Instead of buying conventional textbooks, Dr. Christine Cornell is telling her students to buy Batman, Astro Boy and The Walking Dead.
Manga and Graphic Novels, a second-year English course, is being offered for the first time this year. Cornell said comics are now being used to attract high school students to subjects like Shakespeare – and their value only increases at the university level.
“I think the medium is worth the attention,” said Cornell. “A lot of people are reading comics, but don’t necessarily have an opportunity to talk about them in an academic setting, so I really wanted to create that kind of opportunity for people.”
Graphic novels are a collection of comics in one text while Manga is Japanese comics. The class has students exploring both mediums historically and artistically. They learn about the importance of panels, speech bubble text and how a story often reflects the historical background in which the work was written.
Since there’s such a wide arsenal of texts to choose from, Cornell said making sure the selection was varied was important.
“I try to aim for enough diversity.”
Cornell started reading comics as a kid and has been to multiple science fiction conventions. She said she was very excited to teach texts that she believes are great works of literature, like Art Spiegelman’s Maus, which tells the story of a Holocaust survivor through mice and other animals.
“There are absolutely great works that have appeared in this medium. They were very tough to select.”
The class filled up almost instantly after registration last year. While it’s listed as a second-year course, Cornell said it’s unfortunate that there isn’t one second-year student in the class.
She was pleased, however, that enrolment for the class was equal in both genders despite STU’s high percentage of female students.
“[It] makes for a different kind of dynamic in the class and is really nice to see.”
Cornell said she’s happy with how the course has worked out thus far. The class has had active engagement from students, she said, which she was initially worried about.
“With a large class you’re never sure how comfortable people are talking…but I’ve actually been pleased with the involvement.”
The course’s early success has her hopeful that the class will be back in the future.
“Anytime you run a course for the first time it’s a test to see how much interest is actually out there and how people respond. Hopefully it’s not just a trial and I do offer it again.”
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