World Literature, Week 5

In my sections of World Lit this week, we’ll start looking at graphic narratives/novels. Students are reading Guy DeLisle’s Burma Chronicles for next week.

1. Literary terms to use when discussing comics/graphic narratives:
panel, a single box in which dialogue and/or pictures appear. We refer to the first panel, second panel, third panel, and so on on a given page.
caption, text that appears in a box giving scene or character descriptions.
dialogue, what the characters are “saying out loud,” indicated in word bubbles (bubbles with straight lines). Thought bubbles (what the characters are thinking to themselves) are indicated in “fluffy clouds.” Thoughts can also be indicated in the caption boxes.

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud is an excellent source for anyone interested in learning more about this genre.

2. The appeal of graphic novels/narratives. (Note: “graphic” denotes that there are pictures, though some graphic narratives are also graphic.) How does the experience of reading graphic narratives (comics/graphic novels) differ from the way a traditional book/novel is read? Did you find it easier or more difficult to read the first half of Burma Chronicles and why? Do you feel more or less immersed in a graphic narrative than you do in a narrative that “only” includes words/text? Why has the graphic novel/narrative genre become so popular in recent years, including with members of “The Academy” (college students and professors)?

3. Graphic narratives of war. Read this article on Iraq war comics. (Be sure to look at the picture-excerpts from DMZ.) How is this allegory (and others like it) an effective means of discussing the Iraq War? (Or is it not?) You might also consider that The 9/11 Commission Report was adapted to this form. Why was it? Who would the audience be? Is this “appropriate”?

4. The influence of Maus. Read highlights from the interview with Art Spiegelman (or listen to the entire interview: 30 mins) on Maus, Maus II, and his new book MetaMaus. (Excerpts from the original Maus are available here.) What metaphor does Spiegelman use in his book Maus? Why has it been such an influential work? Is there anything from the interview with Spiegelman that you found especially interesting, poignant, or surprising?

5. One more (non-required) reading: “Plain Ink: Comics for the Developing World” (Andrew Price).

Next week we’ll look at Burma Chronicles!

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