Tracing the Narrative Project

You’ll begin this project by selecting one of the graphic narratives we’ve read so far this semester. Your options include graphic narratives we are reading right up to the deadline for this project—Nat Turner, Jimmy Corrigan, and Alan’s War. The only text you may not work on is Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began (because we will have already traced it in class).

You’ll also need tracing paper to complete this project. Tracing paper is available in the lower level of the campus bookstore, as well as at most office or art supply stores.

You will trace two different pages from one graphic narrative for this project. A “page” means a single verso or recto page. You may do a two-page spread only if that spread forms a coherent unit. A two-page spread will count as one “page.”

First Tracing

  1. Pick a compelling page from the graphic narrative and trace it. Your goal is not to create a look-alike reproduction of the original page. Rather, it is to distill the original page into a simplified line drawing. If there are caption bubbles or boxes, you should trace their outline, but please do not copy the text within.
  2. Annotate your traced page with “gutter text”—your own text, written into the gutters and empty captions of the pages. Think of your gutter text as a dissection of the page, in which you highlight both the salient and the subtle characteristics of the page’s panels. Consider the various formal features of the drawing: color, saturation, shading, line styles, shapes and sizes, angles and placement, perspective and framing, layering and blocking. Consider the relationship between the elements on the page: the transitions between panels, the interplay between words and images, the way time and motion are conveyed. Consider overall layout of the page: the use of gutters and margins, the arrangement of panels, the flow of narrative or imagery. Tip: Photocopy your tracing onto regular paper before you begin annotating it in order to preserve your original tracing. You may need several copies, in fact, in order to have room for all of your annotations.

Second Tracing

  1. For the second tracing select a page that feels distinctly different from the page you traced earlier. Maybe there’s something about the overall layout, or the artistic style, or the tone of the page. In any case, select a page that provides visual tension with your first tracing.
  2. After you have traced this page, again annotate it, this time with an eye toward what makes this page different from your first selection.

Synthesis and Reflection

The synthesis and reflection is a single document in which you work through the process and product of the tracing activity. I recommend that you take notes for your synthesis and reflection as you work, instead of waiting until you’ve finished tracing. You will probably discover much during the actual process of tracing that you’ll want to talk about for the reflection.

Your synthesis and reflection should weigh in at 1,200-1,500 words (roughly 5-6 pages). You shouldn’t organize this document as a typical research essay. It can be more open-ended and tentative than the usual essay in which you are expected to “prove” a claim. Think of it as a “tour” of your tracings.

There are many ways to approach the synthesis and reflection, but one promising point of departure is to explain what drew you to the two pages you traced. There are many other aspects of the tracing process and product to think about in your synthesis and reflection, including (but not limited to) the following: What did you find yourself leaving out of the tracing? What did you find yourself striving to include in the tracing? Why? What did the act of tracing reveal about the page? What did the product of your tracing reveal? Is there a difference between the two? How closely does your tracing capture the dominant narrative or visual themes of the overall work?

Other Details

  • Your project will consist of your two tracings and your reflection
  • The style of your written reflection should be “academic casual” and the format should be strictly academic, with a standard 12 point font, 1″ margins, and an MLA-style Works Cited page
  • The project is due Wednesday, October 27 at the start of class

Leave a Reply