Graphic Novels & Visual Literacy… in which I read frantically

It seems like ages since I’ve had something to blog about… concentrating on my writing has means that I’m reading less often, and what I am reading tends to be of the short and sweet variety, or the so well-known (ie. Game of Thrones) there’s not much I can say that hasn’t been said. I hope that makes sense.

For the most part, I’ve been reading for work. Several of us take turns organizing the semester read-along hosted by the university library, and this semester I selected Lauren Redniss’s Radioactive–which is absolutely brilliant and such a great way to introduce students to graphic novels–now, the kicker is that I am really really into the idea of teaching graphic novels at the university level, but I’m not faculty and I’m reluctant to take on a class (not because I wouldn’t enjoy, but because I don’t want to be dragged into the politics of teaching where I work), so my solution is to host a presentation on graphic novels and visual literacy. Because, not to toot my own horn, but I don’t think there’s anyone else who is really qualified to present on this topic at the university.

What I’m getting at is that I’ve been reading A LOT of graphic novels and books on teaching graphic novels, and they have been fantastic and engaging and incredibly thought-provoking, but in preparing for the presentation, I haven’t had much time to put my thoughts together into something like a cohesive blog post.

Some of the awesome graphic novels I’ve read for this project include:

Watchmen by Alan Moore – Watchmen is one of those stories that I heard so much about, I kind of felt like I’d already read it. It’s a classic and a must read for anyone interested in teaching graphic novels as a literary genre.

Epileptic by David B. – This is an English translation of a bestselling, autobiographical French graphic novel (Franco-Belgian graphic novels are the top-selling publications after American and Japanese graphic novels). This is the story of one family’s quest to understand and help a boy with a severe form of epilepsy. It’s trippy and disjointed, and very philosophical. The art and narrative styles really add to the sense of desperation felt by the writer.

Saga, vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples – The first volume in what is definitely a sweeping Sci-Fi saga, this novel is the perfect blend of sex, blood, and mystery. Trust me. If you like anything on HBO, you’ll like Saga.

Blankets by Craig Thompson – Another autobiographical graphic novel. Blankets is beautiful. It’s a story of faith and family, love and growing up, and realizing that you can be the person you want to be. There is so much subtext in the panels, Thomspson’s art and text are perfect.

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol – A YA style ghost story about fitting in and one girl’s encounter with a not-so-friendly ghost. This is a great alternative to the traditional coming-of-age in high school story and a very creepy read à la Coraline.

Then there are the theory and pedagogy books… I won’t review these now, as I’m still delving into them, but here are some quotes to feed your mind and soul.

From Carter, J.B. (2007). Introduction–Carving a niche: Graphic novels in the English language arts classroom (pp.1-25). In J.B. Carter (Ed.), Building literacy connections with graphic novels: Page by page, panel by panel. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

“there is much more to these books than superheroes in leotards and capes” (p.2).

“a good education–one bound in experience and meaning making–is probably an education that has been enriched with a broad definition of art and culture” (p.3).

“artistic experiences are important in developing literacy and critical thinking skills” (p.7).

“An important benefit of graphic novels in that they present alternative views of culture, history and human life in general in accessible ways” (as cited in Carter, 2007, p. 8).

“there is one format that covers a variety of genres, addresses current and relevant issues for teens, stimulates young people’s imagination, and engages reluctant readers: graphic novels” (as cited in Carter, 2007, p.10)

From Hatfield, C. (2009). Defining comics in the classroom; or, the pros and cons of unfixability (pp. 19-27). In S.E. Tabachnik (Ed.), Teaching the graphic novel. New York, NY: Modern Language Association.

“In sequential art, the experience of reading text is combined with the experience, omnipresent today on the electronic screen, of viewing; and, in good sequential art, the lyricism of poetic word choice is combined with the lyricism of striking visual images to create a stunning, hypnotic form of poetry” (p.4).

“reading today has become a hybrid textual-visual experience” (p.4)

Liner notes…

Some of my favorite lines from some of my favorite books [and a play]

The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman

“You’re always you, and that don’t change, and you’re always changing, and there’s nothing you can do about it.” – A lesson for Bod on growing up and knowing who you are

Persuasion – Jane Austen

“She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older: the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning.” – On Anne’s regrets

“I should deserve utter contempt if I dared to suppose that true attachment and constancy were known only by woman. No, I believe you capable of everything great and good in your married lives. I believe you equal to every important exertion and to every domestic forbearance so long as–if I may be allowed the expression–so long as you have an object. I mean while the woman you love lives, and lives for you. All the privilege I claim for my own sex (it is not a very enviable one; you need not covet it) is that of loving longest when existence or when hope is gone.” – Anne on constancy

Gone with the Wind – Margaret Mitchell

“Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm…”

“You have eternity in which to explain and only one night to be a martyr in the amphitheater. Get out, darling, and let me see the lions eat you. Get out.” – Rhett to Scarlett after she did a very bad thing

Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding

From Bridget’s “I will not” resolution list:

“Sulk about having no boyfriend, but develop inner poise and authority and sense of self as woman of substance, complete without boyfriend, as best way to obtain boyfriend.”

I capture the castle – Dodie Smith

“Only half a page left now. Shall I fill it with “I love you, I love you”–like father’s page of cats on the mat? No. Even a broken heart doesn’t warrant a waste of good paper.” – Cassandra on heartbreak and the last page of a well-used journal

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

“Do you think because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong!–I have as much soul as you,–and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty, and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you. I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, not even of mortal flesh:–it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God’s feet, equal,–as we are!” – Jane to Mr. Rochester ♥

Travesties – Tom Stoppard

“…in Zurich in Spring in wartime one is hard put to find a vacany seat for the spurious spies peeping at police spies spying on spies eyeing counterspies what a bloody coutry even the cheese has got holes in it!!” – Carr on the lack of seating in Swiss cafes during wartime