From the nation’s earliest, independent moments, the United States of America was born out of war, and war remains its constant companion. Yet, military engagement embodies only a portion of the ongoing conflicts tearing at the nation’s soul. Evolving cultural values continually challenge traditionalist views of the nation, leading to the culture wars over equal treatment of all Americans. American literature has paid keen attention to these differing valences of war, from valorizing bravery in military conflict to representing identities lost or destroyed in cultural struggles. Moreover, American literature offers special attention to how military and cultural conflict often intertwine and inform how national identity is constructed. As such, this course examines American war stories from the past century and a half by paying attention to the breadth of American conflicts, as well as the complex depth of the issues at their heart. The course begins in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, with Mathew Brady’s early photography and stories taken from the battlefields as the nation reconciles with catastrophic bloodshed. From that starting point, the course will move through diverse narratives that contend with military experience and ongoing struggles of individuals marginalized for their race, gender, sexuality, and/or disabilities. Intertwining all these issues, the course concludes with Carol Tyler’s graphic memoir, Soldier’s Heart, a narrative of intergenerational trauma in the aftermath of war. Along the way, several questions will guide how the course interrogates America’s continual relationship with conflict and struggle. How did the Civil War and its aftermath fundamentally alter the American cultural landscape? How has American fascination with battlefield valor shaped views of home front struggles for equality? To what extent is America a nation locked in permanent conflict?
Mathew Brady – Civil War Photography
Walt Whitman – Memoranda on the War
Muriel Rukeyser – The Book of the Dead
James Baldwin – Another Country
Leslie Marmon Silko – Ceremony
Carol Tyler – Soldier’s Heart
This course addresses graphic memoir in American literature by analyzing the often idiosyncratic methods employed by comics creators when illustrating their personal memories. Graphic memoir allows for vibrant student engagement through the wide breadth of social issues covered within the genre, including disability, race, ethnicity, queerness, gender, climate change, and trauma. As such, this course places an emphasis on student analysis of each assigned text's formal properties while considering themes and issues. Throughout the course, students will produce weekly writings that engage comics theory and articulate what unique formal elements a creator uses in their memoir. For longer writing assignments, students will construct and sustain arguments that examine these formal elements as well as specific issues and comics criticism. In short, through writing and class discussion, students will answer the course’s guiding question: what are the strengths, weaknesses, and possibilities of representing memoir through the comics medium?
Lynda Barry – One Hundred Demons
Alison Bechdel – Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
Derf – My Friend Dahmer
Jess Fink – We Can Fix It!
Tom Hart – Rosalie Lightning
John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell – March Book 1
Josh Neufeld – A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge
Sam Sharpe – Viewotron #2
Carol Tyler – Soldier’s Heart
Gene Luen Yang – American Born Chinese
Adventure! Freedom! Self-Discovery! No School! These are only a few reasons why the summer season has taken a mythologized position in popular culture. Free of the limitations and strictures of the traditional school year, adolescents openly gain knowledge of the world, the self, and, perhaps most importantly, love. For these reasons and many more, summer is often thought of as a time of boundless optimism. Summer is when adolescents can define themselves as they confidently transition into adulthood. But do these myths of summer match reality? Does this optimism apply equally to children in disadvantaged or marginalized communities? Is there a dark side to the summer experience that underlines shifting cultural attitudes toward not only summer but adolescence as a whole? Summer-centric media has often dealt with these questions, but over the past few decades, media has increasingly taken these questions to heart. Shifting away from depictions of boundless optimism, and instead focusing on the tumultuousness of growing up faced by all adolescents, creators temper optimism with uncertainty, fear, and disappointment. Hope often burns bright at the end of summer, but that hope must now be earned through emotional and physical trials and tribulations.
This course seeks to address the significance of this shift in summer-centric media, as well as explore the broader cultural implications and revelations this shift reveals. To do so, this course engages media that occurs over the course of a single summer and focuses on young adults. Through their engagement with these media artifacts, students will develop both short and long-form arguments that articulate how summer finds itself as a mythologized season.
Ray Bradbury – Dandelion Wine
Friday the 13th (1980)
Stand By Me (1986)
Summer Camp Island
Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters, and Brooke Allen – Lumberjanes: Beware the Kitten Holy
Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki – This One Summer
Joseph M. Williams and Joseph Bizup – Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace (12th edition)
As the rise of the Marvel and DC cinematic universes bring into stark relief, comics-to-film adaptations about superheroes are immensely popular. Unsurprisingly, then, superhero narratives receive the greatest critical attention in both academic and popular settings. Yet, despite the publicity and box office numbers, these adaptations account for only a small number of comics-based adaptations across all media. This course seeks to ameliorate the discrepancy in attention by focusing primarily on non-superhero adaptations, though we will still attend to the superhero phenomenon. This leads us to three guiding questions for the semester: How does the comics medium lend itself to adaptation with special focus on the structure of the comics page? How do narratives change when they move from their original medium to another? As students of adaptation, how can we use the tenets of adaptation and remix to gain additional understanding of not only media but also our local and global cultures as well?
During this course, we will explore a plentitude of answers to these guiding questions through various techniques both critical and creative. While we will examine Spider-Man—one of the longest-running and most adapted superhero narratives ever—we will expand our field of inquiry to include comics of numerous genres including fantasy, drama, and science fiction. Moreover, we will engage comics from three of the most vibrant national comics traditions: the United States, Japan, and Brazil. Finally, our discussions will include not only film adaptations, but also television, podcasts, soundtracks, prose, and digital mashups enabled by new media technologies. These discussions will spawn from daily class participation, weekly brief writing assignments, and quarterly projects, which include both essay writing and creating comics.
Akira (1988 film)
Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon – Two Brothers
Bartkira, Vol 1
Alison Bechdel – Fun Home
Stan Lee and Steve Ditko – Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man Volume 1
Milton Hatoum – The Brothers
Fun Home (Soundtrack of the 2015 musical)
Katsuhiro Otomo – Akira, Vol 1
Carey Pietsch, Clint McElroy, Justin McElroy, Travis McElroy, and Griffin McElroy – The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse (2018 film)
The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins (Podcast)