Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Summer 2016 Course Descriptions for “Comics as Literature” and “Utopia in America”

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You’ve admired the posters, now recoil in terror from the course descriptions:

ENGLISH 4717/5717

Thematic Title: Comics as Literature

Description: Beginning with Batman and Superman, passing through R. Crumb, Harvey Pekar, and Maus, and moving into the contemporary era of Fun Home and Jimmy Corrigan, this course will survey the history and reception of comics and graphic narrative since 1945. We will explore the history of the comics form from its origins to the present moment, watching as the medium shifts from a predominantly American, predominantly male fixation on the superhero towards an increasingly popular international art movement crossing gender, class, and ethnic lines. In addition to studying comics as literary scholars, along the way we will also consider alternative modes of comics reception, including the great comic book panic of the 1950s, the underground “hippie” counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s, and Internet fandom today.

Readings: Major texts will include Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s Watchmen, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman, Art Spiegelman’s Maus, Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, and Richard McGuire’s Here, as well as additional selected excerpts.

Assignments: midterm, final project, in-class presentations, class participation and weekly responses



Thematic Title: Utopia in America

2016 marks the 500th anniversary of Sir Thomas More’s Utopia, which inaugurated a literary genre of political and social speculation that continues to structure our imagination of what is possible. We will read Utopia, as well as excerpts from some of its early American analogues and descendants like Delany’s Blake, or the Huts of America; Bellamy’s Looking Backwards; Thoreau’s Walden and Skinner’s Walden II, as well as consider utopian critical theory from thinkers like Fredric Jameson, Darko Suvin, Ursula K. Le Guin, Susan Buck-Morss, Michel Foucault, and Phillip Wegner. But the major task before us will be exploring the role utopian, quasi-utopian, dystopian, and downright anti-utopian figurations have played in the work of several key canonical writers of the 20th century: Vladimir Nabokov, Flannery O’Connor, Toni Morrison, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Philip K. Dick.

Readings: Major texts will include More’s Utopia, Nabokov’s Pale Fire, Morrison’s Sula, and Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, as well as short stories and critical readings distributed via D2L.

Assignments: class participation; weekly reading journal; two “thinkpieces” / mini-papers; in-class presentations; annotated bibliography; sample course syllabi, lesson plans, and statement of teaching philosophy

Written by gerrycanavan

February 17, 2016 at 1:54 pm

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