10 University Courses You Won’t Believe Actually Exist | Top Universities

10 University Courses You Won’t Believe Actually Exist

By Vyara Pancheva

Updated April 12, 2021 Updated April 12, 2021

University is a chance to gain a rigorous education and training to prepare you for your chosen career. However, all those lectures and reading lists, as useful as they are, might become a bit boring at some point… To keep things new and interesting, a growing number of US universities are finding creative and innovative ways to grab students’ attention, with weird and wonderful course titles.

Do they sometimes go too far, though? Would you fancy specializing in zombies, wizards and superheroes at university, or do you think the realm of fantasy is best kept outside of the lecture hall? Here’s a list of 10 US university courses which sound made-up, but really do exist!

1. Fantasy Literature: Harry Potter (Ohio State University)

Are you a Harry Potter fanatic? If so, you will be pleased to hear that some universities already offer course modules dedicated to J.K.Rowling’s magical books. To be more specific, the Ohio State University teaches a course titled ‘Fantasy Literature: Harry Potter’. How cool is that?! The course focuses on the story of the wizard world and teaches muggles (non-wizards) about the literary techniques and cultural roots of the novels. Students are required to read all seven books, as well as articles about the series and other materials about the fantasy genre. Let the magic begin!

2. The Vampire in Literature and Cinema (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Vampires are a hot topic! Books like Twilight and TV shows such as “The Vampire Diaries”, “True Blood” and the classic “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” have made the blood-sucking creatures extremely popular all over the world. Beware! They have even reached higher education, with the University of Wisconsin-Madison offering a course titled ‘The Vampire in Literature and Cinema’. The truth is, though, the course is not as creepy as it sounds, and will definitely not include blood samples and lab research! Professor Tomislav Longinovic, who teaches the module, claims that the idea is to destroy negative cultural perceptions of Eastern Europe by analyzing folklore, literature and film from the region, and particularly the image of the vampire in them.

3. Invented Languages: Klingon and Beyond (The University of Texas at Austin)

Sci-fi enthusiasts will be thrilled to know that a course titled ‘Invented Languages: Klingon and Beyond’ actually exists! Klingon, or the language used by the fictional alien race in the Star Trek universe, has been an object of various discussions and research through the years. Many claim to actually speak it, and spend years and years learning it (like Sheldon from ‘The Big Bang Theory’). The module offered by the University of Texas at Austin does not actually teach students to speak Klingon, but it uses invented languages as a vehicle to discuss current ideas about linguistic theory, especially ideas surrounding the interaction of language and society.

4. Daytime Serials: Family and Social Roles (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

As a student, you may sometimes find it hard to resist the pull of daytime television viewing – but with this course, again taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, you could actually incorporate that into your studies. Entitled ‘Daytime Serials: Family and Social Roles’, this module focuses on popular daytime television series (especially soap operas) and uses them as case studies to investigate how men and women are portrayed in the family and at work. It analyzes the themes and characters in the daytime shows and compares them to prime-time programs. So basically the course might as well be called ‘Soap Opera Studies’. Weird? Yes. Real? Totally.

5. The Joy of Garbage (Santa Clara University)

‘The Joy of Garbage’?! Really? OK, this is just too weird! Professor Virginia Matzek teaches this course at Santa Clara University and she says it’s actually pretty popular. She asks students to investigate garbage as if they were archaeologists uncovering a hidden treasure. The professor claims the course is not a joke, and that she actually teaches students cold, hard science using trash and waste as the central focus. The main idea is to show that societies deal with their waste the same way they take care of their environment. What do you think of that? Would you ‘dig’ this course (literally)?

6. The Science of Superheroes (University of California, Irvine)

‘The Science of Superheroes’ is actually a new creative way of teaching… physics! I know, this might sound a bit disappointing, but it’s actually an innovative way to make a tough subject more engaging and accessible. In this course, students learn about real principles of physics using the entirely fictitious superpowers wielded by their favorite superheroes, such as Spider-Man, Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman. Well done University of California, Irvine, and well done Professor Michael Dennin!

7. A History of the Pig in America (Xavier University in Cincinnati)

Let’s go from superheroes to, well… pigs! That’s right: pigs. Professor Karim M. Tiro teaches a course titled ‘A History of the Pig in America’ at Xavier University in Cincinnati. The module focuses on the history of pigs in time, their depiction in literature and perceptions in society. If you are interested in studying all sorts of trivia about pigs, starting from the origin of the 16th-century word "buccaneer" (grills on which they cooked pork) to the fights British colonists and Native Americans had over ‘Babe’s friends’, then this course is for you!

8. Zombies in Popular Media (Columbia College Chicago and University of Baltimore)

Zombies are becoming more and more popular in the academic circles today. These two universities teach courses on ‘Zombies in Popular Media’, examining the presence of the “walking dead” in popular culture. They also explore how the brain-eating creatures have influenced voodoo in Haiti, movies like Resident Evil and video games such as Doom. Very creepy, indeed, but also quite fascinating. If you’ve watched The Dawn of the Dead more than once, this could be the course for you.

9. Lessons from Lost: A Case Study (Vanderbilt University)

Shall we move on from zombies to something more pleasant like TV shows? How about ‘Lost’? It is definitely one of the most popular TV series ever made. Actually, it is so popular that Vanderbilt University has even decided to dedicate an entire course to the show. Professor John M. Sloop teaches a cultural class and claims that Lost is a perfect case study, because of the variety of characters, religion-versus-science themes and intricate plotlines. Students even watch episodes of the show and discuss them afterwards. If that isn’t a cool class, I don’t know what is!

10. Cyberporn and Society (University of New York at Buffalo)

As if the previous courses weren’t weird enough, the University of New York at Buffalo teaches a module about porn! What’s that about?! ‘Cyberporn and Society’ examines the role of pornography in the development of the internet and how it has affected society. The lecturer, Alexander Halavais, explains that the aim is neither to appreciate or criticize porn, but simply to discuss the interaction between pornography and technology. The course does not include any viewing of adult films whatsoever – but you’re still likely to face some tricky explanations when people ask what you’re studying!

This article was originally published in September 2014 . It was last updated in April 2021

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Written by

Vyara is a journalism graduate from the University of Westminster in London and currently an aspiring writer and blogger. She has produced a couple of video documentaries and has written pieces for several websites. Originally from Bulgaria, she is now living in London and loving it a lot! Rock music, sci-fi movies and travelling are amongst her biggest passions.


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