The question of whether the graphic novel, film, or the video game
has aesthetic or literary value has, for many, been answered for decades.
However, the question remains of how visual mediums interact with literary
aesthetics. What sorts of meanings and messages are most effectively conveyed
through a visual medium? How do those meanings inflect on our understanding of
lived experience today?
In the context of arguing that the “public as well as the academy
needs a way to understand the rhetorical dimensions of pop culture” Barry
Brummett defines rhetoric as “the social function that influences and manages
meaning.” This course will be an introduction to the rhetorical practices of
visual oriented narrative mediums.
This class will serve as an introduction to critically examining
different mediums, including key terms, terminologies, and analytic approaches.
We will begin by exploring Scott McCloud’s UnderstandingComics, and the
class will move from understanding still images, to motion pictures, to
interactive digital games.
This class will also consider the ways that different mediums and
different cultures represent particular ideas and participate in rhetorical
acts. For film, we will consider representations—and rewritings—of historical
catastrophes in the Holocaust, such as Spielberg’s Schindler’s List and
Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. For the video game, we will consider
how games may be complicit in what has been described as the “banalization of
war” (in games like Starcraft) – and how games may attempt to disrupt
this pattern (such as Spec Ops: The Line). For the graphic novel, we
will explore, for example, how Japanese manga may be uniquely suited for
representing gender, such as in Shimura Takako’s Wandering Son. For each
medium, the questions will remain: how does this medium particularly and
uniquely engage literary aesthetics? What does the intersection of these genres
reveal about contemporary culture?
This is a writing intensive course, and as with any writing
intensive course, students will be expected to produce approximately 20 pages
of finished college level prose. This will be parsed out through four major
writing assignments of approximately five pages each. These essays will be
predominantly in the genre of the argumentative essay.
Scott McCloud – Understanding Comics
De Crecy – Prosopopus
Shimura Takako – Wandering Son (Vol. 1)
Kirkman and Adlard – The Walking Dead (Vol. 1)
Kyle Bishop – American Zombie Gothic: The Rise and Fall (and Rise)
of the Walking Dead in Popular Culture
Nick Dyer-Witheford and Greig de Peuter – Games of Empire: Global
Capitalism and Video Games
A course reader
Selected games will need to be ordered online.
Selected films will either be screened in class or available through