Thursday, December 4, 2008

December 4th - Computer Lab

Hey, everyone!  I figured I'd let you know that although I won't be in class today, I will be watching the computer lab (A109) from noon until about five of two.  Feel free to come in and ask me questions, or to get another pair of eyes on your writing.

If you need outside help - just email me @

I am totally happy to help!  I can also answer questions about an RPW major or minor.  Good luck in the workshop today!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Paper #3

Hey, all!  We are getting pretty close to the end of the semester, here, and I just want you all to know that I am still here to help.  Feel free to send me partial drafts, full drafts, rewrites or thesis ideas to me for advice or proofreading.  This paper should be easier for you than the second one, because you now have practice writing analysis.  It's not super-easy, though, and if you need any help at all, please let me know.

Things to consider:

What stood out to you about Maus and/or Persepolis?

What did you like/hate about these memoirs?

Re-read the list of topics that we generated in class about the consistencies and inconsistencies between the two books.  There is some excellent stuff there! 

Monday, October 27, 2008

"There Are No Cats In America"

Maus reminds me of An American Tail so hardcore.  Is anyone with me on this?  

We are used to seeing cats as comically aggressive to mice in cartoons.  Tom & Jerry just couldn't get enough of each other.  I think they still kick each other around the screen on cable.  An American Tail has cats as slightly more sinister, but ultimately you knew the mice were gonna be ok.  Maus has this cast of characters, and is drawn as a cartoon, but has a completely different tone from either of these other examples.

The illustrations in Maus are so dark, and so serious.  Bechdel was serious, but her book feels nothing like this.  I think Spiegleman's lines look like he was pressing down very hard on his pen.  It was not as planned as Bechdel - his illustrations looked almost rushed.  I think this lends such a feeling of urgency to the story.  Adding to this are his manic, addictive personality and his father's ill health.

Why do you think he wrote this book?  What does his illustration tell you about his point of view?  Do you think there is any truth to the McCloud idea that if you can make a character less specific they are easier to relate to?  These are mice and cats and pigs - yet humans.  This is not an accident.  Why use them?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Oh, Yeah!

and...don't forget about McCloud!

pg 70 for transitions

pg 156 for relationship between words and pictures

pg 170 for the six steps of creating art

Thesis Ideas

Sorry these are later than expected!  

I used all of your ideas and a few of my own.  Some are full theses, others are just random thoughts - to try and stimulate your imagination!

Good luck!

  • Throughout Fun Home and Blankets, the authors use illustration very differently to convey emotion.
  • The parent-child relationships in both books are represented in very different ways.
  • Thompson's whimsical, dream-like (or, Bechdel's realistic, textual) illustrations are far more effective as tools to tell a story.
  • Thompson's memoir is almost timeless, while Bechdel's is fixed.
  • Bechdel portrays herself realistically, while Thompson's self-portrayal was abstract.  (You may want to expand on this one.)
  • Being less/more abstract, Bechdel's/Thompson's illustrations do a better job of portraying emotion/movement/a sense of time.
  • The abstract nature of Thompson's illustrations and poetic language create a dream-like atmosphere, while Bechdel's detailed, realistic panels suggest a more solid reality.
  • Think about the differences/similarities in how the two authors portray:
  1. Authority Figures
  2. Weather
  3. Faces
  4. Books
  5. The Written Word (Representations of Text)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Thoughts on The First Paper

Don't forget about McCloud!  The structure of the memoirs themselves is a GREAT start to an analytical paper.

Find things about the books that you LOVE - and start there.  If you're just writing about something because you think you're supposed to, you'll hate it.  This is your chance to be creative!

I am here to help - and so is Dr. Nels.  Don't hesitate to ask any kinds of questions!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Death in Comics

I am surprised at how powerful a graphic novel can be.  Previous to reading the materials for this class, I had passing affairs with graphic novels.  Maus was introduced to us while studying the holocaust in junior high, and in high school I fell in love with a comic book character called "Jonny the Homicidal Maniac."  Both of these dealt with death - in the case of the first - so seriously, and about a topic I was very familiar with.  In the case of the "Jonny" books - the death (and maiming, disemboweling, etc.) was used as more of a metaphor - and was there for entertainment value.

In "Fun Home" - Alison Bechdel shows us a death that is very real, and it hits home for me.  This memoir makes me think about "big picture" things - like meaning in life.  Her use of color intrigues me, as does her casual, almost child-like drawing style.  I am absorbed immediately in her world.  I think one of her strongest points is her transitions - which do you think are the most effective? 

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Hahaha - Fun Home

I spazzed and entered my Blankets#1 blog, when I should have been posting my Fun Home blog.

Ah, well.  Even upper-classmen do such things.

As far as Fun Home goes - this story absolutely grips me immediately.  There are many reasons for this.  I am attracted to stories about gay youth - especially the struggle with coming out.  With this story, though, the pictures are endearing, and somehow familiar.  I feel like I know these characters - or at least the archetypes that some come to represent.

McCloud discusses the iconography of images - and how icons can represent much more than just a person - or any other noun.  I wonder: do any of you feel more familiar with a comic-style character than a run-of-the-mill literary character?  Why or why not?  Do you agree with McCloud that an icon is easier to identify with - or do you relate more to a realistic person/image/character?

Also - is the subject matter of this reading difficult for any of you?  Feel free to email me if you have any issues you want to discuss.


The writing of this book, apart from the graphic aspects, to me is kind of mediocre.  The story is one that I might never give a second look in a bookstore.  Yet - coupled with the images inked by the author, the story takes on a kind of life that appeals.

The black and white color scheme is stark and theatrical.  It lends gravity to what otherwise might have been a bit of a weak plot, in my opinion.

I think that the main character would not have nearly enough strength without the visual imagery.  As a challenge, for the next post, I am considering picking a particularly strong illustration and trying to recreate it in words.  It won't be too difficult to describe or summarize, but I want to know more about what visual images/icons can easily portray - that might be hard to replicate with words alone.

Did any of you notice parts of the story so far that would have had less power or realism without pictures?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Blood in the Gutter (U.C. Ch. 1-4)

I think that McCloud does an excellent job using a graphic format to study and explain comics/graphic novels.  His drawings are simple, but he uses others' work effectively to back up his claims.  

At first I was a little wary of someone telling me HOW to read something - I learned to read in 1st grade, thanks.  McCloud is not condescending, however, and his style is relatively easy to read.  I admit that there are bits that get a little boring, but for the most part I learned a lot about comics - specifically about "the gutter."  

Chapter one did little for me - I feel like he wrote it more for himself - to prove that what he was writing about had merit.  He totally won me over in chapter two, however, by starting with the painting "The Treachery of Images" by Magritte.  It happens to be one of my favorite paintings, and I thought it got his point across beautifully.  It helps me to get into a text-book if I feel that the author is at least as smart/worldly/travelled as I am.  McCloud has convinced me, at least for the time being.  I am also intrigued by the idea of an image/icon as entirely separate from the object/noun it represents.  There is a very basic truth to that.  The graphic on pages 52/53 is AWESOME - the concepts (like high abstraction) are not that easy to wrap one's mind around, but this graphic does an excellent job of SHOWING (rather than telling) what these terms mean.

Chapter three may have been my favorite, not least because of the name.  The "gutter" in comics relates (in my mind) to things that go unsaid in traditional novels or short stories.  Sometimes, what is NOT said (or drawn)  is imminently more important than what is said.

Do y'all think that McCloud was right to use a graphic format for his textbook?  Was it easier/harder to read this text compared to textbooks from your other classes?  Is there anything that he's said that is still unclear to you?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Never Forget

I loved Richards' ability to describe her family's homes with such accuracy that I have no problems picturing them in my head.  Not only that - but her imagery in general was amazing.  From the rain thrumming against the roof, to the tabby cat stretched on her grandfather's stomach - her images were clear and vivid.  Like the prof said - it's good to try to use all of the senses when describing, and Richards does this excellently.

I also loved the positive tone of this piece.  Usually, a narrative about senility/alzhiemers would be a downer all the way through.  This piece, though, was nostalgic and strangely hopeful, and I thought it was an excellent choice.  It took what might have been a stale story, and made it lovely and engaging.

What did you think?  Did you like the narrator?  Do you agree that she kept the story from being boring?  Did you like the surprise of the baby monitor being for an 89-year-old woman?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sister Ravioli at Age Ten

I had a hard time with Benson's piece, as I've noticed some of you have.  When reading fiction, my many of my favorite stories are super-short and to the point - like "The Flowers" by Alice Walker.  However - Benson's story is NOT fiction, and I found the length of the piece a little off-putting.  I, too, felt that while there was a point to the story, I was not really interested.  The topic was interesting (a sexy sister-rival story) but the main character (narrator) did not get me involved.  I wanted to know more - and it didn't leave me wishing there was more text - I kind of wish I didn't read it in the first place.  The one good thing I will say about her piece is that I likes the epithet "sparkling-eyed boy."  Normally, such an epithet would be found in a grand, epic poem, like the Odyssey - but the fact that it was employed in such a short piece was really interesting.

Regarding Mr. Ravioli - I loved the piece.  It was engaging, and interesting - not least because it was a bit disturbing.  Again - I hold these non-fiction pieces up to as close a scrutiny as I would a fiction short-story - and I expect many of the same things.  The narrator did a great job of making me interested in and care about this little girl.  I will admit that the reason I liked her so much is that she is obviously precocious, and possibly emotionally disturbed.  I like that in a character.  I did feel, however, that there was a bit too much analysis in this piece.  Or - alternately - the analysis often interrupted what I saw as "the good stuff."

Age Ten confused me at first - but I think it was a brilliant piece.  There is nothing more amazing that what comes out of the mouths of children, and Orlean took a cool kid and really allowed him to shine through.  She could have spent pages and pages dissecting his comments and giving commentary - but instead she crafts her words to put a kind of frame around him - getting her points across without beating us over the head with her analysis.  My favorite aspect of her work is the fact that although he says ridiculous things at times (like any 10 year-old might) she always represents him with respect and makes us take him with a grain of salt.  Her opener was stellar, too.  The marriage idea was confusing, but ultimately worked to get me involved in the "story."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ashes to Ashes

What struck me first when comparing the two readings for today was the very different ways in which the authors attempt (successfully, I feel) to connect with their readers.  While Sedaris is extremely proficient with the comedy medium, Strayed's story is distinctly unfunny.  I think both pieces adequately portray the authors' sorrow and sense of loss, but which do you think is more effective?

For me, it comes down to a difference between showing and telling.  What I have always loved about David Sedaris' work is that he rarely just bluntly states what he's trying to get across - instead showing us scenes from his life and requiring the readers to draw their own conclusions.  A great moment in "Ashes" occurs at the end - where the author and his sister are smoking pot in a cemetery, thinking about their mother's impending death.  This appeals to me.  The way he describes their thoughtlessness appeals to me for two reasons.  One is that he doesn't hit you over the head with a moral.  He doesn't warn us to spend more time with those we love, or any such nonsense.  He just offers up his experience for our benefit.  The second reason is that as a bit of an escapist myself, I can completely identify with his desire to drink and smoke, and leave the actual "dealing" for later.

I can also see connections between myself and Strayed - although I am happy to say that I have never found myself in her particular position.  Plot aside, she also uses some striking scenes to show the reader her pain - but at the same time she constantly tries to accurately describe it.  In the honors seminar that I am taking with Dr. Nels this semester, we discussed last class the idea that pain not only defies language, but actively destroys it - nullifying one's ability to truly describe ones own pain, or conversely, understand other peoples'.  Thoughts?

(Also: note the similarities between the non-ending of Strayed as compared with the dissatisfaction many of you felt about Tuesday's reading.)