by contacting Carla Coates, Pathways Associate for Testing and Disability Services, in the Pathways Center, located on the third floor of Vogel Library.  She may be reached by phone at ext. 8230 or by e-mail at


Class Schedule


When assignments in texts are listed for a class session, students should arrive in class having already read and reflected on this material.  Assignments are listed on the dates they are due.  Where just the last name appears, the reading is in the IS 101 Reader.  All showing in 116 WBC, 6:30-9:30 pm [all Mondays except for week 1 which is on a Thursday]



WEEK 1                                                                                                                                                                                  

W 9/ 9              Introduction and Buffy Basics


TH 9/10          

Episodes          “Welcome to the Hellmouth” [1.1], “Harvest” [1.2], “Angel” [1.07], Prophecy Girl” [1.12]  


 F 9/11             The Buffyverse and Vampires

Read: Stacy Abbott, “A Little Less Ritual and a Little More Fun: the Modern Vampire in Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” Slayage 1.3




M 9/14             Liberal Learning at Wartburg

Read: The Wartburg Plan of Essential Education [and Mission Statement]


Episodes          “School Hard” [2.03], “Halloween” [2.06]“What’s My Line pt. 1” [2.09], “What’s My line pt. 2” [2.10] 


W 9/16             So what does that mean?

                        Read: Giamatti and Spayde


F 9/18              One man’s thoughts

Read: Dyson




M 9/21             A traditional view

Read: Plato


Episodes          “Surprise” [2.13], , “Innocence” [2.14], “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” [2.16], “Passion” [2.17]  


T 9/22              Martha Nussbaum Convocation, Neumann Aud., 11 :30 am


W 9/23             So how does education really work?

                        Read: Schwartz


F 9/25              Another way to look at it

                        Read: Freire




M 9/28             Personal experiences

Read: Group readings to be assigned


Episodes          “Becoming pt. 1” [2.21], “Becoming pt. 2” [2.22], “Faith, Hope, and Trick” [3.03], “Band Candy” [3.06]      


W 9/30             Women’s learning, is it really that different?

                        Read: Rich, then Cheever.


F 10/2              “Lover’s Walk” [3.08]     Liberal Learner Paper due



WEEK 5          Conferences this week for revising Liberal learner paper         

M 10/5             Ishmael


Episodes          “The Wish” [3.09],”Gingerbread” [3.11], “The Zeppo” [3.13], “Bad Girls” [3.14]


W 10/7             Ishmael


F 10/9              Ishmael




M 10/12           Buffy and Literature

Read: Christine Jarvis, “’I run to Death’: Renaissance sensibilities in Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” Slayage 7.3    


Episodes          “Consequences” [3.15], “Doppelgänglang” [3.16], “Enemies” [3.17], “Earshot” [3.18]


W 10/14           ILAC session.  Meet in Library Classroom 2. Revision of Liberal Leaner paper due


R 10/15           Endowed Chairs Convocation, Neumann Aud., 11:30 am


F 10/16            Buffy and the Social Sciences    Short class 

                        Read: Paul Shapiro, “Someone to Sink Your Teeth Into: Gendered Biting Patterns on Buffy the Vampire Slayer- A Quantitative Analysis,” Slayage 7.2




M 10/19           Opportunities Workshops.  Place TBD


Episodes          “Graduation Day pt. 1” [3.21], “Graduation Day pt. 2” [3.22], “The Freshman” [4.1], “Living Conditions” [4.2]


W 10/21           Buffy and the Gothic

                        Read: Robert A, Davis, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Pedagogy of Fear,” Slayage 1.3


F 10/23            Outfly Placeholder




M 10/26           The State of Buffy Scholarship

Each student will be assigned an article in the area of Buffy Studies.  Read the article and write a one-page summary of it.  Make a copy for every student and one for the professor.


Episodes          “The Initiative” [4.07], “Pangs” [4.08], “Something Blue” [4.09], “Hush” [4.10]


W 10/28           TBD






M 11/2             Faith and Learning  Final Project proposal due

                        Read: Benne


Episodes          “This Year’s Girl” [4.15], “Who Are You?” [4.16], “Superstar” [4.17], “New Moon Rising” [4.19]


W 11/4             Faith and Learning

                        Read: Kleinhans [both articles]


F 11/6              Faith and Learning 

                        Read: Christenson




M 11/9             Service and Leadership 

Read: Westheimer and Kahne


Episodes          Primeval” [4.21], “Restless” [4.22], “Buffy vs. Dracula” [5.1], “No Place like Home” [5.05]


W 11/11           Service and Leadership   

Read:  Etzioni


F 11/13            Leadership and Service and Buffy

Read: Christine Jarvis and Don Adams, “Dressed to kill: Fashion and Leadership in Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” Slayage 6.1




M 11/16           “Fool for Love” [5.07]  Faith and Learning, Leadership and Service paper due


Episodes          “Into the Woods” [5.10], “Checkpoint” [5.12], “I was Made to Love You” [5.15], “The Body” [5.16],


W 11/18           Knightly Spike

Read:  Victoria Spah, “’Ain’t Love Grand?” Spike and Courtly Love,” Slayage 2.1


F 11/20            Comic Horror and Spike

                        Read:  Michele Boyette, “The Comic Anti-Hero in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or Silly Villain: Spike is for Kicks,” Slayage 1.4




M 11/23           Intervention” [5.18]     Buffy paper due


Episodes          “The Gift” [5.22], “After Life” [6.03], “Once More, With Feeling” [6.07], “Tabula Rasa” [6.08]


W 11/25           Issues Raised by Buffy the Musical Short class

                        Read: Richard S. Albright, “’[B]reakaway pop hit or. . . book number?’: ‘Once More, with Feeling’ and Genre” Slayage 5.1  OR  Jeffrey Middents, “A Sweet Vamp: Critiquing the Treatment of Race in Buffy and the American Musical Once More (with Feeling)” Slayage 5.1.





WEEK 13       

M 11/31           “Smashed” [6.09],


Episodes           “Wrecked” [6.10], “Dead Things” [6.13], "Hell's Bells," [6.16],“Seeing Red” [6.19]


W 12/2             Queer Theory and Buffy

Read: Cynthea Masson and Marni Stanley, “Queer Eye of that Vampire Guy,” Slayage 6.2


F 12/4              Buffy and Relationships

Read: Angie Burns, “Passion, Pain, and ‘bad kissing decisions’: Learning about Intimate Relationships from Buffy Season six”, Slayage 6.1




M 12/7            The Theme of Redemption

                       Read: Rhonda V. Wilcox, “’Every Night I Save You’: Buffy, Spike, Sex and Redemption, “ Slayage  2.1



Episodes          Two to Go” [6.21] “Grave” [6.22], “End of Days” [7.21], “Chosen” [7.22]


W 12/9             Final Presentations and final Buffy discussion 


F 12/11            Final Presentations 


Classes end  



Thursday, December 17, 8:30-10:30.  Final Presentations

 The Professor reserves the right to make changes to this syllabus and will notify the students if she does so.


EPISODE GUIDE  Which episodes are on which DVD?


[1] Joss Whedon AOL Chat, 10 November 2002

[2] As quoted in Justine Larbalestier, “ Buffy’s Mary Sue is Jonathan: Buffy  Acknowledges the Fans,” in Fighting the Forces: What’s at Stake in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, edited by Rhonda V. Wilcox and David Lavery (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2002), 227.

[3] Wartburg College Honor Code at