Graphic Literature

“Words and pictures are yin and yang. Married, they produce a progeny more interesting than either parent.”

–Dr. Seuss

Visual elements have long played a key and vital role in our ability to communicate meaningfully and efficiently. Beginning most notably with prehistoric cave drawings and transcending, more recently, to universally recognized emojis, our story as human beings is one steeped in images. In this class, we’ll study the origins of graphic literature, or comics, and explore the critical implications inherent to this hybridization genre of art and storytelling. Because scholars and academics have only recently identified graphic literature—long considered ‘low brow’—as an intellectual and artful medium, very few of us possess the critical vocabulary necessary for deciphering and discussing graphic texts; as a result, we’ll study the elements that comprise the genre and explore both aloud and through writing how these elements coalesce to shape riveting, emotionally articulate texts. Our exploration will undoubtedly cover many of the dominant figures and texts that comprise this literary landscape—including work by Scott McCloud, Arthur Spiegelman, Marijane Satrapi, and Alison Bechdel, among others—but we will also avail ourselves to even more recent, underground texts that utilize visual representation as a pluralistic art, blending issues of ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and race. In many ways, the graphic medium seduces readers into caring about realms and social inequality largely unfamiliar; similarly, this course employs comics and graphic art to “develop in students understanding of themselves, appreciation of others, and willingness to meet the responsibilities of citizenship in a free society,” as outlined by the university’s statement of aims. Through careful study and unbridled excitement, we’ll attempt to redefine notions of identity and representation. As this course is both reading and writing intensive, you will have the opportunity to do both creative and critical writing. This course will also culminate in a class field trip and tour of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum in Columbus.

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