The Secret Language of Comics

Week ahead: 8

8 3/1 Sabrina — 101- 157 Literacy Narrative, part 2
3/3 Sabrina –158-204
3/6 Data gathering for sketch 8

Last week of classes before spring break!

This week we’ll finish reading and discussing Sabrina. As I said in class yesterday, as you move into the second half of the book, pay attention to whether there are signs of healing in the book. We’ve spent a lot of time this semester talking about trauma and difficult moments, but where do we see growth and recovery as well? If you see signs of recovery in Sabrina, how do they compare with what you saw in Stiches and Fun Home?

If you haven’t already published your Tracing Pages assignment, please be sure to get in touch with me and let me know when to expect it. You should publish your literacy narrative comics this week too. Do glance ahead at the sketch 8 prompt so you can begin planning for it and start collecting data as soon as you get back from spring break.

Note that I have tried to front-load your work this semester as much as possible, which is why there’s this crunch before spring break. Once we get back from spring break, you’ll still have reading and sketches to do but only one more major project — your halfa kucha presentations in class — before we wrap up your portfolios for the semester.

Week Ahead: 5

  2/6   Sketch 4: Combophoto
5 2/8 Fun Home — chpts 1 (Old Father, Old Artificer) and 2 (A Happy Death)  
  2/10 Fun Home — chpts 3 (That Old Catastrophe) & 4 (In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower)  
  2/13   Sketch 5: Triptych

For the sketch assignment this week, you simply need to combine two photos together to create a new thing. This is an exercise in inductive thinking, which we talked about when we discussed Randy Olson (thesis + antithesis = synthesis). There is no need for fancy photo editing. Simply crop two photos into rectangles and line them up with each other. The photo editing skills are *very* minimal. However, what this sketch really asks of you is to think visually and creatively. Give yourself some time to find photos that you can combine.

Here are two examples from students in past classes, in case the ones in the sketch assignment prompt seem too fancy to follow.

This week, we’ll dive into Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel. Particularly for our first class discussion, pay attention to similarities and differences between this book and Stitches. Remember our discussion of how David Small introduced setting and characters? How does Bechdel do that? How would you describe the similarities and differences in the visual and narrative tones in the two books?

For the sketch assignment on 2/13, you’ll make a comic strip with a beginning, middle, and end. Have you noticed the pattern of progression of the sketch assignments from avatar to combophoto to triptych?

Note: I moved back the deadline for the literacy narrative part 2. But you should be working on your comics drafts!

Week Ahead: 4

1/30 Sketch 3: Visual Note Taking
4 2/1
  • Hillary Chute, “Comics for Grown-Ups” from Why Comics?: From Underground to Everywhere
  • Stitches — “I was fourteen” (157-242)
  • Scott McCloud Making Comics, chpt 1
  • Stitches — “I was fifteen” & “A few years ago I had the following dream. In the dream I was a boy of six again” (243-329)
2/6 Sketch 4: Combophoto

I hope that those of you who are traveling to return to campus are doing so safely and without too much tumult and stress. I look forward to seeing you all in person on Tuesday for our next class.

We’ll meet in the Callaway Building room S103 (here’s a link to that building on the official Emory map and here’s a link to that building on Google maps). Note that the Callaway Building is kind of confusing — it used to be two different buildings that were combined together and that history lives on in the room numbering. The S in the room number means it’s on the south side of the building so our classroom is in the section of the building that is located right along the quad, not on the side of the building that is closer to the Modern Languages building, Tarbutton Hall, and beyond those over to Woodruff gym (rooms on that side of the building are marked with N for north).

In the meantime, you should be creating your visual notes for sketch 3 this weekend. We’ll talk a bit about the upcoming combophoto assignment in class this week.

For Tuesday, you have a short chunk of Stitches to read. We’ll spend a lot of class on Tuesday discussing Hillary Chute’s chapter “Comics for Grown-Ups.” Chute is probably the foremost academic authority on comics these days — she’s the Distinguished Professor of English and Art + Design at Northeastern University in Boston and has published six volumes of criticism on comics as a medium. The first twenty pages of her article provide a very useful overview of the history of comics with lots of useful information in it. But in class on Tuesday, we’ll focus most of our attention on the last 10 pages of the essay, the section called “Reading Comics,” which provides us key terms and a theoretical framework for understanding how comics works and how to read and analyze them.

We’ll spend most of Thursday diving back into Stitches. Scott McCloud’s Making Comics should be really useful for you as you begin to think about revising your literacy narratives into comics literacy narratives. We’ll spend a bit of time talking about it, especially paying attention to the 5 aspects needed for clarity in your writing, but mostly I see that chapter as a resource for you as you go about designing your own comics that doesn’t really need to be unpacked in class discussion. If you have questions about the text, then please do raise them though.

Week Ahead: 3

3 1/25 Literacy Narrative, part 1
1/27 No class: Return to campus.
1/30 Sketch 3: Visual Note Taking

On Tuesday, we’ll spend a bit of time discussing the Dan Roam reading, though I don’t think it really requires a lot of discussion. It is a really useful reading, though, on the power of visualization and what you can accomplish with relatively simple drawings. We’ll spend a bit of time at the beginning circling back to Nick Sousanis’s Unflattening, then we’ll dig into the assigned pages from Stitches.

You should publish your Literacy Narrative by Tuesday night. I’ll be reading them on Wednesday and Thursday and then I’ll ask you to begin signing up for individual conferences with me so that we can discuss your essays.

There’s no class on Thursday because you’ll be transitioning back to campus and preparing for face-to-face classes.

Week Ahead: 2

1/16 Sketch 1: Avatar
2 1/18
1/23 Sketch 2: Sunday Sketches

You should be publishing your avatar sketches to your sites tonight (Sunday night). As of midnight, it looks like 7 or 8 of you have published your avatars, so I’ve started to load those on the Student Sites page.

In class on Tuesday, we’ll discuss parts one and two of “Adventures in Depression.” I’ll ask you to apply the rhetorical situation terms we talked about on Thursday to the texts.

In class on Thursday, we’ll spend the bulk of our time discussing the opening section of Stitches. As you read those first 50ish pages I would like you to consider the following questions:

  • How does Small establish character and setting in the introduction?
  • This chapter all takes place while David is 6 years old. What are the major subdivisions of the chapter though? You’ll probably decide that there are three (maybe four) major sections in these pages — what is the primary idea being conveyed by each section?
  • Pick the single page that you find the most compelling or interesting or that you think is the most important in today’s reading. Describe the page in a few sentences. Why is it interesting or important?

We’ll also look at two chapters from Unflattening by Nick Sousanis, who drew Unflattening as his dissertation for Teachers College at Columbia University — it was the first comics dissertation ever and has since been published by Harvard UP and has won a bunch of awards. Sousanis took a job at San Francisco State University a couple of years ago and is building a comics studies program there.

Unflattening will serve as one of the theoretical frameworks for our analyses of comics. Be aware that this comic is probably a little more dense reading than you’ll find Stitches to be, so give yourself a little extra time to work through those 20 pages carefully. I’ll start off our discussion of Sousanis by asking you to consider how effective Unflattening is as an academic, philosophical argument. (Soon we’ll read another theoretical framing text, but in the form of a more traditional essay by Hillary Chute and I’ll ask you to consider how the two pieces are similar and different.) How do the words and images in Unflattening interact together? Is it different than what happens in Stitches?

Your second sketch assignment is due on Sunday 1/23 — for this one you’ll need to use analog tools to draw your sketch because you’ll be incorporating a physical object into the sketch. It’s an exercise in simple  visual storytelling and lateral thinking, so have some fun with it. Please make sure to give your sketch a funny or clever title.

Also, you should be working on your literacy narrative, which will be due on Tuesday 1/25.