There’s a lot going on this week as we go out into spring break with a bang. As you begin to read Palestine, you will also be finishing up your Tracing Maus project and working on the literacy narrative comic draft/storyboard that we’ll be workshopping right after we return from break.
In class on Tuesday, we’ll start off with clearing up any questions you might still have about the Tracing Maus projects and then probably spend a few minutes discussing the final chapter of the book, since group work on Thursday meant we didn’t really get to talk about it directly. We’ll also begin to discuss Palestine, focusing on (the first 2 chapters, at least) differ from or are similar to what we read from Spiegelman:
- Think about how the rhetorical situations are different for Maus and Palestine.
- Sacco is very certainly influenced by Spiegelman, but what does “influenced by” mean in this context? Where do you see this influence?
- We’ll definitely talk about genre and how genre conventions shape and are shaped by readers’ and writers’ practices and purposes over the coming weeks. Sacco has a degree in journalism and classifies his work as “graphic journalism” or “comics journalism.” Maus was originally nominated for a National Book award under the category “Biography,” but is also often classified as memoir, history, and even sometimes fiction.
Once you post the “What’s in your bag?” sketch, you won’t have another sketch due until March 25. That assignment will ask you to combine two photos, putting a person from one photo into a place from another one, so if you travel or go home over spring break and you get a chance to either take photos or look through family photo albums, you might keep an eye out for images that would be fun to play with.
As you work on your literacy narrative comics, I thought you might find interesting this comic that was just published this week “Say It with Noodles: A Comic about Food and Language” by Shing Yin Khor which is subtitled “I have forgotten how to speak two languages. But I have learned this one.”
From the in-class group work today:
The image you sketched today appeared in this article in the Guardian from last month. Philippe Chancel took photos documenting multiracial street gangs in 1982 Paris.
Also: one of you left your copy of Maus Book 2 in the classroom. I don’t see a name in it, but email me and/or come by my office to pick it up if it belongs to you.
Klara Prowisor, now 92 and living in Tel Aviv, escaped the gas chamber at Auschwitz by leaving her sick father behind as she jumped from a train in Belgium. Two decades later, she received a message from him. This 13-minute story is haunting and incredibly powerful.
Matan Rochliz interviewed Prowisor and created this short documentary film of her story for the New York Times, as part of their relatively new feature called “Op-Docs“:
Op-Docs is a series of short, interactive, and virtual reality documentaries. Each film is produced with wide creative latitude by both renowned and emerging filmmakers, and premieres across Times online platforms. The goal of each Op-Doc is to present a unique point of view.
The list of Op-Docs projects spans an impressive range of subjects and methods.
In the coming week, we will finish up reading and discussing Art Spiegelman’s Maus books, but probably the bulk of your time spent on this class over the next week will be devoted to your projects.
Between now and when we meet on Tuesday, in addition to publishing your triptych comic you should also be working on tracing your pages — you should probably have one page finished and at least have the second one chosen over the weekend. We’ll touch base on how the tracing and analysis are coming in class on Tuesday, so be thinking about any questions you have as you work.
(Note that I forgot to distribute the second sheet of tracing paper in class on Thursday, so I’ve put sheets in a big yellow envelope outside my office door — hanging just beneath my name plaque on the wall. There are definitely enough for everyone to get another sheet, but probably aren’t enough sheets for everyone to take 2, so please be considerate.)
You should also be working on storyboarding and rough sketches of your literacy narrative comic. Those drafts won’t be due until after spring break, but you will definitely not want to leave them until the last moment.
Next weekend, after you’ve posted sketch 6 you’ll have a break from those assignments until the week after you get back from spring break.
Due: March 4
Find a relatively large empty space. Take your backpack, messenger bag, or whatever sort of bag you carry around with you regularly, empty all the contents out, and arrange them carefully that they represent a visual snapshot of the stuff you tote around with you on a normal day. Then take a clear photo showing your bag and the stuff and upload it to your site.
Note that like the avatar or the literacy narrative, this too is a type of autobiographical composition. If you have something in your bag that is private, embarrassing, or for some other reason you don’t want it in the picture then make the editorial decision not to include it. Or vice versa, if you would like to assume a certain kind of persona then you might consider including items in your catalog that might be less than fully true.
Add some text to your post listing the items represented in your photo, preferably adding in a bit of explanatory and/or funny commentary along the way. This can be a paragraph of text or a list or whatever format seems most appropriate for you. When these sorts of posts are done by publications, like say The Verge or Timbuk2, they are often not so subtle efforts at product placement but for our purposes there is no reason for you to engage in such advertising games.
Along with the photo and your description of the items, include a paragraph reflecting on what it was like to craft a self-portrait through this photograph. How actually representative is this image of you as a person? What sorts of choices did you make in order to create the image? What was challenging about this assignment? Is representing yourself in a catalog of the stuff in your bag a type of writing? Why or why not?
Quotes for class today
“Comics, in fact, is a medium that involves a substantial degree of reader participation to stitch together narrative meaning” (22).
Art Spiegelman: “The comix I like, and try to do, can be read slowly and often…. I try to make every panel count and sometimes work as long as a month on a page…. I’m excited by the ‘secret language’ of comics — the underlying formal elements that create the illusions” (24)
“At it’s most basic, we can say that comics is a spatially site-specific form of literature. In this way, too, comics can also be like poetry, in which the line breaks and stanzas and arrangements of words on the page all carry meaning.[…] Comics does not propose linear reading in the same way prose does. Cognitively, one’s eye usually first takes in the whole page, even when one decides to start in the upper-left corner and move left to right. This is sometimes called comic’s ‘all-at-onceness,’ or its ‘symphonic effect.’ In comics, reading can happen in all directions; this open-endedness, and attention to choice in how one interacts with the pages, is part of the appeal of comics narrative” (24-5).
Perhaps interesting for further thought on this
In Why Comics?, Hillary Chute reprints a two-page spread from Richard McGuire’s Here (2014) (pp. 26-7), a comic that tells the story of a single room over the course of billions of years. The book originated as a 36-panel story published in 1989 in Raw, the comics journal edited by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly.
In How to Read Nancy: The Elements of Comics in Three Easy Panels, Paul Karasik and Mark Newgarden carry out an extended discussion of comics through repeated analysis of the single Nancy strip by Ernie Bushmiller from August 8, 1959 (at the top of this post). They explain that “one of the least tangible yet most significant implements in the cartoonist’s toolbox is the varied use of rhythms.[…] One repetition makes a pair. But add another and the repetitions have become a series, the basic building block of all rhythm. A set of three has the smallest number of elements that can establish a pattern (as well as violate it). Three implies more to come” (134).
For this week’s sketch assignment, create your own triptych comic. As you compose your triptych, I most want you to focus on creating a story with a very clear beginning, middle, and end. Your story can be minimalist, impressionistic, comic, dark, weird or whatever you want it to be — but make sure that each panel of the triptych moves that story forward from beginning to middle to end.
You can draw your triptych, or create one using photographs, maybe along similar lines as the webcomic A Softer World, which ran weekly for about twelve years starting in Feb 2003. Emily and Joey published 1248 comics in that time, each consisting of three panels with photographs and words superimposed on them – often it seems to be a single image cropped into three panels, but sometimes it’s three photos taken as a series – and then the title of the comic appears when you hover your mouse over the comic (creating space for a sort of fourth panel or commentary). The comics tend to be quite dark.
I’m looking for compact and playful storytelling through both images and words. It’s an opportunity for you to play with irony, humor, and/or wit.
Add a paragraph reflecting on your triptych comic. What choices did you make in crafting your narrative? Describe the composition process a little bit. What was challenging about this assignment? How is crafting this sort of comic strip different or similar to other writing you’ve done this semester?
Please sign up for a time to meet with me using this Google doc. If none of the listed times can possibly work for you, please let me know and I’ll try to arrange something with you individually — but really do try to accommodate this schedule.
And please make sure that you note the time you sign up for in your calendar and remember to show up. I’m happy to be able to take the time to meet with you individually but it is frustrating when you don’t show up as scheduled.
Detail from Making Comics by Scott McCloud
Here’s the first chapter of Rosalie Lightning, by Tom Hart.