Studying Comics and Graphic Novels

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9781118499924: Studying Comics and Graphic Novels

This introduction to studying comics and graphic novels is a structured guide to a popular topic. It deploys new cognitive methods of textual analysis and features activities and exercises throughout.

  • Deploys novel cognitive approaches to analyze the importance of psychological and physical aspects of reader experience
  • Carefully structured to build a sequenced, rounded introduction to the subject
  • Includes study activities, writing exercises, and essay topics throughout
  • Dedicated chapters cover popular sub-genres such as autobiography and literary adaptation

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Studying Comics and Graphic Novels

Comics have found their way onto bestseller lists, into the literary feuilleton and the university classroom, but the critical education of readers has not kept pace with the rise of the comic medium, as it has moved beyond superheroes and funny animals. How does one make sense of complex word/image combinations? How do they tell their stories? How does one write a term paper on comics? Studying Comics and Graphic Novels provides students, teachers and comics readers with an accessible guide to the fantastic, complex and compelling worlds of words, images and speech bubbles.

Basic ideas in this book include:

Reading comics engages your mind and body. When you get comfortable in your armchair and open a comic book, both your mind and your body are hard at work making sense of the lines and squiggles on the page. You draft and redraft inferences about what is going on in the story, you feel for the characters, and you experience an embodied resonance of the movement of characters across the page. In a way, you might feel like you can fly when you see the superheroes take off on the pages before you. Understanding how comics engage your mind and body, by describing their cognitive effects, provides a language for talking about comics and graphic novels which is easy to master.

Comics tackle the big questions. Look no further than Neil Gaiman's The Sandman if you want to know how myths and stories shape the ways in which you make sense of the world around you. Alison Bechdel's autobiographic comic Fun Home traces how one comes to terms with the different identities we take for our families, friends and strangers. A full-blown philosophical investigation of the workings of the imagination in comics, culture and human cognition can be found in Alan Moore's superhero series Promethea. In each of these comics, word and image, narrative strategies and characters and stories already familiar from other comics, novels and films work together, as they make their take on the big questions accessible to readers.

Do not underestimate comics' share in the larger cultural conversations. Even though in the past comics were rarely present when their elder siblings literature, film and the theatre debated at the table of high culture, comics have always presented surprising and subversive perspectives on social, political and cultural issues. Alan Moore's Watchmen, for example, not only tells an alternative history of the superhero genre, but also revisits the Cold War and the question of whether society needs heroes. Other graphic novels, such as Martin Rowson's Tristram Shandy, reconfigure literary classics in the comics medium and relate them to the present day.

Welcome to the world of comics studies. Studying comics and graphic novels teaches you how to read comics and how to talk about them, based on your own reading experience, the comics' larger conceptual and cultural relevance and a variety of scholarly traditions - all very good places for starting you exploration of the world of comics studies.

From the Back Cover:

Today’s comics and graphic novels tackle serious themes and win Pulitzer prizes. This guide introduces their distinctive characteristics, traces their historical development, and analyzes their narrative structure. An ideal course book, the text includes material on sub-genres, such as autobiography and literary adaptation, and deploys the principles of cognitive science to explore how we respond to texts that fuse visual and linguistic storytelling techniques.

Studying Comics and Graphic Novels includes study activities, assignments, and essay questions on each topic as well as an extensive glossary and list of prominent comic and graphic novel publications, making this an invaluable student resource.

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