Classic English Literature

Close Reading Practice (35 points): For this assignment, choose one of the following selections and develop a close reading in the form of a

narrated screencast:

Adrian Tomine, “The Donger and Me”
Joe Matt, “How to be Cheap”
R. Crumb, “A Short History of America” part 1 and part 2
Jack Kirby, page from Fantastic Four #1
and omplete the Lesson 1: Close Reading discussion. You will have to navigate to the threaded discussions area to post your response. Remember

to comment on one other presentation.

Lesson 1
Digging In: What makes a Comic?
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Introduction: Connecting Your Learning
Syllabus Acknowledgement
Select the following link to submit the Syllabus Acknowledgement. When you have finished, you will need to close the browser window to return to

your course. Please note that your submission of this statement indicates that you plan to participate in this course.
Welcome to ENH280: Topics in American Literature!
The topic for this class is Comics and Graphic Novels and it will provide a survey of the most notable American comics and graphic novels from

the late nineteenth century to the present. The focus is primarily on texts produced within the U.S. with a couple of stops in Canada and

Mexico. Along the way, you will learn about the history of the comics medium, which has shaped the way comic texts were published, presented,

and consumed by readers. You will learn the visual language of comics, including the contested terms and those concepts that affect how comics

are read. Finally, you will engage a variety of themes related to the literature: from approaches to history to the role of the superhero.
We’ll dive right in by asking a seemingly basic question… What is a comic? This deceptively simple question belies a whole host of answers.

Debate exists surrounding what constitutes the comic form. There is debate on terminology (what differentiates a graphic novel from a collection

of comic strips), and debate about the origins of the comic form.
From the heart of these debates stems a simple reality… the comics form of storytelling is not new, but it has only recently been accepted as

being worthy of scholarship and academic consideration. Indeed, the study of comics is a relatively new branch of literary studies.
One standard definition of comics comes from Scott McCloud’s seminal book, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. In this lesson, you will

begin to engage McCloud’s ideas, and as a class, you will begin to engage the key concepts that will help you understand comics as a literary

art form. Let’s get started…
Readings, Resources, and Assignments
Required Readings Please read the following before starting the lesson:
• Chapter One: Setting the Record Straight by Scott McCloud
Please read the following when directed in the lesson:
• Stripped Books 1
• Stripped Books 2Multimedia Resources How Image and Text Relate within Panels, and the Elements of Closure. Required Assignments

1. Syllabus Acknowledgement
2. Discussion Posting: Introduction
3. Vocabulary Practice
4. Close Reading Practice
See the Assessing Your Learning section for more information on each assignment.
Check Prior Knowledge
While this lesson will focus primarily on the literary techniques unique to comics, do note that more traditional literary terms still apply

when you discuss and study comics. Although key terms will be introduced throughout the lessons, the following list is a good starting point for

review. Many students find it helpful to create flashcards of each term and their definition. This can be done in the old fashion paper and

pencil way or you might consider creating online flashcards using a free account like StudyBlue, which can then be viewed from any mobile

device. You can find definitions at the Dictionary of Literary Terms.
Allegory Hyperbole Protagonist
Allusion Irony Setting
Antagonist Metaphor Simile
Characterization Onomatopoeia Stereotype
Climax Personification Theme
Connotation/Denotation Point of View Tone
If you find any terms that are unfamiliar, be sure to ask your instructor for clarification!
Focusing Your Learning
Lesson Objectives
By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:
1. Define what constitutes a comic relative to the notion of sequence.
2. Classify and analyze the relationship between detail and reader response.
3. Describe key terms relating to the form of the comics page including McCloud’s six key relationships between image and text and the six

types of panel-to-panel closure.
4. Practice the concepts learned through a close reading.
This lesson maps to the following course competencies:
• Define the topic that is designated as the focus of this course.
• Describe and analyze the elements that characterize this topic.
• Describe and use critical approaches: formalist, reader-response.
• Explicate selected literary texts.
Hello! How Are You?
Let’s get this course off to a friendly start. Before reading further, take a moment to post to the Lesson 1: Introductions discussion. For this

discussion, you will be asked to introduce yourself to your classmates and instructor and to share your experience with reading comics and

graphic novels. It’s ok if you do not have any experience yet!
You are also welcome to get creative, drawing or creating your introduction as a comic.
Please also say hello to at least one other person in the class.
Need help with the discussion boards? Please see the following instructions to get started using the threaded discussions. Replying to a

ThreadNote: This class is open entry, so new students will be joining us almost weekly. Do not be alarmed if you see students posting across the

discussions boards for the lessons as they might have had an earlier start date. Stick to your due dates, and you’ll be fine!
Defining Comics
Before reading further, pause and complete the following reading by Scott McCloud: Chapter One: Setting the Record Straight. As you

read, pay attention to how McCloud defines comics, as well as the examples he uses to illustrate his definition. Some of his examples are

controversial. Note your reactions as he describes the examples since you will be asked to respond to this reading at the end of this lesson.
According to Scott McCloud in Understanding Comics, the medium of the comic can be defined as “juxtaposed pictorial and other images in

deliberate sequence, intended to convey information, and/or to produce an aesthetic response in the viewer” (9). As the reading implies, this

opens many doors as to what can be considered a comic. The Bayeux Tapestry? It could be a comic. Egyptian hieroglyphics… likely a comic. The

Family Circus? NOT a comic (except on some Sundays)!
If you’re feeling surprised at McCloud’s classification, don’t be! His definition is based on sequence. Single paneled comics like The Family

Circus, The Far Side, or even those charming cartoons from The New Yorker are not sequential, at least visually. This has sparked some debate,

due to the evolution of the genre and the idea of reader-response.
One of the shifts that occurred after McCloud presented his definition is the understanding of the relationship between image and text. Often

times, the images presented in a comic like The Family Circus involve some sequence between the caption and the illustration. Below is an

illustration from a 2009 Family Circus cartoon.

This image above, taken out of context without a caption, tells its own story. The father figure is seen possibly flirting with an attractive

woman. A child runs toward her mother with a concerned look.
Reader response theory states that every viewer who looks at this image will read a different story, even if those differences are slight.
As your eyes catch the details in the image, you’ll see that there is a deliberate sequence within. Some see the girl first. She is at the

pinnacle of a triangle shaped relationship between the mother and the father. One possible sequence is shown below:

Depending on how a person sequences the visual relationship within the image, the caption will either be literal or more humorous. In this case,

the original caption reads, “Mommy! Daddy just sold the $10 pole lamp to that lady for $5!” In this case, the innocence of the child, “tattling”

on her father is the root of humor. The reader’s mind will sequence the events to follow as she or he reflects on the strip and the consequences

of what’s shown.
The good news here is that comics allow a lot of room for the reader’s imagination to help interpret the story.
The Notion of Detail
Comics are a literary form that depends on the reader. It is up to you to put the various pieces together as you move from text to image, from

panel to panel, and from page to page.
Scott McCloud discusses a key element to comic art – the notion of detail – arguing that the amount of detail present in any graphic narrative

will impact how the reader understands it.

When you read comics, images count. They affect the tone, setting, characterization, and even the plot. For example, when Art Spiegelman’s

graphic novel Maus: A Survivor’s Tale was published in 1986, it received criticism for its “cartoony style.” Maus tells the story of a Jewish

man’s struggles to survive during the Holocaust. The Jewish characters were illustrated as mice, while the German characters were illustrated as

cats. While Spiegelman illustrated the novel in this manner to make it more universal, other readers saw the style as being too simplistic,

given the harsh subject matter.
At the same time, too much detail can put the reader off. Debbie Drechsler’s 1996 graphic novel, Daddy’s Girl, was both praised and criticized

for its depictions of the sexual abuse the author endured as a child from her father.
Before reading further in this lesson, pause and complete the following readings by Gordon McAlpin. In these illustrations Seth and

Chris Ware (two artists you will meet later in the course) are sharing their thoughts on the effect of detail on comics.
• Stripped Books 1
• Stripped Books 2As McCloud and McAlpin’s works imply, a hyper-realistic illustration will leave a lot less room for interpretation than

a more cartoony illustration. As you will see, this practice has pros and cons. Do look for the level of detail as you read. In addition to the

sense of detail, other basic techniques make up the anatomy of a comic. You’ll discuss those next.
The Vocabulary of Comics
Imagine you’re an artist with a blank piece of paper in front of you. You know you want to make a comic. You know that it involves illustrated

boxes, text, and sequential images of some sort. Yet, comics have their own visual vocabulary, and understanding the anatomy of a comic is

essential to appreciating the medium and all it offers. Below is an overview of the key vocabulary to help you get started.

Copyright © Matt Madden & Jessica Abel via NACAE. Terms of Use

What Abel and Madden illustrate above is essentially the anatomy of the comic strip, but what happens within and between the panels is equally

important. People who are new to reading comics tend to have the most difficulty with navigating images and text. Should you read the text

first, or should you look at the image first? The answer depends on the reader. Those who are naturally drawn to visuals will gravitate to

what’s shown. Those who are drawn to words will likely read them first.
The good news is that there is no one, correct way to approach the image and text in the panels; however, some key relationships between text

and image are important to understand. The following presentation, Scott McCloud: How Image and Text Relate within Panels, and the Elements of

Closure, helps to illustrate the relationship between image and text with the panels, and the notion of time between the panels themselves.

Scott McCloud- image and text on Prezi
While it can initially seem tricky to keep these concepts straight, the more you read, the more apparent these traits will become. Further, some

reader responsiveness is required here. As the presentation states, an element that might seem like a non-sequitur to one person may make

perfect narrative sense to another reader. The goal of McCloud’s work is to put a name to the types of storytelling techniques that have been

taken for granted over the years. The following activities will help you practice these concepts in context.
Required Vocabulary Practice. After reading the lesson and viewing the Prezi, complete the following vocabulary practice to review the

key concepts. This is required! You can complete this check as many times as you need to ensure you understand the concepts.
Lesson 1 Vocabulary Practice Putting it all together
Understanding the formal elements of comics is the key to engaging a close reading. If this is your first literature class, a close reading

explains the meaning of a text, referring to key pieces of evidence from within the text. You can see a deep close reading in action here,

“Caspar, Formalism, and the Great Search Party,” where a reader closely engages a single page of a comic.
For your assignment, you will work on a much smaller scale and will present your ideas by recording a screencast that will allow you to talk

through your reading of the strip and apply the concepts from the lesson. This is a lot less scary than it sounds! There are various products

that do this, but for this class, Screenr is recommended since it will record your screen without having to install or pay for anything. To see

how Screenr works, view the video below, or check out these directions.
For this assignment, you have a choice of comic to study:
• Adrian Tomine, “The Donger and Me”

• Joe Matt, “How to be Cheap”

• R. Crumb, “A Short History of America” part 1,15830,1430855,00.html
• and part 2,15830,1433167,00.html

• Jack Kirby, page from Fantastic Four #1

You will use the Screenr tool to record a screencast where you narrate a close reading of the text. You will share the link to your video on the

discussion board and will comment on one other presentation. Be sure to use the vocabulary from the McCloud reading, this lesson, and the Prezi!

For a sample of what this will look like, see: Here’s my reading. A sample for class.
Assessing Your Learning
1. Syllabus Acknowledgement: Submit your Syllabus Acknowledgement form to your instructor. Please note that your submission of this

statement indicates that you plan to participate in this course.
Syllabus Acknowledgement
2. Introduce yourself (10 points). Complete the introduction discussion. You will have to navigate to the threaded discussions area to post

your response. If you complete a post and one reply to another member of the class, you can earn up to 10 points. The initial post is worth 8

points, and the reply is worth 2 points.
3. Complete the Vocabulary Practice Activity.
Review the lesson several times before proceeding to the assessments below.
Lesson 1 Vocabulary Practice
4. Close Reading Practice (35 points): For this assignment, choose one of the following selections and develop a close reading in the form

of a narrated screencast:
o Adrian Tomine, “The Donger and Me”
o Joe Matt, “How to be Cheap”
o R. Crumb, “A Short History of America” part 1 and part 2
o Jack Kirby, page from Fantastic Four #1
This close reading should be recorded using Screenr using the directions provided in the lesson. You can use a similar program or mobile app if

you have a personal preference. Make sure to utilize the vocabulary discussed in the lesson, including the Scott McCloud Prezi.
Your work will be assessed on the following criteria:
Criteria Max Score
Structure: The assignment is clearly introduced and well focused with clear supporting details. 15
Vocabulary: Vocabulary and concepts from the lesson are correctly used. 15
Completeness: The link to the screencast was shared on the discussion forum and the student commented on one other contribution. 5
Total 35
Complete the Lesson 1: Close Reading discussion. You will have to navigate to the threaded discussions area to post your response. Remember to

comment on one other presentation.
Summarizing Your Learning
The basic terminology of comic art is important since you will be engaging materials from professionals in the field as this class rolls onward.

If you had any trouble with the knowledge check assignment, you might choose to print out the image that discussed the basic terms. You can find

a printable copy of that material here: Comics Terminology In your next lesson, you will practice the concepts in the lesson as you learn about

one of the most common comics genres—the Superhero comic.
Bolhafner, J. Stephen (October 1991). The Comics Journal. 145. p. 96.
Copyright © 2016 Rio Salado College. All Righ


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