The course introduces students to the graphic novel (book-length comics) as a relatively "new" genre of contemporary literature. The course consists of a survey of key texts and provides students with the necessary critical toolkit used to analyze visual literatures. Over the course of the semester, we will focus on the “form” of the graphic novel and how it creates arguments about gender, class, sexuality and race. This course will also be an introduction to the critical methods and theories used to interpret the unique relationship between text and image.
Topics may include: autobiography, memory and the ‘graphic memoir’; surveillance and imaging the racial other; secret identities and the act of passing; the ‘grammar’ of comics; the gaze, gender and the body; comics as historiography; representing cultural histories, space and geographies; comics and social justice
This course offers an overview of comics and graphic novels that best represent the strengths of the genre. After successfully completing the course, students will be familiar with the critical tools required to analyze and critique visual literatures; will have working knowledge of comics scholarship; and through writing and discussion have formed and contextualized their own critical position on a range of visual texts.
Students will be able to:
- Interpret, analyze, critique and discussion graphic novels using a range of critical terms and approaches.
- Analyze and discuss graphic novel within a larger historical and cultural context.
- Display a clear understanding of the relationship between form and content.
- Demonstrate the skills of writing critically about graphic novels from a range of theoretical and practical perspectives.
- Demonstrate the skills of analysis required in the study of graphic novels.
3 hours a week. In order to explore the criticual and cultural framework of these graphic novels, the session will consist of group and class discussion, student-led presentations and other discussion-based activities. There will also be mini-lectures and writing workshops as needed. This course is discussion-based and can be reading intensive; reading guides or questions will be provided to facilitate reading in preparation for class discussion. Students are encouaged to plan ahead – do not leave reading up to the last minute! As class meets only once a weei, attendance is mandatory.
100% continuous assessment:
One 3-4 page close-reading paper (LO 1, 3 & 5): 25%
One 6-8 page critical final essay: (LO 1,2, 3, 4 & 5): 30%
Active and consistent participation in class and group discussion: 25% (LO 1, 2, 3 & 5): 25%
One 2-page summary of secondary source of comics scholarship (LO 1, 2, 4 & 5): 20%
Readings may include:
Art Spiegelman, Maus: Part I (1991)
Posy Simmonds, Tamara Drewe (2005-7)
Charles Burns, Black Hole (2005)
Alison Bechdel, Fun Home (2006)
Alan Moore, V For Vendetta (1982-5)
Nick Abadzis, Laika (2007)
Adrian Tomine, Shortcomings (2007)
Sample of critical readings:
Cheng, Anne Anlin. Melancholy of Race. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. (excerpt)
Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Pantheon Books, 1977. (excerpt)
Haraway, Donna Jeanne. When Species Meet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008. (excerpt)
McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics. New York: HarperPerennial, 1994.
Mulvey, Laura. Visual and Other Pleasures. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. (excerpt)
Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. Epistemology of the Closet. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990. (excerpt)