Stephanie Burt (Department of English)
FRSEMR 60C 4 credits (fall term) Enrollment: Limited to 12
Comics and graphic novels, or sequential art, are one of the world’s great storytelling media: we’re going to learn how to read them, how to talk about how they get made and how they work, how to understand—and how to enjoy— some of the kinds of comics and graphic novels (that is, some of the genres) that make up the history of this medium in the modern English-speaking world. That history has three strands, which cross and re-cross, but which need to be understood independently, and we will see all three: short-form strip comics, designed for newspapers beginning in the 1890s and now flourishing on the Web; action-adventure and superhero comics, invented in the late 1930s, transformed in the 1960s and again in the 1980s, usually created by teams, and important to popular culture today; and a third strand beginning with “underground” or “alternative” comics or comix (with an x) in the 1960s and evolving into long form graphic novels, often created by single writer-artists, today. That history comes with visual references, which you will learn to recognize; comics also comes with its own set of theoretical terms, which you’ll learn to use. Comics today share a medium (pictures and usually words in sequence) but belong to several genres: we’ll learn how to talk about them, and how they’ve evolved. You’ll get the chance to make comics, and to figure out how creators collaborate, advocate, distribute, and sometimes even earn a living from the comics they make, but the course will focus on existing comics, from McCay to Bechdel, from Kirby to Ms. Marvel— as events in culture and as works of art.