English 368 examines short- and long-form autobiographical, nonfiction and fiction comics produced by female artists. What distinguishes the work of women comics writers and artists? How does an investigation of women comics creators alter our conception of the genre, its history and its readers?
To aid our study of comics' visual style and narrative structure, we will draw upon Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics, asking how female authors' words and art complement, expand, and critique McCloud's paradigm. As we analyze female comics creators' diverse subject matter, we will pay attention to historical, cultural, biographical and industrial contexts. We will begin with a selection of 1970s and 80s underground and alternative comics by writer/artists including Diane Noomin, Trina Robbins, Roberta Gregory, Lee Marrs, and Aline Kominsky-Crumb. We will then explore the recent boom in graphic autobiography via the works of Alison Bechdel, Ellen Forney, and Thi Bui before turning to fiction (Leela Corman, Emil Ferris, Marjorie Liu) and superhero comics (Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, and Ms. Marvel).
English 368 fulfills the University’s VLPA and DIV requirements and counts toward the English major elective requirement.
Goals and Methodology
Students in the course work toward several goals:
- Analyzing comics' visual style and narrative structure in the vocabulary of comics scholars,
- Explaining the relationship between select female-authored comics and the industrial, social, political and cultural contexts of their production,
- Identifying connections among works produced by female comics artists/writers, and
- Developing as critical thinkers who can formulate substantive arguments and explore those arguments with evidence.
Course activities promote active learning, with most class sessions incorporating a mix of mini-lectures, discussion, and group work. The course design—which includes frequent non-graded and graded writing—reflects the importance of writing as a means of learning. My role is to provide the tools and resources you will need to advance your own thinking. I will pose questions, design activities to help you think through these questions, and respond to your ideas. Your role is to do the hard work—the close reading, discussion, and writing. You will analyze texts, present your interpretations via class discussion and written assignments, and critically respond to others’ readings.
Course Location and Meeting Times
Time: Mondays and Wednesdays, 12:30-2:20 p.m.
Location: Odegaard 136
Instructor Contact Information
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