Memes in the Literature Studies Classroom


  • Bryan Yazell University of Southern Denmark
  • Anita Wohlmann University of Southern Denmark


memes, riddles, form, genre, teaching


This paper considers memes through the lens of riddles and discusses the generative or creative aspect of the meme format as applied in the classroom. In a literary studies course on cultural narratives, ranging from canonical to bestselling fiction, we critically discussed the genre-specific potential of memes, which students were encouraged to explore both intellectually and experientially. In addition, we asked students to create memes in their assessment of the course. The results were highly ambivalent, ranging from humor to seriousness, self-critique to critique of the course, panic (regarding the final exam) to playful exaggeration of said panic. This ambivalence, often accentuated by irony and excess, challenges any definitive understanding of the memes’ content and meaning. Rather than dismissing memes as a flawed, imprecise tool, this article examines them as riddled forms and hypothesizes that, due to their ambivalence, they may actually be closer to a student’s “truth.” The connection between memes and meaning-making is especially relevant to courses that, like the one in this article, foreground semantic ambiguity and an explorative habitus.

Author Biographies

Bryan Yazell, University of Southern Denmark

Bryan Yazell is Associate Professor of American literature at the University of Southern Denmark and a fellow at the Danish Institute for Advanced Study.

Anita Wohlmann, University of Southern Denmark

Anita Wohlmann is Associate Professor in Contemporary Anglophone Literature at the University of Southern Denmark, where she researches and teaches in the areas of American literature, Age Studies and Health Humanities among others.


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How to Cite

Yazell, B., & Wohlmann, A. (2023). Memes in the Literature Studies Classroom. Narrative Works, 12, 1–17. Retrieved from