The Graphic Novel

Alan Rauch, Ph.D., English, UNC Charlotte

Comic Books and Graphic Novels are hardly new phenomena in the world of publishing, but they are still very new to the world of literary interpretation and scholarship.  In this Seminar we will examine the intersections among word, image, and format that are critical to the understanding of graphic novels.  How do we “read” images and how do sequential images mediate narrative in a way that words alone do not (or perhaps cannot)?   Our discussions will include theoretical approaches to the graphic novel format as well as the history of graphical representation.  The theoretical perspectives will be complemented by a close look at the history of the graphic novel, as well as at contemporary examples, ranging from Alan Moore’s comic based, The Watchmen to Roz Chast’s memoir, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?  Some texts may not be entirely familiar, such as Emil Ferris’s My Favorite Thing is Monsters and David Mazzucchelli’s Asterios Polyp, but they are texts that expanding whatever we think we mean when we invoke “graphic novels.”  We will also consider controversial (sometimes censored) texts, such as Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home.  Beyond the actual graphic novel, we will explore literary treatments of the emergence of the graphic format in works like Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer-Prize winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.