ENGL 386 The Graphic Novel

11 Nov in engl386, graphic novel, teaching, textbooks

My last entry was about a new class; this one is about an older class, but since the material is continually evolving, I thought it made sense to write briefly about it here as well. ENGL 386: The Graphic Novel has undergone a few iterations, but in its current form, it’s an upper-level literature class, intended for English Majors and meeting one of their requirements for 5 literatures on any topic. As I think the title suggest, “The Graphic Novel” is somewhat formal in focus, considering the elements of the comic medium as they are developed through the graphic novel genre.

The assignments routinely involve close analysis of comic pages, one large-scale collaborative research project, and one collaborative creative project in the form of a web-based graphic text — often, students do this last one as a “webcomic,” which we can host at UMWBlogs.org using ComicPress.

Choosing novels for this class is always difficult. You can see the full list of every text I’ve used for this class here in my Zotero library.

For one thing, there’s an abundance of graphic fiction coming out, and even though I don’t personally read too deeply into superhero comics, I still read too much to bring to a single class. Moreover, interesting graphic novels that are new have the problem of access. Many seem to do a single print run, and by the time I’m reading and making a decision on a text, it’s supplies are running low. In these situations where my bookstore can only order new copies, since a new book won’t have been circulated in the used textbooks market yet, I have to find some other book.

Considering texts always involves balancing several different factors. I try to aim for historical and national diversity, and I try to include a diversity of genders and races, both among the characters in the fiction as well as among the authors themselves. I always struggle with this latter consideration, though, and I never feel satisfied with the balance I end up with.

Really, I have to confess that the most influential factor in determining a book’s viability for my course is whether or not I like it, so with no further ado, here’s a list of books I like that 1) I think I can get the bookstore to order and 2) I like:

  • Carey, Mike, Yuko Shimizu, and Peter Gross. The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity. Titan Books Limited, 2010. Print.
  • Eisner, Will. A Contract with God: And Other Tenement Stories. DC Comics, 1978. Print.
  • Gaiman, Neil. The Sandman, Vol. 3: Dream Country. Vertigo, 1990. Print.
  • Lemire, Jeff. The Underwater Welder. Top Shelf Productions, 2012. Print.
  • L’Engle, Madeleine. A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel. Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), 2012. Print.
  • Madden, Matt. 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style. 1st ed. Chamberlain Bros., 2005. Print.
  • Mazzucchelli, David. Asterios Polyp. Pantheon, 2009. Print.
  • Moore, Alan. Watchmen. DC Comics, 1988. Print.
  • Powell, Nate. Swallow Me Whole. Top Shelf Productions, 2008. Print.

Questions, comments welcome.