Since 2007 I have been teaching a fall First Year Seminar at Kalamazoo College titled “Warning: Graphic Literature.” Here’s a brief course description for the 2011 iteration:
We’ll analyze exemplars of graphic literary fiction, memoir, essay and journalism. Across the myriads of genres and forms, we’ll do close readings of the texts’ verbal and visual layers to see how they work, each on their own and together. In addition, we’ll discuss themes and socio-cultural and other contexts. The cartoon form and comics format of course are widely considered “low” or “popular,” so we’ll look at criticism that seeks to distinguish “serious” from “low,” “elite” from “popular,” taking note of writers and artists from outside the field of graphic literature who’ve mixed seemingly disparate aesthetics. For instance, the cartoon form has influenced serious painters, and prose artists have long mixed high and low forms. In all, we will consider how the cartoon form and the comics format, in a dance with serious intent and interesting writing, can turn into something we don’t mind calling graphic literature. Reading list (subject to change): Understanding Comics, by Scott McCloud; An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories, Vol. 1, ed. Ivan Brunetti; French Milk, by Lucy Knisley; The Impostor’s Daughter, by Laurie Sandell; Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel; Farm 54, by Galit Seliktar and Gilad Seliktar; Palestine, by Joe Sacco; The Complete Maus, by Art Spiegelman; The Complete Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi; and Forget Sorrow: An Ancestral Tale, by Belle Yang.