Tag Archives: graphic novels

Comics In The Classroom: Grand View University

By Greg Goode

Watchmen, the seminal graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, appears on Time magazine’s 100 Greatest Novels of the 20th Century list.  In 2009, The New York Times began publishing a graphic novel bestseller list.  The same year, Heath Ledger wins an Oscar for his portrayal of The Joker, Batman’s arch-enemy, in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight.

The comic book, long considered a disposable object exclusively for children, is finally getting some respect. Further validation for the art form can be found on college campuses, where graphic novels are becoming an increasingly common part of the curriculum, including at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa.

Matt Plowman, Grand View’s associate professor of history, first experienced comics in the classroom at another institution as part of a critical thinking class on the Holocaust. Plowman said one of the most powerful texts the class read was Maus by Art Spigelman, a graphic novel about Spigelman’s father’s experience in a Nazi concentration camp.

“I’ve seen [graphic novels] used very effectively, and communicate things that just weren’t alive on the page of a history book,” Plowman said. “Literally, it’s graphing reality for them, picturing reality and playing with it.”

Later this semester in his European Cultural & Intellectual History class, Plowman will be using V For Vendetta by Moore and David Lloyd, a graphic novel about an anarchist’s war against authority in a near-future totalitarian England.

“With European intellectual history, you kind of have to show where society’s moving,” Plowman said. “So I was looking for something that was late 20th century, and particularly with where a lot of European thinkers were going, there’s a lot of dystopia. And the graphic novels tend to be on the edge of that.”

Plowman said he picked V For Vendetta partly because of the students familiarity with the story from its 2006 film adaptation.

“I wanted them to be able to see the original intent of Alan Moore and what he’s really trying to say about society,” Plowman said. “Sometimes it’s easier for some students, rather than trying to find a movie that has a traditional novel, where they have to do more literary criticism. Especially for the visual learners.”

Kevin Gannon, professor of history at Grand View, said he’s always been intrigued by the use of graphic novels in class. Two years ago, Gannon took part in a summer reading program for the Grand View freshman class that used Gene Luen Yung’s graphic novel American Born Chinese.

“I had never taught with that before and in my discipline, it’s not very common. We use pretty standard vanilla textbooks. I was intrigued with the idea,” Gannon said. “I was a bit intimidated by the idea, too, because I had no idea how to teach it. What I learned is that it’s just like any other text.”

This semester, Gannon is assigning A People’s History of American Empire, a graphic novel that adapts writings by radical historian Howard Zinn. Gannon said students have responded to the text enthusiastically.

“For me personally, a graphic novel fits right in with the way I structure my courses and what I want students to be able to do with the texts that we read,” Gannon said.

Other Grand View instructors utilizing comics include Ken Jones, who assigned the zombie apocalypse story The Walking Dead in his Introduction to Ethics class this semester and Jim Whyte, who has given students the task of creating their own comics in his Principles of Management class.

Gannon said he sees the use of graphic novels in his class as a way of expanding his students’ ideas of what materials can be used in the classroom environment.

“I ask my students to be open-minded and look at different things as text, not just the standard printed page,” Gannon said. “If I’m going to ask my students to look at a text in that way, I should be willing to do the same myself.  And that’s where graphic novels help stretch me as a teacher.”

Mickey Mouse in the Gurs Internment Camp

There was once an internment/refugee camp in France that went by the name of Gurs. During WWII, after France joined up with the Nazis, Camp Gurs became home to non-French Jews and other “dangerous” people. Although this was a concentration camp, and obviously not a nice place to live, the people within Gurs were able to create for themselves a community that thrived on the arts. One prisoner, named Horst Rosenthal, created a couple of comic works before his death. One was titled “A Day in the Life of a Resident: Gurs Internment Camp, 1942”. I can’t find much about this one, but the other one, which a lot of people seem to love, is called “Mickey Mouse in the Gurs Internment Camp – Published without Walt Disney’s Permission.” Here are some panels:








you can read more about it in a paper titled: Mickey Mouse in Gurs – Humour, Irony and Criticism in Works of Art Produced in the Gurs Internment Camp.

scott

via Boing Boing, Scribd, and Disney History.

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I’m The Des Moines Graphic Novel Examiner

Hey dudes. I’ve started a new writing venture at a website some of you may or may not have heard of called examiner.com. I have been selected as Des Moines’ “Graphic Novel” Examiner, which means I’m supposed to write about the comic books. I posted my first entry tonight,  a modest look at some of this week’s comic releases, but more articles will come, so please bookmark my page over there and check back regularly! Here’s my first post:

http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-27333-Des-Moines-Graphic-Novels-Examiner~y2009m10d22-This-week-in-comics-102109

Sorry the formatting’s a bit rough, still getting used to it. And yes, that picture is my Myspace/Facebook picture that is years old, because I was too lazy to make a new one. Maybe someday! Thanks for the support!

-G.