spooky woods

Dark Protagonists & Controversy


This course was available in the past and may be presented again as part of the Open Enrollment curriculum.

By the 1970’s anti-heroes had taken over the collective imagination in American entertainment. More recently television shows like The Sopranos and Breaking Bad, fiction writers like Gillian Flynn and celebrities and politicians who appear to have no moral compass have developed huge followings. What do the dark protagonists at the center of these narratives tell us about what we value and how we seek to live? In this class we’ll explore how we can deploy such characters – and the American ideals they embody – to compel audiences as we build dramatic scenes, story structure, character arcs, and themes.

Participants will complete in-class and at-home exercises, workshop their work in class, and read, support, and critique each other’s work. Participants will workshop their work twice in class during weeks two through seven. They may also submit shorter submissions during their non-workshop weeks and receive peer and instructor feedback on all work submitted. All submissions are due by 3:00 p.m. CST on the Sunday preceding each class.

Prior to the first class watch the study film, Wall Street, as the foundation for our introduction to course concepts on January 9th and begin reading our study novel, The Talented Mr. Ripley.

This course is taught by Susan Hubbard, an instructor at the University of Chicago Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies. Hubbard is an award-winning screenwriter whose work has screened internationally. She co-wrote the feature film Realization and her play, Thundersnow, was produced in 2015. She holds an MFA in Cinema Art & Science from Columbia College Chicago.

Course Outline

Course Syllabus


The deadline for registration is Dec 22, 2023. Enrollment is limited to 12 students, so early enrollment is encouraged.

Remote courses require you to login to Canvas to access the Zoom Classroom. You will receive an invitation to join Canvas about a week before your course begins. Please visit the Liberal Arts Student Resources page to find step by step instructions for Canvas and Zoom: Online Learning Resources