Disturbing and Intriguing and, dare I say, Different?

As promised, I said I’d delay my thoughts on Nat Turner until this week. So, here they are, though I’m not sure they’re much different from the views I expressed in class last week.

As far as the actal reading (of words goes), itwas interesting, though the words, as the book tells us, come directly from The Confessions of Nat Turner, so they are not really Kyle Baker’s own words. This not only had an authenticating effect, but also made the mood of the story more eerie. The words, coupled with the pictures, had a rather chilling and horrifing effect on me. This might be due in part to my overactive imagination coupled with a visual learning style. I could see what was being said, both literally, as well as in my mind, and it brought it closer to my senses.

That being said, would I classify this as literature? I’m still going to have to go with the “no’s” on this. I strongly feel it is something else…not literature, and yet, something. I would still place it in the “art” category before the literature category, because I felt I was putting on my “art appreciation hat”as I “read” the images. I had to notice things, such as the circles, the way light was used in the hanging scene, the shaded and shadowy lines when the girl is creeping away at the end. Yes, these are analytical skills, but they are art analytical skills. As for the art telling a story, as per a novel, I have looked upside down and sideways for a painting series I studied as an undergrad, and I cannot for the life of me remember the painter (if I do, I will repost), but painting series also tell stories in a similar way. The particular series was a group of 6 paintings. They would use, what McCloud would call scene-to-scene transitions, where you have to “read” each scene to know the story before moving on to the next scene. The one I am thinking of started in a painting where some men were gathered around a table talking, while a young man and woman sat, awkwardly staring at each other on the side. You understood, from the position of the men, and the strange expressions on the couple’s face, as well as the luxurious trappings around them, that this was an arranged marraige for a young wealthy couple. There were other signs, as well, that “foreshadowed” the couple’s unhappy end. The next few paintings led you through a sad story, where the woman had an affair, the husband was killed trying to defend his honor, and the woman ended up with syphillis (as depicted by a black spot on her), and the family ended up ruined, all because of the unhappy marraige. But, as I read Nat Turner, I felt I was using similar skills to decipher the story there. Only, I had the aid of a few words now and again to help me. This painting series was from the 18th century. A precursor to comics or graphic narratives perhaps? Not sure I have enough expertise on the subject to make that call, but I do find it an interesting connection. In any case, Nat Turner was disturbing, but so are many other things I read. It doesn’t make it any less valuable. It was intriguing, and I had to use a┬álot of analytical muscle to “read” it, so overall, a new and exciting experience for me!

Wow…I didn’t mean to drone on that long. It just happened. Then I remembered we’re supposed to say something about teaching a graphic novel. As far as teaching one is concerned, I have actually used them for my ESL students. Not of the Nat Turner variety, but they do make graphic narratives for students learning to speak English. It’s effective because the student can match the words to the picture. You ask vocabulary and comprehension questions at the end. So, if the story is about a woman talking on the phone (a simple example–the ones the kids read are much more interesting), then at the end, you might say : Who was talking on the phone? (The woman), thus they associate an older female with the word “woman.” Like I said, simple example, but you get the idea. That being said, I think they would be very effective to use with ESL classes to not only help them learn the language, but read the language, as well.

As a middle school teacher, I am not sure I would be able to teach Nat Turner or Maus to my students, though I might, if I taught older high school students or college age students. They seem an interesting medium to explore, and I would definitely have a discussion on whether they thought such works were works of literature or not. It seems a good way to introduce the idea of a literary scholarly debate! I would probably have them do a mock debate in the classroom and teach debating techniques along with it. I think that would be fun, but I always loved doing things like that in high school. It’s a nice, healthy, acceptable way to argue!