Lynda Barry, One Hundred Demons
Eric Rabkin
TTh 1:10-2:30 3347 Mason Hall
3243 Angell Hall TWTh 3:10-4:00 & by appt
esrabkin@umich.edu & 734-764-2553
Course Overview Course Calendar gnw12@ctools.umich.edu
Written Work & Course Grades Online Resources Disability Accommodations
  Supplementary Materials Plagiarism

Graphic Narrative is a general term for Comic Books, Graphic Novels, Manga, Bandes Dessinées, Novelas Em Quadrinhos, Sequential Art, and even the Bayeux Tapestry. This seminar enrolls both advanced undergraduates (in English 418 Graphic Narrative) and graduate students (in English 549 Contemporary Literature). We will use both primary and secondary readings to explore the modern history and theory of the field, the sociology of the field, and a rich assortment of excellent examples of many literary types within the field, ranging from illustrated childrens' books to graphic autobiography. Primary texts include modern classics like Krazy Kat and Maus, important historical works like Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend, and some excellent but less well known works, like The Arrival. Secondary texts include both theoretical works such as Understanding Comics and historical works like Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics. Students are asked to keep a structured journal, write a deep analysis of an illustrated children’s book, and write a major essay on a general topic in the field, and, of course, participate vigorously.
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The written work consists of a daily reading journal, a shorter essay (1500-2400 words, which is approximately 5-8 double-spaced pages of text depending on font size and margins and excluding included images) and a longer essay (3000-4500 words, which is approximately 10-15 pages). In all three assignments, students are expected to consider both the form and the content of the materials read and to strive for insights that go substantially beyond the discussion in class. 
Essays. The first essay assignment aims to have you develop refined critical skills for analyzing single works; the second essay assignment aims to have you build on those skills in order to develop the skills of framing, testing, refining, and using general theoretical critical insights. 
The shorter essay should provide a wide-ranging and coherent analysis of a children's picture (not chapter) book. This means that the shorter essay will touch on many theoretical aspects of graphic narrative (say framing or fonts, visual metaphor or allusion) that may be relevant to understanding the work as a whole. The shorter essay should sharpen your analytic skills and enrich our understanding of a particular work.
The longer essay should advance our understanding of some general aspect of graphic narrative (e.g., the use of framing, the use of thought bubbles, the use of color, the techniques of visual allusion, palimpsest, collage, the varieties of irony, the relations between drawing style and meaning, the handling of a specific theme, the uses of a specific image, cultural constraints on meaning, etc.). This study may be approached in one of two ways. In one approach, you first define the aspect under study and then indicate some theoretical issues concerning it. For example, frames may be regular or irregular, discrete or overlapping, inviolable by their content or ruptured by images moving in and out of them. How do these options work? In an alternative approach to the second essay, you may begin by identifying the work of a single important graphic narrative artist, series, or genre that has importance for understanding some theoretical matter and then indicate some of the issues that the chosen body of work would allow you to study. For example, one can study at least some of the relations between verbal and visual nonsense in the works of Dr. Seuss. In this second approach, because the treatment of the theoretical aspect may be more limited than in the first, that limitation must be justified by the excellence or influence of the work chosen. In all cases, the aim of the longer essay is to sharpen your theoretical skills and yield general theoretical knowledge about graphic narrative.
The topics for each essay must be approved by the course instructor in advance in writing. Proposal approval is likely to take multiple consultations. This proposal-approval process should be conducted during office hours or by appointment if necessary. Email may supplement but cannot replace those consultations concerning the proposals. The initial written proposals need only indicate the subject, the reason for wanting to pursue that subject, and likely materials although they may be more extensive if the student prefers. The proposal process must be completed by the date on the calendar, so it is important to start early. The version of the proposal that has been signed by the instructor should be submitted in class the day the essay is due. For each essay, please bring the subject text (shorter essay) or texts (longer essay) to the consultations and please lend the children's book for the shorter essay to the instructor the day the essay is submitted. The finished essays should include scanned graphics so that the papers can be read by others who do not have access to printed copies of the works discussed. Students will be allowed to revise the first essay for grade but only if the instructor deems the essay to have been seriously attempted and susceptible to revision. All critical essays when submitted for grading should be uploaded in their finished forms using the Assignment tool on the class CTools website. The total file size for each essay ideally should not exceed 2M and in no case will be accepted if it exceeds 3M without advance permission of the course instructor. (Q&A on the essays)
Journals. In the reading journal, students are expected to record (a) any extrinsic details potentially relevant to a critical discussion of the work (including at least type of work, name and nationality of writer and/or illustrator, date and place of publication, publisher, format), (b) observations as one reads, including page references and quotes (which may need to include photocopies), and (c) conclusions and/or hypotheses and/or questions that seem noteworthy after reviewing (a) and (b) and perhaps the work as well.  The journals should be hand-written (printed if necessary for clarity) with two-inch margins all around because these journals will be exchanged at the beginning of each class meeting, read by a fellow student, and the contents commented on in the margins. The journal should be kept in a spiral-bound notebook into which can be glued copies of graphics if needed. Students should use these journals not only as a record of their reading of syllabus materials but also of any other course-related materials, and as a place to keep class notes and to record and sometimes work out essay topic ideas. Journal pages should be numbered so that one can make page reference when one backs-and-fills, reviewing one's journal periodically to attend to unanswered questions, to add later insights or cross-references, or to gather essay-topic ideas. When the journals are submitted at the end of the semester, they should be accompanied by a printed, double-spaced, two-to-three page self-analysis of the worth (both educational and in terms of grade) of the journal to the student. This self-analysis, too, can make specific reference to the journal page numbers. (Q&A on journal self-analysis)
The course grades
will be based on participation (25%), journal + self-analysis (25%), children's book essay (20%), general essay (30%).
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COURSE CALENDAR              Please read each work by the date listed below

Reading Week

Text Type

Title, Author

Th 5 Jan

Introduction of subject, class, and class members

T 10 Jan



Picture This: How Pictures Work, Molly Bang



Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud

T 17 Jan



Comics, Comix & Graphic Novels, Roger Sabin

T 24 Jan



Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend, Winsor McCay



Krazy & Ignatz 1929-1930, George Herriman

T 31 Jan



If I Ran the Zoo, Dr. Seuss



Amphigorey, Edward Gorey



The Stinky Cheese Man, Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith

Th 2 Feb

Finalize proposals for shorter paper

T 7 Feb



Little Black Sambo (available online; no purchase required)
Mat Johnson



Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon, Vol. 1, Alex Raymond

T 14 Feb


The Great Comic Book Heroes, Jules Feiffer

    P A comic book chosen by each student and starring one of Feiffer's subject heroes; upload journal scans to course website for class review
Th 16 Feb
    Shorter papers due by 11:55 p.m.
T 21 Feb



Manga! Manga!: The World of Japanese Comics, Frederik L. Schodt

Astérix the Gaul, René de Goscinny

T 6 Mar



Maus (vols 1 & 2), Art Spiegelman

T 13 Mar



Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller

Th 15 Mar
    Shorter paper revisions, if allowed, due by 11:55 p.m.
T 20 Mar



Watchmen, Alan Moore

Th 22 Mar

Finalize proposals for longer paper

T 27 Mar



Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, Chris Ware

T 3 Apr



Blankets, Craig Thompson



The Arrival, Shaun Tan

T 10 Apr



One Hundred Demons, Lynda Barry

T 17 Apr

Summation. Journals w/ self-analyses due in class
Longer papers due by 11:55 p.m.

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U-M Fantasy and Science Fiction Web Site
U-M Fantasy and Science Fiction Web Site Dictionary of Symbolism
U-M Library Search Tools (may require login):
   GaleNet (authors & literary criticism)
   Humanities Text Initiative (searchable texts and text collections)
   Oxford English Dictionary (meanings, etymologies, and quotations)
   Encyclopedia Britannica
   Modern Language Association Bibliography (literary criticism)

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The New Yorker, 13 Dec 2004, p. 64
Action Comics #1
The Anime Project
Bayeux Tapestry
Citation Style for Graphic Narrative Criticism
Coconino World
Comic Art & Graffix Gallery (history of comics, biographies of artists and writers, etc.)
Comic Art Collection at Michigan State Library
Comics Code (+ Dungeons & Dragons Banned [NYTimes 27Jan2010])
Comics Generator Sites (e.g., using Bayeux Tapestry; stripcreator)
Five Ways of Looking At a Thesis
GCD: Great Comic Book Database (thousands of cover scans)
International Children's Digital Library
Lambiek.net (comics encyclopedia, etc.)
Logic and Literary Argument
Lowering Image File Size
Matt Thorn's Manga Site (including Manga Characters: Do They Look "White"?)
Marginal Notes on Essays
MLA Citation Style (Format) with Basic Discussion and Examples
MLA Citation Style (Format) with Extended Discussion and Examples
Parc Asterix
Phoebe Gloeckner's Comics Course
Producing Side-by-Side Graphics in Word
Rocco Versaci's Spotlight on Comics
Secure Materials (restricted to U-M community for instructional and scholarly purposes)
Some Questions for Active Reading of Fiction
U-M Library Course Reserves Service
   includes required books and the following recommended book:
   Trina Robbins, A Century of Women Cartoonists (3 day reserve)
Wally Wood's 22 Panels That Always Work
Who's Who & What's What in the books of Dr. Seuss &
The Dr. Seuss Collection at UCSD
Wikipedia (see under "comic book," "graphic novel," etc.)
Writing Samples for Use of Evidence
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