“Let’s face it: we have entered an era of media convergence that makes the flow of content across multiple media channels almost inevitable.”
Henry Jenkins, “Transmedia Storytelling,” MIT Technology Review 15 January 2003.
Critic Henry Jenkins describes transmedia storytelling as “a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience. Ideally, each medium makes its own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story” (“Transmedia 202: Further Reflections,” Confessions of an Aca-Fan). While the films, comics, novels, toys, and games produced by media conglomerates emerge as prominent examples of transmedia narratives—think Star Wars, The Avengers, and Pokémon—fans have long extended popular story worlds with transmedia narratives of their own—think Star Trek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Doctor Who, and Harry Potter slash fan fiction, websites, art, and videos.
English 440 explores the theory and practice of transmedia narrative. We will examine various definitions of “transmedia” and analyze how transmedia works tell stories. In addition to studying professionally produced transmedia works, students will read and produce fan texts. As we do so, we will investigate the relationship between industrial and grassroots creators. We will also consider the possibilities and limitations of participating in fan culture.
I assume that students taking the course are already immersed to some extent in one or more transmedia story worlds (don’t worry if you aren’t—you will be). Although I have selected foundational critical texts by Henry Jenkins, Christy Dena, Marsha Kinder, and Frank Rose, students will collectively choose creative works to analyze as a class.