Let me just start off by saying, I applied to this class without even knowing the class was going to be about comics.
I have always been one to admire art from a great distance and know that I don’t have the patience of drawing or painting. So to hear Professor David Morgen talk about visual representation and graphic texts on the first day really made me wonder how I would fare throughout the semester. And then to hear that we were going to read texts on trauma, fear and the Holocaust, my mind shut off. In fact, my thought process was a whole bout of “Why do we even have English classes in college? Haven’t we had enough of that throughout elementary, middle and high school?”
I spent a long time wondering how to present the ‘arduous journey’ that this class has taken me on. It took a while of thinking and a talk with Mr. Morgen to figure out how exactly to piece this reflection together. One night, in fact, while DOODLING of all things, I thought the best way to talk about this class retrospectively would be to illustrate my goals and achievements throughout the course.
One assignment that I would like to reflect on is the Stitches and Spinning essay. This essay was a comparison on the arguments made about trauma in two works dealt with in class, Stitches by David Small and Spinning by Tillie Walden. This assignment was also based on an essay by Hillary Chute which delved into the technical aspects of comics and the manner in which arguments are posed in comics, as a medium. When I started this assignment, I made a case on the way trauma was presented in both works by taking examples from both books and pitting them against each other. However, when I spoke to my friend about this method of comparing and contrasting, she reminded me about the crux of the assignment being in the arguments themselves.
This assignment helped me analyze and evaluate Hillary Chute’s arguments in the context of the two works being compared. I was also able to summarize the texts and synthesize their associations with the arguments in the Chute essay. These, in turn, became the basis for my talking points. I also realized, through this task, that I was now engaging with texts that I otherwise would not give a second look. Getting out of my comfort zone as a reader was a big thing for me. In some ways, I had gotten over the queasiness that traumatic and harrowing memoirs had brought in me and even turned to empathizing with the situations that these authors were facing.
Another major assignment we had in this course was the literacy narrative. This was essentially an outlook on events which we deem important in making us the readers and writers that we are today. The first draft of this assignment was a textual writing, the second a comic, and the third a revision to the textual piece. My first draft of the narrative was about 1,500 words. I struggled to cut down words to meet the 1000-word limit because that’s what my focus was – to end up somewhere in the word limit. I then worked on the comic, which made me centralize my ideas. In my revision of the textual piece, I ended up with around 750 words.
This assignment helped me engage with the class learning outcome of composing work in multiple genres and modes with the textual, illustrated, as well as digital forms. However, I also realized that I had become more succinct in my writing. I no longer ‘beat around the bush’ while writing, and in some way, the limited space on the screen and in the comic panels helped me remove the verbosity from my writing. This was also a common trend I saw through other works such as the difference between my Tracing Maus essay and my Stitches and Spinning essay.
The literacy narrative, as an assignment, went on to test me to a great extent. When I thought of telling my story as a reader and writer, I felt like my connection to reading was not as grandiose as ‘should be’ to make a comic about. My comic draft, personally, turned out to be less resemblant of me. Because of this, I had this nagging feeling of revising my comic, and even textual narrative many times. That was when I brought my issue to Professor Morgen. We discussed how to tell my story better, and also spoke about the importance of reflection and revision throughout this course, which is one fo the major learnings I have received. Revision, drafting, editing and reflection were no longer just about making my work aesthetic or enhancing it in anyway. Reflection was also about reflecting on the task itself, and retrospecting on myself. There were many avenues down which I wanted to take this, however, I realized that sometimes there is a need to pause and think about feasibility. This task definitely helped me reflect on myself and revise my learning throughout the course, as well as in other courses.
A part of the course that was particularly fun were the sketch assignments. These low-stakes assignments were essentially steps to progress at a grander scale on our major tasks. Essentially, they were stepping stones for us. These assignments particularly, helped me understand the importance of visualization, and experimentation both textually, as well as digitally. Often, the way we pictured the assignments in our head did not align with the ways in which our websites were oriented. These bouts with visual thinking and assembly of our visual and written documents actually made me change my theme towards the end of the semester because I wasn’t able to make my site as aesthetic as I would have wanted it to be.
In all of the works we had published, there was an ethic of giving credit to the creator. From the first sketch assignment, right down to the last, we used images from sources that were Creative Commons, allowing for reuse. I understood the notion of technological responsibility and good digital citizenship. We had engaged with this learning so much that in our last sketch, Assemblies, I unintentionally remembered to link back to where I took my image from without giving it any thought!
Elaborating on Assemblies, I represented my journey in the form of a heart but instead of blood, showing the trajectory of how our learning developed. One of the final outcomes I illustrated was that of Empathy. I felt that engaging with harrowing literature illustrating trauma and distress had made my empathetic. I had started to empathize with the people around me, trying not to pass judgments in real life. I realized the power of literature on a scale that I hadn’t prior to this course and thats when I realized that this course was not meant just to teach us about English. Rather, it was a course on a humanistic approach to reading and writing, and understanding what we read shapes how we perceive the world around us, and how we perceive ourselves.
I’m grateful to say that this class has taught me more about who I am than about English, in a span of one semester.