PCA: Teaching Medieval Lit with Comics

Teaching Medieval and Renaissance Literature and Culture through the Comic/Graphic Novel
Christina Angel, Metropolitan State College of Denver

This is a live blogging of the session.

Challenge of teaching: distant in language and time
films are available to “cheat” at it

We can’t allow folks to avoid the greats.
Simple and complex answer.

People should read Shakespeare because “it is good for them.”
Do we want a fearful, disengaged student to read literature?
Lots of folks say that it’s irrelevant whether the students like the literature.

Enter the graphic novel.
Teach a college course in graphic novels.

Comics are fun reading.
Even after years of graduate school as “reading should never be fun” comics let us connect.
Interdisciplinary approach, using graphic novel.

Teach an open-ended course, wanted to teach revenge tragedy.
Read V for Vendetta. Watched the film.
Stumbled upon a way to teach all my loves.
Oppression, darkness, sense of impending doom….
by the time we met the central character with mask, Guy Fawkes, King James, Elizabeth I, my students were pulling information and bringing it to class and to help illuminate the past

This was after only a few pages after reading the comic.

Chose V for Vendetta, first lines are from Macbeth.
None of them had ever read Macbeth.
Sent them home to read the play and look for the lines.
Most read all. Majority wanted to discuss the “impending doom.”
V and Macbeth, immoral for supposedly moral purpose
complicated and interlaced

this was a class full of freshman
finished V for Vendetta
and read all the other plays I assigned as well

The whole social milieu of the production of the play. Interdisciplinary, interconnections…

Hip-hop song about Hamlet was brought to me.

Expanded the syllabus.
(Read fast. Don’t know what she said. Ask for the paper.)

superheroes and witchcraft
superhero is absolutely influenced by morality plays and revenge tragedy


teaching medieval

a version approach—teach the text themselves as comics (thought aversion)

  • allows those who might not like to appreciate it
  • What if students never read the original text? It does not matter.
  • Students learn the story and able to speak intelligently about it.

Beowulf –believed the story sold itself
depending on the text, seems too distant to be relevant
no film versions
graphic novel added to Seamus Heaney’s translation
had them read text first and then the graphic novel
battle with Grendel to the 22-pages of imagery (without words)
opened a discussion on the text “kin of Cain” “Fiend from Hell” “boundary walker”

allusion approach—lack foundational education to know what has been alluded to

  • average student
  • a way to look at illusions from the end result- looking for allusions
  • V for Vendetta and Guy Fawkes

V for Vendetta and Orwell’s 1984

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