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03-Graphic Storytelling: Exploring Contemporary Comics
In her introduction to The Best American Comics 2011, cartoonist Alison Bechdel writes, “Art and language are always in flux, of course, but the somewhat younger mode of comics seems to be in a particularly molten state. Close readers may observe rivulets of lava cooling into new conventions right before their eyes” (xv). In this course, we will read a variety of contemporary comics, mostly from North America, in order to examine how comics can help us rethink genre. Specifically, we will attempt to decipher what graphic narratives can teach us about the assumptions that we make about certain storytelling conventions, and how contemporary cartoonists play with or breach such conventions. Some of the forms of storytelling that we will be considering, through readings of comics of various lengths, including texts commonly referred to as “graphic novels,” are the documentary, the travel narrative, the diary, the short story, and the memoir.

Throughout this course, we will focus heavily on the formal complexities of reading visual-textual interactions, with the goal of developing a common vocabulary for thinking, talking, and writing about comics. We will address questions such as, is there an equivalent, in comics, of what we commonly refer to as “voice” in works of prose? In what ways do comics differ from other media, including film and prose? We will also, however briefly, consider digital comics, and the ways that they force us to rethink the possibilities of the medium.

Readings (may include some combination from the works listed below)
Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics
Alison Bechdel, Fun Home
Josh Neufeld, A.D.
Charles Burns, Black Hole
Julie Doucet, My New York Diary
Renee French, h day
Gabrielle Bell, Cecil and Jordan in New York
Shaun Tan, The Arrival
Art Spiegelman, Maus I and Maus II
Art Spiegelman and Hillary Chute, MetaMaus
Joe Sacco, Safe Area Gorazde
Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis I
Adrian Tomine, Shortcomings
Ariel Schrag, Potential

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