Superheroes, the Void, and Utopia: Reading Alan Moore's Watchmen at the End of Days
David LyonsUniversity of Chicago
Open to current undergraduate students at the University of Chicago. Registration is capped at 20. Students who register after capacity has been reached will be put on a waitlist. Copies of Watchmen will be provided to all participants.
Who watches the Watchmen? The President of the United States is a septuagenarian nervously forced to confront an increasingly reactive Russia. Our technology has outstripped our power to control or even cope with it. Environmental collapse is right around the corner. Paranoia, dread, and hopelessness hover over all.
The year, of course, is 1985, and the American president is…Richard Nixon? And, oh yes, there are superheroes.
In this reading group we will study Watchmen, one of the greatest works of graphic fiction of all time. In the world of Watchmen we meet Rorschach, a psychotic vigilante who terrorizes criminals and terrifies just about everyone else; the Comedian, a nihilistic one-man dirty-tricks operation in the employ of the U.S. government, the god-like Dr. Manhattan, who holds America’s nuclear deterrence (and the fate of the world) in in his once-human hands; and the retired masked adventurer and peak of human perfection Ozymandias.
Watchmen, however, is more than just evocative names and larger-than-life characters. In the face of nuclear annihilation, with our very survival as a species at stake, Watchmen demands that we take a step back and both ask and answer the question: “Who Watches the Watchmen?”
This event is part of Lumen Christi’s Fundamental Questions series, a quarterly reading group designed for undergraduate students at the University of Chicago. By fostering intellectually rigorous conversation around culturally resonant texts, we aim to allow students to experience the force of the deep existential concerns which animate our lives: “Where do my values come from? What is the good life? How can I become happy?” Our aim is not to answer such fundamental questions, but rather to equip students with the intellectual skills needed to recognize and articulate them for themselves.
This fundamental questions seminar meets three times during the quarter. For each session, we will meet and discuss over dinner. Dinner is served at 6:00pm. Discussion begins at 6:15.
6:00 PM Dinner | 6:15 PM Discussion
Week 3 : Thursday, October 13 (required reading: Chapters 1-4 of Watchmen)
Week 5 : Thursday, October 27 (required reading: Chapters 5-8 of Watchmen)
Week 7 : Thursday, November 10 (required reading: Chapters 9-12 of Watchmen)
David Lyons is Assistant Instructional Professor in the Social Sciences Collegiate Division at the University of Chicago. He studies the history and theory of modernity, receiving his PhD from the University of Chicago in 2017. His work challenges conventional academic accounts of the Enlightenment as a disinterested project for the emancipation and material betterment of humanity and recasts it as a polemical project in securing the social and political hegemony of bourgeois common sense. Born and raised in Toledo, Ohio, David received both an A.B. in History and a J.D. from the University of Michigan. Before coming to Chicago for graduate school Lyons practiced as an attorney in Columbus, Ohio.