English 181: The Secret Language of Comics, was my introduction to writing at Emory. Throughout the semester the class read six graphic novels and created a WordPress site to meet and have a collection of how we achieved our learning outcomes through our work. The five main learning outcomes were: rhetorical composition, critical thinking and reading resulting in writing, writing as a process, visual thinking, and digital citizenship. Throughout the semester we had plenty of assignments that encompassed at least two of these outcomes.
Every assignment we did for this class was posted to our personal WordPress site. These sites are public for anyone in the world to see, which makes you think twice about anything that is posted. A huge part of digital citizenship that my professor, David Morgen, emphasized anytime we used images other than our own that we had to cite them in our post. In my ‘combophoto’ Sunday Sketch, I used two images that didn’t belong to me, so I made sure to give credit to the website where it came from at the end of the post. Also, to make sure that all of the content on the page is generally appropriate since it is available to the anyone who finds my site. Granted I tried not to use digital images because it reminds when my drawing and painting class somehow became a graphic design class, I still have nightmares, and an ugly art piece.
Going back to the Sunday Sketch assignments, these were weekly assignments where professor Morgen would come up with different art assignment with reflections attached. Each of the sketches were used as a different medium of writing than a traditional paper. A good example of this is the ‘Triptych’ assignment where we had to make a three-panel comic and reflect on the similarities between other writing that we’ve done this semester. Compared to other writings we made, the triptych had to convey an entire story in only three panels compared to hundreds of words that we had to give a proper beginning, middle, and end to a story.
While on the topic of art, I generally think that my work was stronger in this class when I created comics or sketches rather than alphabetic texts. A prime example of this was the difference between part one and part two of my literacy narrative. When I made the first literacy narrative, I detailed how I grew up reading and writing and although the paper was about it, I felt as if the story lacked my personal touch. Once I revisited it in part two though, I added humor in the comic because I felt as if it was more appropriate in that type of medium. I started off the first two panels of my comic as “For as long as I remember I’ve loved reading! Ok maybe not that young.” The first sentence is over a panel of book and then the next sentence is a panel of me in the womb. In my opinion it was stupid comedy, but stupid comedy is my forte. This also seemed to work in my favor as my classmates who reviewed a rough draft said, “The comedy right at the beginning works to set the lighthearted tone of the comic”.
Even though the literacy narrative had the opportunity to be funny, I felt as if I had to keep the tone of the paper formal. So, for the third part of my literacy narrative, I made a point to add more humor into my paper, especially the joke about the womb. I think that mixing a lighthearted tone with reflection and analysis has always been a good tool that authors use. An example of this from a text that we read this semester is the graphic novel edition of Kindred by Octavia Butler. Even though the story is dark and deals with heavy topics throughout, there are small moments of comedy that make the story feel truly complete. I feel the same way about my writing, that if there is not a small touch of myself, whether that’s comedy or a passing reference to some obscure game or book, it does not seem authentic. After realizing this, I created part three of the narrative which is an editing version after reflecting on what part two helped us to learn about the narrative and our writing. The literacy narrative seems to be the embodiment of “writing as a process” as it always being edited and revised throughout the semester until the very end.
Throughout the entire process of writing the literacy narrative I always thought of it as a paper informing others on how I began reading and writing, and how it shaped me. I honestly enjoyed looking back over my narratives because I feel that someone, somewhere will relate to a part of my narrative. I don’t think that the way I grew up reading and writing is particularly spectacular but that’s the beauty of it to me. Reading and writing are some basic skills that everyone can appreciate because many people have similar stories to how they got into reading, or how they discovered their favorite genres.
Sunday Sketches and papers were not the only mediums we used for creating texts in this class. We had an oral presentation, wrote papers, and… made comics, I thought that list would be a bit longer. Well I guess comics can count for digital since a few were required to be digital. Anyways, I’ve gone into detail on the sketches and traditional papers, but we had to give an oral presentation called Halfa Kucha which is Pecha Kucha but half the time. A Pecha Kucha is where a presenter has twenty slides played for twenty seconds each automatically with little text to no text on the slides. Each of the different genres we used for writing had their own perks where Sunday sketches allowed for an easy viewing of the material and a broader audience, alphabetic papers allowed for deeper analysis and a smaller yet, arguably more knowledgeable audience to the topic. The Halfa Kucha was a good mix because the photos on the slide allowed for visuals to easily accompany the information being said but since the information has to be given in three and a half minutes, there is a lot of basics that a less familiar audience would miss.
My biggest takeaway from this class is definitely visually comparing two mediums. One of my favorite papers that we wrote this semester was the tracing pages project where we traced out pages from Stitches by David Small and Spinning by Tillie Walden to compare themes between the two graphic novels. Having the books side by side and being able to write on tracing paper the similarities between stylistic choices in the books and analyze deeper meanings that both of the texts have beneath the surface. I think that this is a good way to analyze alphabetic texts too. Well I guess I’ll find out next semester in my English seminar.