Comics is a hybrid and surprisingly versatile medium that can be abstract and surreal, and also immediate and direct -- and the fascination comics inspires continues to grow as new vibrant work crops up across a wide range of formats and genres. Comics is not an illustrative form, in which the words and images match, but rather what has been called “narrative drawing” or “picture writing,” in which the words and images each move the narrative forward in different ways as the reader makes out the relationship between the two. How one ought to read comics often feels like an open question -- which it is. For a reader navigating the space of the page, reading comics can feel less directive and linear than reading most prose narrative.
Historically, there has been an association between comics and a kind of subpar literacy, as if comics could not be “real” reading, because of the widespread notion that visual literacy, which comics requires, is somehow less complicated than verbal literacy, which comics also requires. Contemporary comics, however, asks us to reconsider several dominant commonplaces about images, including that visuality stands for a subpar literacy. In comics the combination of words and images, and how this narrative exists laid out in space on the page, requires an active and involved literacy, with a high engagement of reading and looking for meaning.
We will read and discuss a number of powerful contemporary comics – including graphic memoir and other nonfiction comics, superhero narratives, and other genres in the comics medium. You will write with both words and images as a method of further developing your critical thinking and communication skills. Students will write to explore concepts like genre, rhetoric, academic discourse, and critical thinking, while further developing and honing their own methods and styles of writing. There are weekly “low-stakes” sketch assignments to encourage your exploration of different methods and techniques, along with some larger analytical writing assignments. These course assignments include a variety of formal and informal genres, all of them incorporating multiple modes of communication (Written, Aural, Nonverbal, Digital). You will write and design a narrative comic of your own as well as create visual analyses over the course of the semester. No particular preexisting drawing talent or expertise is required for successful completion of this course.