Assignments

Reading Check Quizzes: (60 points) This is a reading intensive course. Recognizing that, I’ll administer three unannounced reading check quizzes during the semester. The quizzes are not meant to penalize you. Rather, they are intended to ensure that you’ve completed the assigned readings and that you are prepared to participate productively in class discussions. Missing quizzes (or performing poorly on them) will have an adverse effect on your grade. As such, it is important that you take time to prepare for each class meeting. Please note that quizzes missed due to absences cannot be made up. The quizzes will cover both the graphic novels and the secondary articles we read.

Discussion Leader: (80 points) In keeping with the spirit of constructivist teaching, my objective is for us to work together as a community of learners to deepen our appreciation for the graphic novels we read for class each week. With that in mind, you’ll be expected to work with a partner to lead one class discussion about an assigned graphic novel. Prior to our meeting for class, you’ll need to research the author and graphic novel your discussion focuses on with the goal of learning more about them. You should consult a range of interviews (print, video; and audio) they have given about their work; articles and reviews other people have written about the graphic novel; and articles and videos about content/issues associated with the graphic novel; etc. You’ll be expected to share resources with your classmates that are relevant to your discussion by embedding them on a digitally annotated image you create for publication on our class web site. Prior to facilitating your discussion, you and your partner will also need to prepare a handout that highlights two or three “big” questions you’d like the class to explore. The handout should include key panels/excerpts from the graphic novel that strike you as relevant to the questions you’re exploring. Finally, you and your partner will need to co-author a short blog post (approximately 600-700 words) in which you frame the questions/issues you plan to explore and work through your initial ideas about them. Questions to ask as you compose your blog post include: What “big” questions/issues does the graphic novel raise for you, and why do you consider them noteworthy? What problems or issues underlie those questions/issues? I will publish your blog post and annotated image on the class website in advance of our meeting With that in mind, you’re expected to email me your post as a Word document and the embedding information for your digital slide by Sunday evening at 5:00. It is expected that all students will read the student-authored essays prior to our meeting for class on Monday evenings. I will model the kind of questions I’d like you to ask for the first couple of weeks. Student-led discussions will begin on February 11th.

Design Analysis Paper: (80 points) Challenging the assumption that one “reads” books but “looks” at pictures, Hassett and Schieble argue that the texts contemporary adolescents “encounter today embody cues for reading that extend beyond the letters and words on the page, requiring readers to actively focus on textual elements beyond the decoding of print.” In the case of graphic novels, pictures constitute one such textual element. This assignment asks you to apply your understanding of the relationship between the content of a graphic novel and its visual design (an aspect of its form) and analyze the role an author’s rhetorical choices play in allowing him/her to construct a theme. Prior to composing your paper, select what you regard as a key page in one of the graphic novels you read prior to the due date for the assignment. In constructing your argument, you’ll need to: 1) contextualize the page for your audience by introducing and discussing (briefly) a theme it functions to develop in the narrative; 2) critically analyze the role elements of the page’s design play in allowing the author to construct that theme, inserting individual panels in the flow of your text when appropriate (no more than four) and diagramming them to help your reader follow your discussion; 3) discuss the implications of the exercise for literacy teachers. In other words, what are the consequences for English teachers of acknowledging that contemporary teenagers interact with texts that require them to decode modes other than written language? You are free to select the graphic novel and the theme you explore in your paper. Attach a photocopy of the page you focus on as an appendix.

Graphic Literacy Narrative and Reflective Essay (150 points): This assignment builds on and extends the visual design analysis paper. In our quest to understand the challenges involved in reading and writing graphic narratives, you’ll be asked to use Comic Life, a software program, to create an original comic book that presents a personal narrative. Prior to doing so, you’ll be asked to develop a script to guide your story. Additionally, you’ll be asked to compose a reflective paper in which you unpack the vision you worked toward in your comic book and analyze the rhetorical choices you made as a writer to bring it to fruition. Finally, you’ll be asked to read a classmate’s reflective essay and critique his/her comic book. You need not be an “artist” to complete this assignment, and you shouldn’t feel any trepidation about doing so. Although you are welcome to incorporate original drawings in your comic book, you’re also free to use photographs. More information will be provided about the assignment as the due date approaches, and one class meeting will be set aside to introduce Comic Life and allow you to begin working on your project. Beyond that, you’ll need to reserve time in your schedule to finish your comic book in the Grad Ed computer lab. The finished comic books will be assembled and published on the course website.

Final Project: (100 points) In “Narrative in Comics,” Henry Pratt characterizes comics as “a hybrid art form that employs narrative strategies closely connected to literature, on the one hand, and other pictorial narrative media, on the other.” This hybridity leads some educators to question whether graphic novels, which emphasize the visual, are capable of challenging readers. Throughout the course, our focus will be on understanding how people make meaning when they read multimodal texts such as graphic novels. With this in mind, the final course project requires that you design and carry out a small-scale empirical study in which you examine how actual readers make sense of works written in the medium of comics. Consistent with the focus of the course, you’ll be asked to construct your argument using a combination of words and pictures, and present your work when we meet for our final class.