Undergraduate English Courses

358:256 Introduction to the Graphic Novel

01   MW7  CAC   20560   MILLER, R.  SC-207

In this course, we will consider two groups of questions that are raised by graphic narratives. The first group of questions are produced by the fact that reading a story told in text and reading a story told in text and images appear to place different demands on the person doing the reading. So, how does one read a graphic narrative? What is the relationship between the images and the words? Is that relationship the same for each author (or writing team)?

The second group of questions arise from a consideration of the graphic narrative as a medium. Can one philosophize in a graphic narrative? Can graphic narrative be used for purposes other than memoir and the examination of childhood and adolescence?

A decade ago, few in the academy would've imagined that there were enough high quality graphic narratives to fill out an entire syllabus. While Art Spiegleman's Maus has been assigned in college courses since it was first published as a single volume in 1991, the form did not take off in the United States until the internet made it possible for interested readers to easily access anime books and videos. Over the last decade, the combination of the creation of this market of readers and the publication of a number of compelling graphic narratives with broad appeal has moved the form out of the shadows of fandom and into the mainstream. (Alison Bechdel's Fun Home, first published in 2006, is now the biggest Broadway hit of the year.)

In this discussion-based course, assessment will be persistent. At the beginning of each class, students will take a quiz on that session's assigned reading. Students will maintain a drawing notebook (with assignments taken from one of the first books we will read: Lynda Barry's Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor.) And students will complete a final multimedia project--either analytical or narrative.

Many of the books we'll read describe personal traumas in vivid detail: part of the way this form works is by shock and surprise. So, if you're not interested in memoir and trauma, then this isn't the course for you.

No drawing skill is required. (As you'll learn, there are theorists and practitioners in this realm who delight in the amateur, in amateurishness, and in the symbolic over the real.)