English 368 examines short- and long-form autobiographical, nonfiction and fiction comics produced by female artists. What, if anything, 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 writers' 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 underground and alternative comics by Diane Noomin and Lynda Barry. We will then turn to a selection of contemporary graphic memoirs (Alison Bechdel, Marjane Satrapi, Joyce Farmer, Ellen Forney) and fiction (Jessica Abel, Leela Corman, Hope Larson, Rutu Modan). The course concludes with a discussion of women working in mainstream comics, focusing on Gail Simone's contribution to the superhero titles Batgirl, Birds of Prey, and Wonder Woman.
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 trends (or the lack thereof) in work 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.