Disclaimer: every syllabus is a fiction. The syllabus as a genre implicitly says the following: over the next fifteen weeks, the handful of texts you read/discussions you have will adequately encapsulate, summarize, or represent the genre, time period, theme, or phenomenon in the course title. It says: you will come out of this course knowing all you need to know about [x], where [x] is anything from 18th century British drama or the contemporary American immigrant novel to science fiction or avant-garde poetry (or, for that matter, Newtonian mechanics or cultural anthropology). The fiction is that any syllabus could (or should!) ever be complete, that it could be sufficiently representative or exemplary of its topic, rather than being a highly subjective, particular slice of that topic.
The disclaimer, then: this is an incomplete, wildly idiosyncratic syllabus. It won’t offer you a complete history or theory of the medium of comics, nor exposure to all of comics’ most significant works. It will, I hope, give you a compelling but not exhaustive sense of what’s out there, what comics can do, and why they might be worth pursuing. I aim for you to leave this class with a handle on why comics are far from the trivial, adolescent timesuck others often assume them to be—indeed, why they have been one of the most vital and interesting forms of cultural production over the last century. Our mode is exploratory: we will encounter a variety of texts from a variety of authors writing and drawing in a variety of styles and addressing a variety of subjects. We will use comics to think about the nature of image and its relation to text and meaning, to tackle the low culture/high culture distinction, to reconfigure our sense of what it is to read. Some of the things we read will be immediately entertaining; others, especially later in the course, will require more effort. Some will become fast favorites; others will rub you the wrong way or confuse you endlessly. Everything we’ll read, though, is ultimately well worth reading. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.