Comics and the Graphic Novel

L393 — Spring 2019

Jesse Molesworth
Days and Times
11:15a - 12:30p TR
Course Description

Topic: “The Poetics of Comics”


This course takes seriously the proposition offered by the title: that comics are a form of poetry, that they operate through developed formal and aesthetic principles, and that they therefore may be read and analyzed as literature, according to any meaningful sense of the word. The course follows six topics, suggested within Scott McCloud's influential textbook Understanding Comics: iconography, the "gutter," time-frames, lines, words and pictures, and color. Each of these six cardinal topics will be studied next to a work exploring (and sometimes exploding) its dimensions. Thus, Maus I will be paired with the topic of iconography, Watchmen with the gutter, Fun Home with the representation of time, and so on.

Our ultimate quest is meaning: how does a line create meaning? How does color mean? How do artists manipulate visual icons to mean? - and so forth. Students are encouraged not to forget what they have learned in other, more conventionally literary classes but, rather, to reflect on the ways by which concepts like poetic meter, narrative point of view, or metaphor might be translated within a visual medium.

Required Texts:
Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics
Art Spiegelman, Maus I
Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, Watchmen
Alison Bechdel, Fun Home
Jaime Hernandez, The Girl from H.O.P.P.E.R.S
Chris Ware, Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth
David Mazzucchelli, Asterios Polyp

Assignments will include 3 medium-length essays, in-class writing assignments, and regular attendance and participation.