This semester, I am teaching a literature and composition course. It has been a few years since I have taught a course like this, and this semester, I am approaching it a little bit differently. I have taught graphic nrratives in my courses before, but I have not used them exclusively. After hearing from a colleague who has done something similar, I thought I would do it this semester. So, I am framing the course around graphic memoirs, specifically ones that explore themes of memory and identity. Below, you will find the syllabus for the course. What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below.
Course Description and Objectives:
Building on skills developed in English 1101, students will interpret and analyze thematically linked literary works and other texts. A grade of “C” is required to pass. Prerequisite: ENGL 1101 with a grade of “C” or better.
Graphic memoirs, essentially, are “autobiographical” texts that use the medium of comics “to convey information and/or to produce an aesthetic response in the viewer.” Typically, you may not think about comics or graphic texts as “literature,” but in this class we will look at them as literary texts. As a result, we will interrogate how exactly we define terms such as “literature” and “autobiography.” What do these terms mean? Who decides what they mean? This will be part of our exploration this semester.
In this course, we will look at graphic memoirs and secondary texts to think about a myriad of questions. Some of these will include the following: What does home mean? What effect does memory have on our lives? How do we create our own stories? How do we construct our own identity? These are not all of the questions we will think about this semester, but they are some of the broader ones we will explore.
Throughout the course, we will read graphic memoirs by George Takei, Lucy Knisley, and more. While we will work with the questions presented earlier, the course will help you increase your critical thinking and critical reading skills as we examine both form and theme of literary texts. You will work on various projects over the course of the semester that will increase your knowledge of literary terms and your ability to apply them to a literary research assignment which will help you enhance your writing skills.
- Dres, Jérémie. We Won’t See Auschwitz, 2012.
- Knisley, Lucy. An Age of License, 2014.
- McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, 1994. *
- Radtke, Kristen. Imagine Wanting Only This, 2017.
- Takei, George. They Called Us Enemy, 2019.
- Thompson, Craig. Blankets, 2015.
- Chute, Hillary. “Comics as Literature? Reading Graphic Narrative”
- Jones, Laura. “Commentary on the Graphic Memoir”
- Jones, Laura. My Life in Movies
- Krug, Jennifer Daniels. “‘It’s Sad, But Not Crazy’—Memory as Construction/Performance in Graphic Memoirs”
- Railton, Ben. “Everything Japanese Internment Got Wrong”
- Smith, Lillian E. Selections from The Journey
- Stevens, Benjamin. “The Beautiful Ambiguities of Blankets: Comics Representation and Religious Art”
- Whitman, Walt. “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”
- Whitted, Qiana. “‘Battling in the sea of comics’: EC’s Invisible Man and the Jim Crow Future of ‘Judgement Day’”
- Wordsworth, William. “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. July 13, 1798”
*—I will provide text **—I will provide secondary readings via Canvas
As you can see from the tentative schedule, we will begin defining graphic memoir and learning terminology to read graphic narratives. Following this, we will look at different graphic memoirs and discuss them both thematically and stylistically. Along with this, you will be required to write three papers: two short responses and a final paper. The final paper will be written in conjunction with the “Graphic Memoir Presentation,” a project where you will create a section of your own graphic memoir.
Course Requirements and Explanation of Grading:
- Attendance and Participation 5%
- Assignments and Conferences 15%
- Essay #1 15%
- Essay #2 15%
- Final Paper 30%
- Graphic Memoir Presentation 20%
Attendance and In-Class Participation— Although I believe that as adults you should have control over your own education, attendance is vital to your success in this course. Much of your learning and work will take place in class, and you will be involved in discussing the readings in class. To fully comprehend and hopefully appreciate the texts, you should come to class fully prepared. This means you should have read the homework and completed any assignments for class.
You will be held accountable to the following attendance policy: 4 or more unexcused absences will result in a grade of FA (failure due to absences). If you have an excused absence—e.g., university-sponsored trip, doctor’s visit—you must provide verification to the course instructor, in writing, no later than one week after the absence occurs. Tardiness is disruptive and disrespectful to your peers and to the teacher. Every two instances of tardiness (defined as 5 minutes late or more) will be counted as one absence.
Daily attendance is not sufficient to guarantee you a passing participation grade. Any activities taking place during class time contribute to your in-class participation grade. This includes note-taking during lectures, actively participating during discussion, and otherwise participating in class activities. There will be small group discussions during classes and other activities that will be part of this grade.
Assignments and Conferences—Throughout the semester, we will have both in-class and online assignments. These will include posting topics online, answering questions, or other such activities. As well, we will have conferences for each paper. These will be mandatory because they allow us to discuss your essays in a smaller setting, giving us more time to work through your questions.
Essays—The essays will each be between 750-1000 words. They will highlight your engagement with the course material through your use of argument, sources, and critical thinking. For each, you must have a succinct argument and support the argument with examples from both primary and secondary texts.
Final Paper—The final paper will be an extension of the essays. Yet, it will be a little different. For the final paper, you need to think about how you would construct a graphic memoir based on what we have read and learned throughout the course of the semester. You will use primary and secondary sources to discuss how you would construct a few pages of your own graphic memoir.
Graphic Memoir Presentation—At the end of the semester, you will create a few pages of your very own graphic memoir. This can be done without any ability to draw. For example, you can use page layouts from online and incorporate pictures. We will walk through how to do this, and I will do one right alongside you as part of the final presentation.
Students should conduct themselves in a manner respectful of themselves, their classmates, and me. While we may discuss controversial or potentially offensive issues, and class discussions may well involve differences of opinion, students are to conduct themselves in a professional manner.
Discussion will be a key part of our class. As an open classroom, we will listen to the ideas of all students with thoughtfulness. You are encouraged to challenge ideas, but not each other. In this classroom, we are equal. We will adhere to a zero-tolerance policy on discrimination of any kind.
Tentative Readings for English 1102
|January 6||Intro to Course and Syllabus|
|January 8||McCloud “The Vocabulary of Comics”|
|January 10||McCloud “Blood in the Gutter”|
|January 13||McCloud “Show and Tell”|
|January 15||“Judgement Day,” “The Slave Ship,” and “The Teacher from Mars”* Introduce Essay #1|
|January 17||Whitted “‘Battling in the sea of comics’: EC’s Invisible Man and the Jim Crow Future of ‘Judgement Day’”*|
|January 20||Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday|
|January 22||MLA Day: research and plagiarism|
|January 24||Finish MLA: Locating secondary sources, discussion of essay #1, work on finding sources|
|January 27||Chute “Comics as Literature? Reading Graphic Narrative”|
|January 29||Jones My Life in Movies Jones “Commentary on the Graphic Memoir”|
|January 31||Selections from Smith’s The Journey Essay #1 Topic Due|
|February 3||In Class Writing Day (Bring essays to class so you can ask questions)|
|February 5||Conference Day (Bring drafts of essay to class)|
|February 7||Conference Day (Bring drafts of essay to class)|
|February 10||Knisley An Age of License Essay #1 Due|
|February 12||Knisley An Age of License|
|February 14||Knisley An Age of License Whitman “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”*|
|February 17||Radtke Imagine Wanting Only This Introduce Essay #2|
|February 19||Radtke Imagine Wanting Only This Wordsworth “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey”|
|February 21||Radtke Imagine Wanting Only This Krug “‘It’s Sad, but Not Crazy’—Memory as Construction/Performance in Graphic Memoirs”|
|February 24||In Class Writing and Research Day (Bring essays to class so you can ask questions) Essay #2 Topic Due|
|February 26||In Class Writing Day (Bring essays to class so you can ask questions)|
|February 28||Conference Day (Bring drafts of essay to class)|
|March 2||Conference Day (Bring drafts of essay to class)|
|March 4||Dres We Won’t See Auschwitz Essay #2 Due|
|March 6||Dres We Won’t See Auschwitz|
|March 9||Spring Break!|
|March 11||Spring Break!|
|March 13||Spring Break!|
|March 16||Dres We Won’t See Auschwitz Introduce Final Essay|
|March 18||Watch Karen K. video on Youtube*|
|March 20||Takei They Called Us Enemy|
|March 23||Takei They Called Us Enemy|
|March 25||Takei They Called Us Enemy Railton“Everything Japanese Internment Got Wrong”|
|March 27||In Class Writing Day Graphic Memoir/Final Essay Topic Due|
|March 30||Thompson Blankets|
|April 1||Thompson Blankets|
|April 3||Thompson Blankets|
|April 6||Thompson Blankets|
|April 8||Stevens “The Beautiful Ambiguities of Blankets: Comics Representation and Religious Art”|
|April 10||Good Friday!|
|April 20||In Class Writing Day (Bring essays to class so you can ask questions)|
|April 22||Conference Day (Bring drafts of essay to class)|
|April 24||Conference Day (Bring drafts of essay to class)|
|April 27||Final Essay Due Graphic Memoir Presentations|
|April 29||Graphic Memoir Presentations|