Comics Studies Immersion

Overview for Comics Studies Immersion

Explore the history of cartooning, comics, sequential art, and visual storytelling. Students learn about and analyze the history of the comics medium, the distinct formal qualities of sequential art, the relations between comics and other popular media forms, and how comics remain a vibrant contemporary cultural form.

Notes about this immersion:

  • Students are required to complete at least one course at the 300-level or above as part of the immersion.

The plan code for Comics Studies Immersion is COMICS-IM.

Curriculum for 2023-2024 for Comics Studies Immersion

Current Students: See Curriculum Requirements

Required Course
Comics: Image & Text in Popular Culture
An interdisciplinary introduction to comics and related media that blend image and text. By reading and discussing a range of popular comics, from newspaper comic strips to long-form superhero comics and graphic novels, we will learn both how to analyze comics and how the medium of comics emerged in and remains vital to popular culture. Through the use of interdisciplinary methods and resources in art history, communications and journalism, literary studies, material culture studies, rhetoric, sociology, and visual culture studies, we will also explore the aesthetic, cultural, historical, and global significance of comics. Lecture 3 (Fall or Spring).
 Ethics in the Graphic Memoir
Graphic novels demonstrate a concern for constructed narrative within a visual structure, character development, and plot strategies. Graphic memoirs, or auto-graphic novels, tell true tales of human experiences and global events, exploring the boundaries between fact and fiction, public and private, interior and exterior, visual and textual, seen and unseen, traumatic pasts and their futures. Graphic memoirs are interested in how these distinctions, and the questions of individual and collective truth, transparency, and communicability they open onto, help to delineate ethical behavior and belief systems. Holding a mirror up to the multiple ways in which contemporary cultures frame and reframe individual and collective experience, graphic memoirs render their subjects’ and cultures’ ethical premises and guidelines explicit, and, therefore, enable readers to revisit, rethink, and redraw accepted ways of behaving, understanding, and circulating. Texts used in this course will be explored through this lens. We will focus on the ethical considerations and concerns conveyed in and by graphic memoirs in order to uncover unique forms of book-length sequential art, as well as enhance critical thinking about ethics and media literacy skills. Designated as writing intensive, this course emphasizes writing practices, recognizing the role writing plays in the formation of knowledge, and the framing of a specific academic specialization, as well as genre. Lecture 3 (Spring).
 The Graphic Novel
This course charts the development of the graphic novel, examines that history in relation to other media (including literary works, comics, film, and video games), and reflects on how images and writing function in relation to one another. Primary readings will be supplemented with secondary works that address socio-historical contexts, interpretive approaches and the cultural politics of the medium, such as representations of class, race, gender, and ethnicity. Lecture 3 (Spring).
 Global Comics
A course on comics and comics cultures outside of the United States. Comics are a global medium, and the history of comics varies across national and international contexts. We will investigate and study different traditions of comics across the globe. The course will focus on a range of global comics, such as bande dessinées in France and Belgium, fumetti in Italy, manga in Japan, and cómics in Spain. All comics will be read in English translation. Lecture 3 (Fall or Spring).
 Popular Genre Studies in Comics and Related Media
This course focuses on a popular genre in the comics medium. The history of the genre is explored as it developed in cartooning and comics, as well as in related media such as animation, film, games, prose, television, and toys. Genres may include Comedy, Crime, Fantasy, Funny Animals, Horror, Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction, Superhero, or Western. Check course schedule for the specific topic during any semester. Lecture 3 (Fall or Spring).
 Art Comics
This course will explore how the comics medium has figured into the history of modern and contemporary art and visual culture. Students will explore how cartooning, drawing, and printmaking in the 19th century led to the development of early comics and the newspaper comic strip, how early 20th-century comics fit into the modernist avant-garde, how postwar artists began to use the comics medium as both source material and as a medium unto itself, how comics have been incorporated into contemporary art museums and galleries, and how contemporary comics artists engage with abstraction, medium specificity, seriality, and the archive. The course will draw from an interdisciplinary range of methodologies, from art history and visual culture to literary studies and museum studies. Lecture 3 (Fall).
 Theory And Criticism of 20th Century Art
A critical study of some of the major theoretical and philosophical texts that ground twentieth century art as well as their impact on artists and art historians/critics. Taken together they constitute what is presently called critical theory across a wide range of the humanities and social sciences, as well as the emergence of an alleged postmodernism. Major issues include: the theory of autonomy and self-reflexivity, the structuralist paradigm, post-structuralist and Marxist critiques of modernism, feminist approaches to spectacle, semiotics, and the theory of the sign, spectatorship, and commodity fetishism, the relation of vision to constructions of identity and power. Key authors to be discussed include: Lessing, Kant, Greenberg, Foucault, Barthes, Benjamin, Saussure, Pierce, Levi-Strauss, Lacan, Lyotard, Bataille, Debord Baudrillard, and Ranci. (Prerequisites: Completion of one course in Art History (ARTH) at the 100 level is required.) Lecture 3 (Fall or Spring).
 The Image
The image remains a ubiquitous, controversial, ambiguous and deeply problematic issue in contemporary critical discourse. This course will examine recent scholarship devoted to the image—a ubiquitous controversial, ambiguous and deeply problematic issue in contemporary critical discourse—and the ideological implications of the image in contemporary culture. Topics will include: the modern debate over word vs. image, the mythic origins of images, subversive, traumatic, monstrous, banned and destroyed images (idolatry and iconoclasm), the votive, the totem, and effigy, the mental image, the limits of visuality, the moving and projected image, the virtual image, dialectical images, image fetishism, the valence of the image, semiotics and the image, as well as criteria by which to assess their success or failure (their intelligibility) and their alleged redemptive and poetic power. Students will explore the theoretical framework of the concept of the image, and critically evaluate these theories within their broader intellectual and historical contexts. (Prerequisites: Completion of one course in Art History (ARTH) at the 100 level is required.) Lecture 3 (Fall or Spring).
 Visual Communication
This course is an introduction to the study of visual communication. The iconic and symbolic demonstration of visual images used in a variety of media is stressed. The major goal of the course is to examine visual messages as a form of intentional communication that seeks to inform, persuade, and entertain specific target audiences. Lecture 3 (Fall or Spring).
 Popular Literature
This course examines popular literature, a designation that has meant different things at different times and that has included literature as diverse as Shakespearean comedies, Gothic fiction, Science Fiction, and Fantasy. In part, students will consider the artistic relationships between popular literature and both historical and contemporary literary forms in order to understand how popular literature draws upon and sometimes invents new kinds of artistic representation. The class will also ask students to explore what social attitudes and pressures help to make a form popular at a particular moment in time, and how popularity is often driven by the social networks of book production, marketing, sales, and adaptation. Different sections may focus on different popular literary forms. Whatever the topic, the course will provide students a lens through which to discuss how the public, mainstream authors, and literary critics, as well as editors and publishers, impact the development of literary traditions. Lecture 3 (Annual).
 Media Adaptation
This course introduces students to the field of adaptation studies and explores the changes that occur as particular texts such as print, radio, theatre, television, film, and videogames move between various cultural forms and amongst different cultural contexts. The course focuses upon works that have been disseminated in more than one medium. Lecture 3 (Fall).
 Visual Culture Theory
Visual Culture studies recognize the predominance of visual forms of media, communication, and information in the contemporary world, investigating both “high" cultural forms such as fine art, design, and architecture and popular "low" cultural forms associated with mass media and communications. Visual Culture studies represents a turn in the discourse of the visual, which had focused on content-based, critical readings of images, and has since broadened its approach to additionally question the ways in which our consumption and production of images and image based technologies are structured. Analyzing images from a social-historical perspective, visual culture asks: what are the effects of images? Can the visual be properly investigated with traditional methodologies, which have been based on language, not imagery? How do images visualize social difference? How are images viewed by varied audiences? How are images embedded in a wider culture and how do they circulate? Lecture 3 (Fall).
 Gender and Contemporary Art
This course traces the historical development of women’s activism in the art world from the 1970s to the present. We will interpret how this art activism, which artists and scholars alike have referred to as the feminist art movement, has examined how gender informs the ways art is made, viewed, conceptualized in history and theory, and exhibited in museums and visual culture, in a range of cultural contexts. We will also analyze how current artists, critics, and curators continue to build on this history, in particular how they use the concept of gender intersectionality to develop a variety of new creative practices, theories, modes of exhibition and social engagement. Lecture 3 (Fall, Spring).
 Film, Comics, and French Culture
The course focuses on French culture through feature films, animated films, and comic books. France is the strongest film industry in Europe and is one of the world’s major movie export powers after the U.S. Franco-Belgian comics are one of the main groups of comics, together with American and British comic books and the Japanese manga. France is Europe’s largest producer and the world’s third largest exporter of animated film. What do French films and comics tell us about French culture? The course explores aspects of contemporary French society. It addresses a broad range of topics including multiculturalism in France, French cuisine and the French paradox, fashion in France, the impact of the two world wars on French society, the legacy of the French colonial experience, and ethnic and sexual minorities in France. The course examines the interconnectedness of French culture with other cultures in the world, particularly American culture and the cultures of former French colonies. Students will also have to interpret and evaluate French films and comic books considering the cultural context in which they were created. They will learn about the specificity of French cinema as opposed to Hollywood productions, of French animated films versus American animated films and Japanese anime, and of Franco-Belgian comics as opposed to American and British comics and the Japanese manga. The course also offers a brief introduction to spoken French. Lecture 3 (Spring).
 Performing Identity in Popular Media
This class is a critical, theoretical, and practical examination of the constitution and performance of personal identity within popular media as it relates to identity politics in everyday life. Through lectures, readings, film, and critical writing, students will examine elements of personal identity and diversity in popular media in order to foster a deeper understanding of how identity is constructed and performed in society. Lecture 3 (Spring).