For the Spring 2010 semester, I will once again be teaching a Graphic Novel course, and I’m very much looking forward to it. What follows is my general course description and list of texts. I thought long and hard about which comics to use, and although I ended up favoring a more inclusive approach than the last time I taught it, there were still several I decided to leave out. I also regret that the text list lacks an overarching thematic unity, but I hope that the process of ferreting out and mapping overarching themes will be a productive aspect of the class as we move through each of them.

ENGL 375TT: The Graphic Novel

MWF 11:00 – 11:50, Combs 004

In this class, we’re going to study visual storytelling as it is accomplished through the combination of images and text. The graphic novel will be the primary genre under consideration, but other specific forms (comics, comic strips, webcomics, etc.) will be examined as well. Indeed, the term “graphic novel” will be interrogated for its cultural significance and relevance to specific works, especially in light of the fact that creators of these works often eschew the term. Primary readings will include the works listed below, and these will be supplemented by relevant literary theory and comics-specific criticism and theory. This may include work by such authors as Donald Ault, Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Thierry Groensteen, Jan Baetens, Will Eisner, and Scott McCloud. The goal of our study will be to understand the formal structures of comics in the context of a long history of medial shifts. Accordingly, the question we will attempt to answer by the end of the semester is: What is the future of comics in and through New Media?

Student work will consist of the following elements:

  1. Maintaining a weekly blog
  2. Preparing an analytical essay on a graphic novel of your choice
  3. Collaborating on a multi-authored paper or “book”
  4. Creating (in collaboration) a short graphic text


Primary Texts

Abel, Jessica, and Matt Madden. Drawing Words and Writing Pictures: Making Comics: Manga, Graphic Novels, and Beyond. First Second, 2008. Clowes, Daniel. Ghost World. Fantagraphics Books, 2001.
DeMatteis, John Marc et al. The Compleat Moonshadow. DC Comics, 1998. Eisner, Will. The Contract with God Trilogy: Life on Dropsie Avenue. W.W. Norton & Co., 2005.
Gaiman, Neil et al. The Sandman Vol. 4: Season of Mists. Vertigo, 1994. Kindt, Matt. Super Spy. Top Shelf Productions, 2007.
Mazzucchelli, David. Asterios Polyp. Pantheon, 2009. Modan, Rutu. Exit Wounds. Drawn and Quarterly, 2008.
Moore, Alan. Watchmen. DC Comics, 1988. O’Malley, Bryan Lee. Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 1: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life. Oni Press, 2004.