ENGL 300: The Graphic Novel George Mason University (Spring 2011)

30Apr/11Off

The Boundaries Broken: Past & Present, Magical & Real

Posted by cpetrus2

            I think the idea that the past never really dies and that it still has an impact on us today, as discussed on Thursday, is a very important theme in Bayou. Looking back at the comic book, a number of symbols of the past ran throughout the comic such as the tomahawk and the statue of the Confederate general, both in issue four. I think it’s also significant that the creators of Bayou introduce these items through a different style of comic book format than the rest of the story. For example, the tomahawk axe is introduced through a past story told by the main character’s uncle, and the panels are colored in brown tones and have a more classical penciling style, kind of like some of the panels in Nat Turner. The statue of Confederate General Bogg is not introduced in a different style graphically, but it is shown through a completely different type of narrative. The comic book, as a medium, seems more like a newspaper. And, the writer of the newspaper is a local southerner, who holds General Bogg, one of the villains in story, in high regard. In the magical realm of the story, the General is an opposing character to the heroes, but he gets killed by another person from the past. Stagolee is introduced in issue eight slitting General Bog. In issue nine the readers are give a back story to Stagolee as he is walking down a field from left to right. I feel like the panels during that scene convey the idea that the past is literally moving forward to the present as Stagolee’s story is being explained. Through all these effects, the creators of Bayou are emphasizing the theme that the past is breaking into the present, or perhaps the past never died, just like the idea that the magical realm is breaking into the real world.

30Apr/11Off

A Week Reading Bayou

Posted by slawrene

This week in class we focused on a multitude of different topics. The two that stood out the most to me were the religious overtones and references made within Bayou and the electronic format of the graphic novel.

The religion topic started with Thursday's powerpoint presentation, which discussed how Bayou was influenced  by many different religions and then went on to give examples. Among these examples were the dark and evil presence of the devil that exists in the character of Stagolee and the reference to the great flood and Noah's ark that was made at the juke joint with Reverend Bear.

The topic I found most interesting was the electronic format and how it differed from the print version of the graphic novel. On the comiXology website, each page is displayed one at a time, taking up the entire computer screen. Therefore, you cannot view two pages side by side like in the printed version. This causes the reader to miss a few things the writers included. One feature comiXology does offer that I found interesting is that you can view each individual panel separately. While this doesn't allow you to see the bigger picture that is the whole page, it does allow you to direct your focus toward each panel and the contents within it. By view the novel panel by panel, you may be able to realize something you may have skipped over if the entire page was visible. The electronic format has many features and is a completely different reading experience from the printed form.

25Apr/11Off

The Unwritten round up

Posted by abarney

One of the discussions we had in class that I would have like to expand on was the "delusions" of the little girl, Cosi. In the book, when Cosi says that her magic is getting better after yelling some "magic" words and poking another student in the eye her mother insists that she go to a psychiatrist. After speaking with Cosi he tells her parents that she is delusional and that she firmly believes that she can do magic like in the Tommy Taylor books.  Her mother immidately accepts this explination for her daughter's behavior and refuses to belive that it is just a child's imagination running wild. But if we put this into terms we in the "real world" can understand, is she so delusional? What child who read the Harry Potter novels wasn't the tiniest bit disappointed that their letter from Hogwarts didn't come when they were 11? I know I was a little when the magical letter didn't come. At a young age I knew that the Harry Potter world was just pretend/make believe but that doesn't stop that little bit of childlike hope that some people have that witches and wizards really do exist.

 

23Apr/11Off

Weekly Roundup: Mike Carey and Peter Gross’s The Unwritten

Posted by rpaul2

For the weekly roundup for Mike Carey and Peter Gross's The Unwritten, I'll choose my favorite in-class discussion...but there are definitely a few different blog posts I'd like to touch on.

Probably my favorite discussion/exercise we've done in class so far this semester was the one where the class divided into groups and everyone wrote a sentence-long summary of the first volume. Unsurprisingly, it was pretty hard! We couldn't use the same words and eventually my group's summary didn't make any sense, really. I found this to be a useful exercise because it just goes to show how difficult of a graphic novel The Unwritten is to describe in a single sentence. There's a lot that goes on in it, some of it seemingly unrelated (especially the last twenty or so pages.)

As for my favorite blog post about The Unwritten, I liked what "ahart" said about himself being worried that the novel was going to turn out to be like a manga and "just be about a kids basic life." I felt the same way upon starting! And, like "ahart," I was happily proven wrong...maybe I just felt that way by the title page and the back cover. I'm not entirely sure. "Kristine Brown" also brought up a good point -- we never really discussed the themes of fame and celebrity and their part in the novel that much in class. I would've liked that as well! Lastly, the website that "Michael Gillespie" posted that dealt with Mike Carey and Peter Gross was pretty interesting, I found after taking a look at it.

23Apr/11Off

Reading the Unwritten

Posted by ekimo

Something from our class discussions that I found interesting was the possible meanings of the title of the series itself, "The Unwritten," and what it could be referring to.

I remember it was suggested that "unwritten" could refer to the way that Count Ambrosio can never die as he is "unliving."  Similarly, stories that actually remain unwritten can never "die," in a sense, since once they are put to paper they become vulnerable to being reinterpreted, or warped, as in the case of Jud Suss.

It may also refer to Tom himself, the "real" Tom, not the one written about in his father's stories.  Although the lines between fantasy and reality often become blurred within the novels...

As a series that is still a work in progress, I guess it also may be too soon to come to any conclusions.

Filed under: Weekly Roundup 1 Comment
16Apr/11Off

Memories

Posted by snigh

“Every memory is a re-creation, not a playback” (Ignazio)

One of the discussions that we had in class this week was about memory in Asterios Polyp. Since a large portion of this book is flashbacks, it was worth mentioning how important memories are for this book. One of the sections in particular that we looked at was the sequence of Hana going through day-to-day activities (bathing, sneezing, laughing, getting sick, etc.).  There’re not necessarily the most defining, important, or happiest snapshots of their relationship, but they capture the side of Hana to which Asterios became accustomed—the essence of Hananess. Willy was right when he said, “All movement is arbitrary, it’s repetition that makes meaning,” because these moments of repetition and ritual characterize who a person really is, not the rare, outliers that occur from time to time.

In the same way, the flashbacks may not represent the story of Asterios Polyp in its entirety—did Willy’s show get cancelled, when did Asterios and Hana get divorced, did Asterios quit teaching, etc.—but it gives the audience the highlights and lowlights of what occurred. And because these flashbacks are more or less restricted to what Asterios (and Ignazio by proxy) knows, the full story cannot be fully known.

We brushed a little on Asterios’ video tapes, which can also represent memory. In a way, the documentation of events and one’s memory are similar. Both can be altered, destroyed, or decontextualized.  When Asterios watches his videos in the beginning of the book, the reader might think differently of them until their gain context. And when the fire burns his videos, several decades of memories go up in smoke. All memory is fallible.

16Apr/11Off

Swallow Me Whole

Posted by Nikki

I found the most interesting discussions in class this week to be covered within the graphic novel, Swallow Me Whole. At first, I was very reluctant to begin to read this book because every page involved so much detail and what I believed to be "hidden" messages. However, after reading the piece I found that the extremely detail oriented and hidden meanings within the entirety of this graphic novel is what captured and sustained my attention the most. I love how the book gives us so much room as readers to develop our own beliefs and thoughts. How each page allows for us to sit and talk for moments on end was very intriguing and actually fun. I loved how many ideas were thrown out into discussion throughout class. There were so many differing and thought provoking ideas that I found myself fascinated by how much we all came up with individually for each page of the novel. I especially loved the end of the book where Ruth is literally swallowed up and taken away by her schizophrenic hallucinations. I have no idea why the thought of the early Bible stories of the plague broke out in my mind, but probably because of not only the locusts and frogs, but also because of how these creatures seemed to engulf Ruth's entire being and sweep her away without her being able to put up a fight any more. Ruth gives in to her hallucinations and is literally swallowed whole. This book is truly one of my favorites this semester. I love how much we as readers are able to allow our minds to be swallowed up by this novel's illustrated hallucinations and how much it affects us to the point that we ourselves might even sound a little crazy.

16Apr/11Off

Weekly Roundup for Asterios Polyp

Posted by ibahabib

What I liked the most about this week's discussion was how each of the different Greek myths and references in the book were addressed. When I first read Asterios Polyp I had no idea that the myths mentioned reflected so much of what was occurring in the novel. I don't know much about Greek myths but I was able to appreciate the use of them in the novel only after our discussions because we clearly tied how each myth related back to what was happening in the book. For example  someone mentioned that Asterios' last name was probably Polyphemus and that in Greek mythology Polyphemus  was a cyclops. This helped explain the significance of Asterios loosing his eye near the end of the novel. Since Asterios Polyp is such a dense book made of little things that seem insignificant in the beginning but make sense at the end of the book, I was glad that we took the time to allow everyone to explain some of the different parts of the book that did this because it helped explain some things in the book that some of us didn't realize were intentional. For example on Thursday we discussed the scene after Asterios has built the tree house and how Asterios doesn't smack the fly that's on his cheek. I'm sure many of us didn't realize that this was referring to Francis of Assisi or that Mazzuchelli used this scene to show that Asterios was changing as a person.

8Apr/11Off

Weekly roundup Swallow Me Whole

Posted by amurray5

It was interesting to see the presentations this week on Swallow Me Whole. It really helped me to see the deeper meanings of the story because it was personally really confusing. I especially liked the ideas of the step-father and his absence and his insignificance making him very significant to the story. The music in the story was also intriguing because I was interested in how the music affected the novel and what it brought to the story. I think it was also interesting to see the different interpretations of the white pill creature that was eating the bugs. The class seemed to have many different interpretations of what it meant and how it was related to the story. Though we did not reach a class consensus, I think everyone thought differently about the story and the creature and brought a new dimension to the story.  The class seemed to have a lot of interpretations of the ending and the ideas of the bugs in general and of the relationships between the parents and the kids or lack of a relationship. Also we briefly discussed the title of the book because it had multiple meanings throughout the story and helped to show the different parts of the story and how it all flowed together.

7Apr/11Off

Weekly Roundup on “Swallow Me Whole” (April 5-7)

Posted by Professor Sample

If you're in group 1, you're responsible for this week's weekly roundup. Each student in the group will highlight one key moment from the previous week’s online and in-class discussions. To recall the syllabus:

Follow this formula for the highlights: describe the moment (provide the context and the facts about what you saw, read, or heard), interpret the meaning of the moment (what does it mean?), and evaluate its significance (in other words, why was the moment important?).

You can post your highlight in the comments below (or in a separate post).

1Apr/11Off

Exit Wounds exited too soon.

Posted by Lauren Walker

While seeing all of the other students' tracing projects was insightful (I really liked each novel got a good representation, so I learned something new about each of them), I wish we had some more time for discussion on Exit Wounds this week. There were quite a few things that we didn't get to examine with this novel, and it would have been cool to talk a little more about Modan's style. For example, someone brought up in their tracing project how Modan masterfully captures emotion in her drawings of facial expressions. I thought this was so true in this novel, and I'm glad someone brought it up. One example is on page 77, where Numi is staring at Kobi from the corners of her eyes...Modan is able to capture this perfectly, with such simple line drawings. I wonder if anyone else noticed any other great examples of this?

Overall we focused a lot on the story and less on the style, and I think that at the end we all just decided that it had a crappy ending (I disagree with this, by the way--maybe she's too open-ended about what happens between Koby and Numi, but she did clear up the story's big mystery about what happened to Gabriel). I wish we could have talked more about how Modan told the story--why she included such a graphic sex scene, yet left out any real graphic violence, for example. Also, we could have looked at Modan's use of humor--sometimes black humor--in her story, and what implications this might have.

Filed under: Weekly Roundup 1 Comment
1Apr/11Off

Exit Wounds

Posted by lsanfiel

I though that it was really interesting in class on Thursday how so many people had different views on the ending of this novel.  Many of the students had strong opinions on how they viewed the ending to be ambiguous or not fitting to the rest of the storyline and how that made them dislike the book.  Others argued that they thought it was a fitting ending and that it was a nice way to finish this book since Koby and Nuni were on this journey together were both characters knew little to nothing about what path might take them where.  Personally I wonder if the ending of this book just strikes a nerve because there is no finality to the ending.  I think that since this book was a little opaque during certain moments the ending just further layers on the uncertainty of the journey these two characters are on, I liked it.

1Apr/11Off

Weekly Round up – Exit Wounds

Posted by Emma

What I found most interesting about this week's discussion of Rutu Modan's Exit Wounds was how divided so many of us were on several aspects of the novel, from meanings to whether we enjoyed it or not.  In particular, on Thursday we talked about what we thought about the ending of the book.  I have to admit, I was not really a huge fan of the ending myself, I felt like it was really abrupt and left me no feeling of closure.  However, some people didn't agree with me and genuinely enjoyed the ambiguity of the final panels.  There was also discussion this week on whether this story was a story about love, a story about war and politics or a story about family.  To be honest, I think it was a story about all of these things, which is why the story may have seemed a bit jumpy like Michael mentioned in his blog.  At times it really was a little difficult to follow.  I think the interview with Modan on the blog where she talks about her inspiration for the book and her experience in Israel really helped to bring an understanding to combining the aspects of love, war, and family together though in this novel.

26Mar/11Off

A Little More on the Bechdel Test

Posted by mswisher

Since one of Bechdel's major legacies is the Bechdel Test, I decided to shed a little more light on it in this Weekly Roundup.

The rules were discussed in class and in a previous post, but to recap: at least two women/who talk to each other/about something other than a man. At first glance I thought this was kind of silly, but upon further examination it's actually a well thought out rule that would disqualify a lot of movies, but certainly not all. The Bechdel Test has a strong presence on the internet, and a quick google search turns up many interesting blogs and even a video that scrolls through just how many movies fail the Test.

The Test also raises some interesting questions, such as: how would the Sex and the City movies fare? Clearly there are more than two women, and while they do talk to each other it is often about men, but not all the time. Add to that the fact that the women in the movies are often materialistic and (in my opinion) petty. On the other hand, many women loved the TV show and the movies. It would be interesting to hear Bechdel's verdict on this and other similar movies.

Personally, I'm not about to stop watching a movie because it doesn't pass the Bechdel Test, but I'm hardly the target audience for it.

25Mar/11Off

Weekly Roundup on Fun Home (March 22-24)

Posted by Professor Sample

If you're in group 5, you're responsible for this week's weekly roundup. Each student in the group will highlight one key moment from the previous week’s online and in-class discussions. To recall the syllabus:

Follow this formula for the highlights: describe the moment (provide the context and the facts about what you saw, read, or heard), interpret the meaning of the moment (what does it mean?), and evaluate its significance (in other words, why was the moment important?).

You can post your highlight in the comments below (or in a separate post).

Filed under: Weekly Roundup 4 Comments