Graphic Novels

I have become fascinated with graphic novels and am thinking that there ought to be some way to incorporate them into my classroom.

While I was reading on the topic, Jessica Abel’s What is a graphic novel? was brought to my attention.

If you aren’t used to reading graphic novels, her introduction is helpful because
1. it is in graphic novel form and
2. it has arrows that show you what you should read next.

Also, if you are teaching the graphic novel to various age groups, Jessica Abel allows educational use, with restrictions.

The blog Graphic Novel Notebook also has How to Read Comics: Tips for the Slightly Nervous Beginner.

I think that I would start with Graphic Novel Notebook for people who are used to reading. It’s text based and very complete.

I would start with Abel’s if the students were simply not used to reading anything or if they were visual but not literature types.

If you want to read a book (that you have to pay for), but that is well worth it, you can read Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics.

My sons introduced me to this book and I read it before I ever thought of being interested in graphic novels. Actually maybe that is when I became interested in graphic novels.

We have to turn in our requests for teaching next year. Because we have so many classes, we are able to pick the courses we want to teach. (Our adjuncts get the rest, which tend to be composition courses but not always. Sometimes the timing is odd.)

I have signed up for two comps, a Brit lit, and Humanities. However, I am thinking of doing a Literature Fiction course (which has been abandoned by the department for a while) and graphic novels would work well there. Which ones?

Persepolis is about an Iranian-American and childhood and womanhood and life. I think of it as a young adult work.

I was introduced to it at SCMLA 2009.


Maus is a historical graphic novel about a World War II family experience. The Jews are mice. The Nazis are cats. The visual imagery is incredible. This was my first introduction to graphic novels.

My eldest son brought it home from the bookstore when he was 14 or so. I read it to see what he was reading. It is well-written and gripping.

V for Vendetta is one of the most famous graphic novels. It has been turned into a movie. It has a strong story line, well-developed characters, and gripping action.

This book was quoted in the poetry writing class I subbed for last week, regarding Guy Fawkes day. It has definitely entered the cultural repertoire.

“Remember, remember
The fifth of November
The gunpowder treason and plot.
I know of no reason
Why the gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.”

Another quote from V that is relevant to teaching the lit fiction class: “There’s no certainty – only opportunity.”

3 thoughts on “Graphic Novels”

  1. I teach at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas and began incorporating graphic novels into my Writing and Literature (comp II) course two years ago. My students read Persepolis, but as an outside reading project, they have the opportunity to choose between several others.

    It is always interesting to open up discussions as to how they respond differently to the graphic novel. Fun, fun! Good luck with your own classes.

  2. I used Jessica Abel’s La Perdida as part of my final project for a second MA degree. I also really like Maus. I have recently purchased the graphic novel adaptation of Fahrenheit 451. I really like it. I think it would be interesting to do a comparison of the graphic novel with the original. It would be a great way to address the issue of adaptation.

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