The Graphic Novel

Winter 2015 and Spring 2015 quarters

Taught by

English, writing, literature

In the past decade in particular, graphic novels have become recognized as an important form of storytelling, shaping contemporary culture even as they are shaped by it. These book-length, comic-art narratives and compilations employ a complex and iconic visual language. Combining and expanding on elements associated with literature, 2-D visual art, and cinema, the medium offers unique opportunities for reader immersion, emotional involvement, and even imaginative co-creation.


In “The Graphic Novel,” we will study sequential narratives that represent diverse periods, perspectives, styles, and subject matter--from the “high art” woodcut novels of the 1930s (e.g., Lynd Ward’s Gods’ Man ), to contemporary memoirs such as Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, to the bizarre but compelling alternate universe of Jim Woodring’s Frank . While many of our works include humor, they frequently center on serious topics, including war, religious oppression, social and economic inequality, and dilemmas of ethnic and sexual identity.


We will carefully examine each text at multiple levels of composition, from single frames to the work as a whole, and read selected theory, criticism, and commentary, including Scott McCloud’s seminal Understanding Comics and Matt Madden’s ingenious 99 Ways of Telling a Story . As writers, students will develop and articulate their new understandings by means of response papers, visual analyses, bibliographic summaries, and other activities as assigned.


Each quarter our studies will conclude with final projects focused on particular artists, works, and themes, or on the creation of original graphic narratives. Finally, while this is not a studio art course, we will experiment with drawing throughout the program as a way to develop an artist’s-eye view of comic art. Our overall goal is to develop an informed and critical perspective on this powerful medium.

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

Humanities, art, and education.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Evening

Advertised schedule: 5:30-9:30p Tue/Thu. Event Outside Regular Schedule: Attendance at the Olympia Comics Festival in early June. First Winter quarter meeting will be Tuesday January 6, 5:30pm, in Sem 2 B2107.

Final Schedule and Room Assignment


Buy books for this program through The Greener Store.

Online Learning

No Required Online Learning

More information about online learning.

Schedule Details

Event Outside Regular Schedule: Attendance at the Olympia Comics Festival in early June.

Special Expenses

Approximately $7 for admission to the Olympia Comics Festival in early June.

Registration Information

Credits: 8 (Winter); 8 (Spring)

Class standing: Freshmen–Senior

Maximum enrollment: 25


Course Reference Numbers

Fr - So (8 credits): 20032
Jr - Sr (8 credits): 20033

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Accepting New Students

Course Reference Numbers

Fr - So (8 credits): 30024
Jr - Sr (8 credits): 30025

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