In recent years, graphic novels have become recognized as an important form of storytelling, shaping contemporary culture even as they are shaped by it. These book-length, comic-art narratives and compilations employ a complex and iconic visual language. Combining and expanding on elements associated with literature, 2-D visual art, and cinema, the comics medium offers unique opportunities for reader immersion, emotional involvement, and even imaginative co-creation.
In this program we will explore the origins, development, and unique workings of these sequential narratives, from evocative pictorial narratives (e.g., Shaun Tan's The Arrival) to influential memoirs like Alison Bechdel's Fun Home, to contemporary fictional works such as Emil Ferris's My Favorite Thing is Monsters. We will carefully examine each text at multiple levels of composition, from single frames to the story as a whole, and interpret their workings with the help of Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. As writers, students will develop and articulate their new understandings by means of response papers, visual analyses, bibliographic summaries, and other activities as assigned.
Our studies will conclude with final projects focused on particular artists, works, and themes, or on the creation of original graphic narratives. Finally, while this is not a studio art course, we will experiment with drawing throughout the program as a way to develop an artist’s-eye view of comic art. Our overall goal is to develop an informed and critical perspective on this powerful medium.