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The Graphic Novel – 16 Week Class

The Graphic Novel

ENG 411J – CRN 34984

Spring Semester, 2008

Instructor: Rebecca Gorman

Classroom: King Center 314

Hours: Monday and Wednesday 1:00-2:15

Office: King Center 432

Office Hours: Monday and Wednesday 11:30-12:30

Thursday, 11:30-1:30

Friday, 1-2 and by appointment

Office Phone:  (303) 352-4257 (during office hours only)

e-mail: **Notes or messages may be left for me in my mailbox at KC401**

Prerequisites: ENG 2100 and 6 additional credit hours of English at the 2000 level or above.

Course Description: Designed primarily for English majors, this course is an in-depth study of the genre of the Graphic Novel.  Upon completion of this course, students will have a working knowledge of visual literacy, the unique conventions of the genre, and a familiarity with representative works of the form.

Course Objectives:

Upon completion of this course the student should be able to:

1. Distinguish characteristics of the genre: conventions, themes, and techniques.

2. Analyze the Graphic Novel as a unique form of literature, which synthesizes words and visual narrative,

3. Appraise the major works and authors of the genre.

4. Distinguish how historical, intellectual, sexual, racial and cultural issues influenced the development of the Graphic Novel.

5. Evaluate how the Graphic Novel influences narratives in other genres.

6. Synthesize research (literary criticism, genre studies, etc.) and response to Graphic Novel texts.

7. Incorporate literary theory into discussion and written responses.

Course Requirements and Grading

Participation                           150 points

Reading Response Sheets      10@10pts  100 points

Presentation and Short Paper             100 points

Abstracts                    2@50pts   100 points

Paper 1                              100 points

Paper 2                               100 points

Annotated Bibliography                100 points

Paper 3                                250 points

TOTAL      1000 points

A = 900-1000 points

B = 800-899 points

C = 700-799 points

D – 600-699 points

F = below 600 points


Attendance: Attendance to each session of this class is mandatory.  Active participation is essential to you learning all this course has to offer. Any missed class will count against your participation grade.

Absences due to severe illness, death in the family, or other extreme, unforeseeable events must be discussed with me as soon as possible.If you must miss a class due to a religious observance, you must let me know at least two weeks in advance, in writing.  (See full religious observance policy on last pages of syllabus).

The only excused absences will be granted for religious observance, jury duty, or call to military service.

More than 7 absences, excused or unexcused, will result in a failing grade.Lateness: Lateness to class will also adversely affect your participation grade.  Arriving more than 10 minutes late to class count as half an absence.If you have difficultly arriving to class promptly due to physical constraints and a class immediately preceding this one, please discuss the matter with me as soon as possible.

Assignment Format and Policy on Academic Dishonesty:

All papers turned in for this class must be written in current MLA format, with MLA citations and works cited sheets.

Abstracts and reading response sheets must be turned in in the format dictated below.

All assignments must be handed in typed, in a clear, legible 12-point font, in hard copy.  I prefer the Courier New font, but Times New Roman is also acceptable.  No e-mailed work will be accepted.

All work must be your own, generated this semester for this course.  Plagiarism involves using all or part of a source (words or ideas) without correctly citing the source.  This includes representing another person’s work as your own or using a source in any way without correct documentation.  You are responsible for asking me or the tutors at the MSCD Writing Center if you are not sure how to document something.  Academically dishonest or plagiarized work will receive an “F” and may be grounds for further disciplinary action.The college’s rules against cheating and plagiarism will be strictly enforced.  These can be found in your student handbook.

Late Assignments:

Every assignment must be turned in, hard copy, in the class session in which it is due.

Reading Response Sheets will not be accepted late.

All other assignments will lose one letter grade (1/10 the number of the assignment’s points) for each business day (Monday-Friday) that they are late.


For 10 of the class sessions, you will be expected to turn in a Reading Response Sheet.  There is a template on the course web site and on the one of the last pages of the syllabus.  These will not be accepted after the class session in which they are due.

These sheets must be turned in typed, and they may be only one page in length.  Otherwise, they will not be read and no credit will be given.


From 1:00 to 1:15, most class sessions, students will present a graphic novel or sequential art/literature work of their choosing to the class.  The presentation should be on a piece or a writer you admire.

This will be a formal, organized presentation using the vocabulary of the genre to delineate the writing style and specific techniques the writer of the piece uses.  Biographical information, as it affects the literature, may be included in a small portion of your presentation.

The schedule of presentations will be made early in the semester.  Students are strongly encouraged to bring visual aids to the presentation.  You may use my computer, your own computer, the document camera, or an overhead projector, or you may make 24 copies of your visual aids for in-class distribution.  (You may also distribute your visual aids in the class before your presentation).

You will write a two-page paper (MLA format) discussing why you admire the piece, and what literary strategies are represented in the piece.  Use an MLA Citation to cite the piece you have chosen.

The paper is due on the day of your presentation.


At 2 points during the semester, you will be turning in abstracts on articles (preferably from refereed publications).  These articles may be on any work on the syllabus or the optional reading list.

You may choose an article on a work other than these, or on graphic novels in general, please speak to me about your choice.

If you are uncertain of the suitability of the article, please present an annotated bibliographical sheet to me up to a week before the assignment’s due date.

An abstract is a comprehensive summary meant to provide the essentials of the content of an article so that reading the abstract could substitute for reading the article itself.  The opposite of abstraction is concreteness, or particularity; so details that make an article vivid and interesting do not belong in the abstract; you will be summarizing and paraphrasing, not quoting.  An abstract looks like one long paragraph, (not like an outline).

Your abstract should be 300-400 words long.  Instead of a title, at the top of the page provide an MLA-style Works Cited entry.  For this assignment, and this assignment only, please single space so that the abstract will fit on one side of one page.

On the reverse of the same page, write a few hundred words more expressing your thoughts and your opinions about the article.

Print out or photocopy the entire article to turn in to me with your assignment.  (Do not photocopy the article for the whole class.)

Bring 24 double-sided photocopies of this assignment for in-class distribution.

PAPERS 1 and 2

For these 2 papers, you will generate a 3-5 page paper.  You are expected to use at least 3 sources in addition to the primary text with which you are working, and to use current MLA citation format, including a works cited list.

Paper #1 (the adaptation paper)

– read Dorothy, Fables: Legends in Exile, OR Sandman Vol. 3: Dream Country.

-For the text you choose, write a critical essay which examines how the text incorporates and expands on established literary works.

Paper #2 (The Marvel deconstruction paper)

read Marvel 1602Spider-Man: India OR Powerless

For the text you choose, write a critical essay which examines how the text uses/deconstructs established conventions of the superhero genre.

-for this paper, you may use a different text than those listed above, approved by me at least one week in advance of the paper’s due date.  A different text must be a deconstruction of an established convention or set of conventions commonly found in superhero Graphic Novels.

Grading: 1. addressing the specific requirements of the essay

2. citing and incorporation of sources

3. understanding of concepts

4. logic and organization

5. writing skills

There will be a possible 20 points for each standard for a possible 100 points.

PAPER 3 and Annotated Bibliography

Your annotated bibliography will be a list with short abstracts of 8 sources that you are compiling for possible use in this paper.  Full MLA citations for each source.  Please open this document with a possible thesis statement for this paper.

The third paper is a major research essay.

You will write a critical paper on any specific issue or writer in the genre of the graphic novel.  You must use at least one literary work for illustration.

Your job is to establish a position about the graphic novel, a literary theory as it pertains to the graphic novel, or a particular writer, and then support that position with reason and textual evidence.  You must cite at least 5 sources and follow MLA format.

Grading:  1. addressing the specific requirements of the essay

2. citing and incorporation of sources

3. understanding of concepts

4. logic and organization

5. writing skills

There will be a possible 50 points for each standard for a possible 250 points.

General Expectations:

-Disable all cell phones, pagers, and beeping watches before entering the classroom.-Your attention, while class is in session, is expected to stay on this class.  No outside reading or other distractions will be tolerated.-Eating and drinking will be allowed in class, as long as it is inaudible.

-Respect and common courtesy to your fellow students is essential.  Any student showing disrespect to another student will be asked to leave the class immediately and will not be allowed to return until a conference with me is held.-Please see the MSCD student handbook p. 106-117.  These standards of conduct will be strictly enforced.

Required Materials: (all but the McCloud and the Satrapi are on 2-hour reserve at the Auraria Library)

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art – McCloud

Arguing Comics – Heer and Worcester

Maus I: My Father Bleeds History – Spiegelman

Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began – Spiegelman

Barefoot Gen: Volume 1: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima – Nakazawa

Powers: Who Killed Retro Girl? – Bendis and Oeming

Persepolis: Story of a Childhood – Satrapi

Persepolis 2: Story of a Return – Satrapi

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns – Miller

-Watchmen – Moore

The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes, Vol. 1 – Gaiman

Optional Reading:

(all are on 2-hour reserve at the library – you will need to read three of the following – See paper requirements for details)

Fables: Legends in Exile – Willingham

Sin City, Volume 1 – Miller

V for Vendetta – Moore

-Dorothy – Illusive Arts

-The Sandman: The Dream Country – Gaiman

-Lone Wolf and Cub Vol. 1: The Assassin’s Road – Koike

300 by Miller

Powerless – Cherniss and Johnson

Spider-Man: India – Kang

-Marvel 1602 – Gaiman, Kubert, and Isanove

Further Reading:

(on 2-hour reserve at the library)

Comic Book Nation – Wright

-Faster than a Speeding Bullet – Weiner

Reinventing Comics – McCloud

Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative – Eisner

Graphic Novels: Everything You Need to Know – Gravett

Superman on the Couch – Fingeroth

-In the Shadow of No Towers – Spiegelman

Fortune and Glory – Brian Michael Bendia

Blankets – Thompson

*NOTE* – As you are reading these pieces, especially if you are using the library reserves, be sure to take notes on your reading.

Before each class, read all the assigned pages.

Bring the day’s reading, if available, to each class session.

Tentative Course Schedule – ENG 411JM/W 1:00-2:15

Weds. 1/23    Course Introduction

Explanation of your presence

Literary Terms/Lit Criticism handouts

Explanation of Reading Response Sheets, abstracts

Course Web Page

Mon. 1/28      Reading: Understanding Comics, Chapters 1 and 2

Lecture: Visual Literacy

Bring a Photograph or Illustration to Class

Weds. 1/31    Reading: Understanding Comics, Chapters 3 and 4

Arguing Comics, p.vii-xix, 1-12

Mon. 2/4       Reading: Understanding Comics, Chapters 5, 6, 7, & 8

Arguing Comics, p.22-36, 52-62, 63-66

On-line viewing of Krazy Kat

Weds. 2/6      Reading: Understanding Comics, Chapter 9

Arguing Comics, p.37-39, 81-83

Mon. 2/11      Reading Maus 1: My Father Bleeds History

Reading Response Sheet Due

Weds. 2/13    Discussion of Maus I

Reading: Arguing Comics, p. 43-51

Mon. 2/18      Reading: Maus II: And Here my Troubles Began

Reading Response Sheet Due

Weds. 2/20    Discussion of Maus II

Reading:  Arguing Comics, p.85-87, 94-98

Mon. 2/25      Abstract #1 Due

Weds. 2/27    Reading: Barefoot Gen: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima

Reading Response Sheet Due

Discussion of Barefoot Gen

Mon. 3/3       Paper #1 Due

Weds. 3/5      Reading: Arguing Comics, p.102-121

Mon. 3/10      Reading: Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood

Reading Response Sheet Due

Weds. 3/12    Discussion of Persepolis

Mon. 3/17      Reading: Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return

Reading Response Sheet Due

Weds. 3/19    Discussion of Persepolis 2

Mon. 3/24 – Weds 3/26 – SPRING BREAK

Mon. 3/31     Abstract #2 Due

Reading: Watchmen

Reading Response Sheet Due for Chapters 1-6

Reading Response Sheet Due for Chapters 7-12

Weds. 4/2     Discussion of Watchmen            Mon. 4/7       Reading: Powers: Who Killed Retro Girl?

Reading Response Sheet Due

Weds. 4/9      Discussion of Powers

Reading:  Arguing Comics, p. 141-145

Mon. 4/14      Paper #2 Due

Weds. 4/16    Reading: Arguing Comics p.122-141

Mon. 4/21      Annotated Bibliography Due

Reading: Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes

Reading Response Sheet Due

Weds. 4/23    Discussion of Sandman

Mon. 4/28     Reading: Arguing Comics: p. 146-164

Reading Response Sheet Due

Weds. 4/30    Lecture: Graphic Novel Impact on other Literature

Mon. 5/5       Final Paper Due

Video in Class

Reading for the last weeks of classes: Sin City –or- V for Vendetta, -or- Lone Wolf and Cub.

Weds. 5/7      Video in class.

5/12-5/14      Final Exam Period

Specific Date TBA

Video in class

Final Papers will be returned.

READING RESPONSE SHEET in the style of Dr. Cindy Carlson

Name_____________________   Date_____________  Work__________________

1.  Briefly summarize the material:

2. Include a quotation that had a particular significance to you.

3. Ask two significant questions, both of which require some thought to answer.  Do not ask questions that require a single word or phrase answer.



4. Answer one of the two question you posed.

These sheets must be turned in typed, and they may be only one page in length.  Otherwise, they will not be read and no credit will be given.


Weds. 2/6 __________________

Mon. 2/11 __________________

Weds. 2/13 __________________

Mon. 2/18 ___________________

Weds. 2/20___________________

Mon. 2/25 ___________________

Weds. 2/27___________________

Mon. 3/3  ___________________

Weds. 3/5 ___________________

Mon. 3/10 ___________________

Weds. 3/12___________________

Mon. 3/17 ___________________

Weds. 3/19___________________

Mon. 3/24 – Weds 3/26 – SPRING BREAK

Mon. 3/31 ___________________

Weds. 4/2 ___________________

Mon. 4/7  ___________________

Weds. 4/9____________________

Mon. 4/14 ___________________

Weds. 4/16___________________

Mon. 4/21____________________

Weds. 4/23___________________

Mon. 4/28 ______________________

Weds. 4/30___________________

Mon. 5/5_____________________