SPECIFIC COURSE DESIGN
The use of graphic novels in the classroom, particularly the English, Literature, and Writing classroom, is an ongoing and developing trend, particularly at the college/university level.
This is not without pushback, however, there is “good” or relevant pushback and there is just “poor” pushback.
A good, recent example of “poor” pushback emerged recently from Crafton Hills College in California. Apparently, and “According to the Redlands Daily Facts newspaper, Tara Shultz and her parents object to Persepolis, Fun Home, Y: The Last ManVol. 1, and The Sandman Vol. 2: The Doll’s House as “pornography” and “garbage” (Williams). What is odd about this is that there argument is not a strong one as tall. In fact, when one takes into account the professor of the classes response, this becomes a bit clearer. Bartlett responded to an email via the Redlands Daily Facts and provided his reasoning:
“I chose several highly acclaimed, award-winning graphic novels in my English 250 course not because they are purportedly racy but because each speaks to the struggles of the human condition. As Faulkner states, ‘The only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself.’ The same may be said about reading literature. The characters in the chosen graphic novels are all struggling with issues of morality, self discovery, heartbreak, etc. The course in question has also been supported by the faculty, administration and approved by the board.” (Williams)
When one considers Shultz’s response to Bartlett’s, it appears that something does not match up here. Williams article points out that Shultz’s side and reasoning, noting that she
…is working towards an Associate of Arts in English at the public community college, signed up for English 250: Fiction because it fulfills one part of her degree requirements. She was apparently aware that the specific focus of the class was graphic novels, but she told the newspaper that “I expected Batman and Robin, not pornography.” Shultz says that Associate Professor Ryan Bartlett, who has taught the course for three terms without any other complaints, failed to adequately warn students about the books’ content. Her father Greg Shultz said that “if they (had) put a disclaimer on this, we wouldn’t have taken the course.” Tara Shultz agreed, saying that Bartlett “should have stood up the first day of class and warned us.” (Williams)
However, this is not the whole story. Not only may some, including myself, find her statement “I expected Batman and Robin, not pornography” a profound display of ignorance, but apparently, her real aim was a “blow off” class. Consider this information to help clarify:
Of course, Shultz and her parents did have complete information about which books would be covered in the class–the school requires instructors (p. 20) to distribute a detailed syllabus on the first day of the term–and ample time to withdraw with no effect on her grade. Fourteen other courses offered at Crafton Hills fulfill the same degree requirement as English 250. The college’s online calendar shows that the Spring semester began on January 12, and the last date to drop a course with no grade penalty was January 30. Shultz apparently brought up her objections to four out of ten books covered in the class after that date, when her only options were to complete the assigned work or withdraw with a 0. (Williams)
So, what about this, what is the point? Well, the point is that Shultz demonstrated a poor ability to argue. If she wanted to convince me or anyone (truly) that those graphic novels in the course were “pornography” or “trash” she should have perhaps made a more informed, nuance, and critically thought out approach. So, I want my students to do something better. I want them to make better arguments. So, this is where I make my move.
I want to have my students approach this and make an argument for/against the inclusion of graphic novels in the classroom. Are they pornography or trash? Are they literature? I want to let them make a case and argue it in an “informed, nuance, and critically thought out” manner.
To this end I am attempting to build up a potential “reading” list of sorts to help guide students to a wide selection of graphic novels, with synopsis and disclaimers, to help them engage with the material with guidance.
My attempt is to implement this in a composition 2 classroom in order to facilitate real, critical and argumentative debate on the topic.
Williams, Maren. “College Student Wants Four Graphic Novels ‘Eradicated from the System.”
CBLDF.org. Comic Book League Defense Fund. 13 June 2015. Web. 30 June 2015.