Professor Paul Watkins
Location: Nanaimo 345, classroom 207
Class Hours: Tu; Th 4:00- 5:20 pm
Office Hours: Th 2-3 pm
Phone: 2118
Office: 359, 101

All things are alter’d, nothing is destroy’d
– Ovid, Metamorphoses

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

In this course, we will investigate intersections between word and image, and occasionally add sound to the mix. We will explore a range of media primarily in the emergent canon of graphic novels, although a variety of other illustrated texts, adaptations, source materials, and cinematic representations of literary themes will converge while we look at what a medium is and explore the distinctive formal features of visual/textual confluences.

Along the way, we will ask questions about how graphic texts test the limits of literature, and we will explore the close relationship between popular culture and art. For example, what constitutes a book or literature, and more importantly, how do new media (particularly popular ones like graphic novels) relate to questions of personal, literary, and social transformation? If the medium is changing, does that mean we are as well? Given autobiography is a major theme of this course, we will look at how comics function as a medium that allows for personal stories to take shape and even change public perception around major historical figures and events. We will also investigate how certain aesthetic movements shape word and image, looking at a range of work in the field of graphica and more.

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.


  • Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore, The Medium is the Massage (Gingko Pr Inc., online on D2L)
  • Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics (Avon)
  • Art Spiegelman, Maus: “I: My Father Bleeds History” (Panthenon Books)
  • Kid Koala, Space Cadet (no text required, in-class viewing)
  • Andrew Helfer (ed.) & Randy DuBurke (art), Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography (Hill & Wang)
  • Michael Yahgulanaas, Red: A Haida Manga (Douglas & McIntyre; Also available for FREE on the library website as an eBook)
  • Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis (Pantheon)
  • Peter Kuper, Metamorphosis (Broadway Books)
  • Eric Drooker and Allen Ginsberg (words), Howl (HarperCollins)
  • David Lynch, Twin Peaks (no text required, selected episodes screened during class)


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%


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

Jan 5  
Introduction; course outline; standards and expectations

Jan 7
Marshall McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage (on D2L)

Jan 12             
McLuhan continued (excerpt from Understanding Media); selected scenes from Blade Runner

Jan 14             
Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics (chapters 1-2)

Jan 19             
Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics (chapters 3-5)

Jan 21   
Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics (chapters 6-9)

Jan 26 
Art Spiegelman, Maus (chapters 1-3)
Read Jonathan Kincade’s “Art Spiegelman’s Maus” on D2L

Jan 28   

Art Spiegelman, Maus (chapters 4-6)
Maus, Part II (pages 41-46, here)
Read Rosemary V. Hathaway’s “Reading Art Spiegelman’s Maus as Postmodern Ethnography” on D2L
Short Essay 1 due

Feb 2
Kid Koala, Space Cadet or Nufonia Must Fall (in class-viewing/performance)

Feb 4              
Read  X’s biography (Nightmare-Caught); Helfer and DuBurke, Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography (chapters 1-6)

Feb 9              
Read X’s biography (Satan-1965); Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography (chapter 7-10)

Feb 11
Read X’s biography (epilogue); Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography (chapter 11); other representations of X

Feb 16
Michael Yahgulanaas, Red: A Haida Manga; discussion of Research Essay

Feb 18  
Michael Yahgulanaas, Red: A Haida Manga

Feb 22-26       Study Days  

Mar 1 
Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis (pages 1-102)

Mar 3
Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis (pages 103-206)

Mar 8   
Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis (pages 207-341)

Mar 10 
Persepolis film
Short Essay 2 due

Mar 15  
Read Kafka’s “Metamorphosis”; Peter Kuper, Metamorphosis
(part I and II)

Mar 17      
Peter Kuper, Metamorphosis (part III)
Totally Kafkaesque: scene 1scene 2

Mar 22  
Eric Drooker, Howl

Mar 24

Eric Drooker, Howl

Mar 29  
Creative Presentations

Mar 31  
Twin Peaks (pilot)


April 5   
Twin Peaks (select scenes)

April 7      
Twin Peaks (discussion)
Final Paper due

Exam: Monday, April 18th at 1 pm in Room 207

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