Batman Syllabus


PSY4003 Special Topics in Psychology: BATMAN
Professor: Dr. Travis Langley – psychologist, superherologist.
Office: McBrien Hall Room 301-F, 230-5222,

The course uses psychology to analyze Batman and Batman to teach psychology. Batman is one of the best known characters in the world, and interest in him has lasted through countless incarnations since he debutedin Detective Comics #27 in 1939. Why does this superhero without superpowers fascinate us? What does that fascination say about us? This course explores these and other intriguing questions about the masked vigilante: Does Batman have PTSD?  Why does he fight crime? Why as a vigilante? Why the mask, the bat, and the underage partner? Why are his most intimate relationships with “bad girls” he ought to lock up? And why won’t he kill that homicidal clown?


TEST 1 Wednesday, February 11
TEST 2 Wednesday, March 11
Southwestern Psychological Association April 9-11 (no class Friday, April 10)
AURC TBA (mandatory)
TEST 3 Friday, April 24
FINAL Wednesday, May 13

The schedule and other details in this syllabus may be subject to revision.

QUIZZES ON READINGS (40 pts. total). You will take a number of short quizzes over your assigned readings. There will be no makeup quizzes.

EXAMS (40 pts. total for regular tests + 40 pts. for final) There will be three 20-point tests plus a final. There will be NO makeup tests. Instead of allowing makeup tests, I drop your lowest test score. If you miss a test, then your 0 on that one will be the low score that gets dropped. The 40-point final is mandatory and cannot be dropped.

GRADING Half the grade will be for quizzes and exams. Half will be for assignments and participation. Test questions range in difficulty to get an accurate idea of exactly how much you know and understand about the course material. I do not feel it is right to establish a curve based on the highest grade in the class, in which case only one score would determine everyone’s grade. The scale on the 20‑point test (although bonus credit makes them worth more than 20) is half the scale you see below for 40-point assignments.

The grading scale for each 40-point assignment (e.g., your term paper) is this:
F <‑‑ 20.0          D 20.1 ‑ 25.0          C 25.1 ‑ 30.0          B 30.1 ‑ 35.0        A 35.1 ‑‑>  


Required Books
Batman: The Greatest Stories Ever Told volume one (2005). New York, NY: DC Comics.
The Joker: The Greatest Stories Ever Told (2008). New York, NY: DC Comics.
Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight by T. Langley (2012). New York, NY: Wiley.  

Examples of Other Assigned Readings
These will usually be provided as handouts or kept on reserve in the library.


Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth (1989). Script: Grant Morrison. Art: Dave McKean.
Batman: The Killing Joke (1988). Script: Alan Moore. Art: Brian Bolland.
The Batman Adventures: Mad Love (1994, February). Script: Paul Dini. Art: Bruce Timm & Glen Murakami.

Scholarly Works

Bender, H. E., Kambam, P, & Pozios, V. K. (2011, September 20). Putting the Caped Crusader on the couch. New York Times:

Daniels, B. J. (2008). Arkham Asylum: Forensic psychology and Gotham’s (not so) “serious house.” In R. Rosenberg (Ed.), The psychology of superheroes (pp. 201-211). Dallas, TX: BenBella.

Davidson, R. (2011, January 18). Supervillains and the insanity defense. Law and the Multiverse:

Lytle, P. (2008). The madness of Arkham Asylum. In D. O’Neil & L. Wilson (Eds.), Batman unauthorized: Vigilantes, jokers, and heroes in Gotham City (pp. 109-120). Dallas, TX: BenBella.

Tate, C. (2008). An appetite for destruction: Aggression and the Batman. In R. Rosenberg (Ed.), The psychology of superheroes (pp. 201-211). Dallas, TX: BenBella.

Wertham, F. (1954). Seduction of the innocent (chapter VII). Laurel, NY: Main Road.

Recommended but Not Required

Friedman, C. (2006). Wisdom from the Batcave: How to live a super, heroic life. Linden, NJ: Compass.
Uslan, M. (2011). The boy who loved Batman. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle.
Zehr, E. P. (2008). Becoming Batman: The possibility of a superhero. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins.

PARTICIPATION (40 pts.) A participation grade will be based on attendance, appropriate involvement in civil classroom discussions (contributing without monopolizing), and demonstrations that you know your assigned readings. It will weigh more heavily for people who don’t do what they’re supposed to do or maybe for some who participate exceptionally well. Read the things you’re supposed to read. Discussions can be fun and interesting if everyone has read the things we’re talking about. Discussions would be painful chores if you haven’t. Anyone who doesn’t want to read much shouldn’t take a course about a character from printed publications.


Be here.

ANALYSIS PROJECT (40 pts.) Character or story analysis: Analyze a character or storyline by demonstrating how it illustrates specific psychological concepts, terms, and/or theories. I’ll provide examples. By midterm, you will draft a rough, sketchy, paper about him/her/it as analyzed up to that time. At the course’s end, you will turn in an APA style paper presenting your complete character analysis. You will present this paper’s topic at the Arkansas Undergraduate Research Conference (AURC) which is held every spring at Henderson State University.

OTHER ASSIGNMENTS (40 pts. total)

There will be some other assignments. Most of them will be aimed at helping you with your character analysis project. Example: Completing an introversion/extraversion question for your character.


By the end of the course, the student should be able to . . .
1. Examine themes that are psychologically significant in Batman stories.
2. Describe how superhero literature can be used in therapeutic, healing, or educational ways.
3. Describe what psychology says about Batman stories and characters along with what Batman stories and characters say about psychology. 4. Tender examples of characters that embody different personality attributes and how they may illustrate theories of personality.
5. Describe examples of characters with mental disorders and be able to give examples of how the disorders were presented.
6. Describe what impact these stories can have on stereotyping in the area of culture, gender, ethnicity, criminals, victims, and the mentally ill.
7. Discuss how analysis of fictional characters and situations can enhance our understanding and application of psychology in the real world.


As a learning community of scholars, Henderson State University emphasizes the ethical responsibility of all its members to seek knowledge honestly and in good faith. Students are responsible for doing their own work, and academic dishonesty of any kind will not be tolerated. Violations of academic integrity include but are not limited to cheating, plagiarism, or misrepresentation of information in oral or written form. Such violations will be dealt with severely by the instructor, the dean, and the standards committee. Plagiarism means presenting someone else’s idea or writing as if it were your own. If you use someone else’s idea or writing, be sure the source is clearly documented. Other guidelines for acceptable student behavior are specified in the university catalogue. See also cell phone policy.


If your phone rings or vibrates loudly enough for your professor to hear it during class, every ring is a classroom disruption and can cost you points. If it rings once, make sure it does not ring a second time. Do not text during class because that is distracting to others. Do not have your phone in sight. If you need to be on your phone that badly, then you need to be somewhere else.

During tests, your phone and any other items that can contain notes must be OFF and completely OUT OF SIGHT. If your phone, etc., is visible, that will be treated as cheating because too many students use those things to cheat. I do not have to confirm what was on your phone, etc.

Students with disabilities:  Individuals who may need academic accommodation based on the impact of a documentable disability should contact the Disability Resource Center for assistance. For more information, visit the DRC website at

Henderson State University, “The School with a Heart,” offers quality undergraduate and graduate education to a diverse student body.  As Arkansas’s public liberal arts university, we empower each student to excel in a complex and changing world.


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