Prof: Paul Watkins
Location: Nanaimo 345, classroom 208
Class Hours: Mondays 1-3:50 pm
Office Hours: Tues/Thurs 1 pm -2:20 pm
Phone: Ext. 2118
Office: 359, 101

Did your mother ever tear up your comic books? Did you ever receive warnings about how comic books were going to ruin your mind?  Were you given lectures about how comics were cheap trash put out by evil men?
-Robert Crumb

English 390 will investigate intersections between word and image in an emergent genre loosely defined as “graphic memoir,” or what others have called “autographics” (Gillian Whitlock), “graphic narrative” (Hilary Chute), or “Graphic-Novel-Memoir” (David Itzcoff). Along the way, we will ask questions about how graphic texts test the limits of literature and memoir, and we will explore the close relationship between popular culture and art. Students will share their own experiences with graphic texts and there will be a creative intervention project. We will also tweet our responses as we read/watch/listen using the hashtag #English390.


  • Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud
  • Maus by Art Spiegelman
  • Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
  • Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
  • Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography by Chester Brown
  • March by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (Amazon)


Participation 5%
Short Essay 1 (750-1000 words) 10%
Short Essay 2 (1000-1250 words) 15%
Creative Intervention   (w/ 500 word write up) 15%
Research Essay (2500-3000 words) 30%
Final Exam 25%

See paper copy of syllabus for detailed breakdowns of assignments. 


Please note that this schedule is subject to change as the term progresses.

Sept 11   
Introduction; course outline; standards and expectations; show and tell 

Sept 18
Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics

Sept 25
Art Spiegelman, Maus (I: My Father Bleeds History)

  • Read Jonathan Kincade’s “Art Spiegelman’s Maus” on D2L
  • Read Rosemary V. Hathaway’s “Reading Art Spiegelman’s Maus as Postmodern Ethnography” on D2L
  • Audio: Of ‘Maus’ and Spiegelman
  • Why Mice?    

Oct 2nd
Art Spiegelman, Maus (II: And Here My Trouble Began)
Short Essay 1 due

Oct 9
No Class. Thanksgiving.

Oct. 16  
Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis (pages 1-188); Start Persepolis film

Oct 23    
Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis (pages 189-341); finish Persepolis film

Oct 30
Alison Bechdel, Fun Home

Nov 6 
Chester Brown, Louis Riel (Part One and Two)
Short Essay 2 due

Nov 13
No class. Remembrance Day.

Nov 20
Chester Brown, Louis Riel  (Part Three and Four)
Read essay, “Redrawing nationalism” (on D2L)
Creative Intervention due       

Nov 27
Lewis, March (Books 1 and 2)
Selected scenes from I Am Not Your Negro

Dec 4

Lewis, March (Book 3)
Selected scenes from Selma (4-8:50; 32:30-37:40; 107:50-119:50; 152:20-200)
Research Essay Due