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The Graphic Novel and the Jewish Experience

This seminar will examine the graphic novel in the context of global Jewish culture of the last half century.

Course Syllabus

Focus 178 / JNE 178: The Graphic Novel and the Jewish Experience

Spring 2010

 

Course Info:


Instructor:      Dr. Erin McGlothlin

Class time:     M W 4-5:30

Location:        Eads 212

Telephone:     935-4288

E-mail:           mcglothlin@wustl.edu  

Office:             421 Ridgley

Office hours: W 11-12, F 4-5

Intern:                        Tracy Graves                         

Telephone:     935-4885

E-mail:           tngraves@artsci.wustl.edu

Office:             418 Ridgley

Office hours:  TBA

 


 

Course Description:

This seminar will examine the graphic novel in the context of global Jewish culture of the last half century, focusing on two primary aspects. First, it will look at the historical and aesthetic development of comic art and the graphic novel, endeavors in which Jewish graphic novelists in particular, who bring a rich tradition of Jewish storytelling to a hybrid literary and artistic form, have played a critical role.  Second, it will study the ways in which Jewish artists have utilized the narrative possibilities of the graphic novel to explore Jewish identity and the Jewish historical experience, concentrating on such diverse topics as the Holocaust, Sephardic culture and Jewish-American life.

 

Course Goals:

  • To introduce students to the genre of the graphic novel and explore its development
  • To read some of the most critically acclaimed autobiographical and fictional graphic novels of the past several decades 
  • To explore the ways in which Jewish culture is represented in graphic novels
  • To develop students’ critical vocabulary and analytical skills of texts and images
  • To focus on students’ ability to write discursively about literary and visual texts

 

Texts:

All texts for the course are available at the bookstore or from electronic reserve (ARES)  To access and print texts from ARES, go to http://ares.wustl.edu/ares/ and click on “search classes.”  You can then search for the course with either my last name or the course number.  When you see the course password prompt, type in the word “comics”.  This will give you access to all the texts that are marked “reserve.”

 

Texts from Bookstore:

Michael Chabon                     The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

Will Eisner                             The Contract with God Trilogy
David Gantz                           Jews in America: A Cartoon History

Ben Katchor                           The Jew of New York

Miriam Katin                          We Are On Our Own

Stan Mack                              The Story of the Jews: A 4,000-Year Adventure

Josh Neufeld                         A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge

Joann Sfar                              The Rabbi’s Cat

Steve Sheinkin                       The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey

Art Spiegelman                      Maus I and II

James Sturm                         James Sturm's America: God, Gold, and Golems
J. T. Waldman                                   Megillat Esther

Michael Wex                          The Adventures of Micah Mushmelon, Boy Talmudist

 

Please note that we will not read Will Eisner’s The Plot: The Secret Story of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, even though the bookstore has ordered it for the course.

 


Grading:

Two Tests                               35% (20% each)

Two 3-5 Page Essays:                        45% (25% each)

Two Close Readings:             10% (5% each)

Participation:                          10% (includes attendance, preparedness, participation in discussion)

 

Attendance:

Attendance is mandatory.  I expect you to come to class having read the assignment and thought about the study questions.  Unexcused absences will be recorded and will affect your participation grade.  If you wish to be excused because of sickness, family emergency or religious holiday, you must contact me by phone or e-mail before you miss the class in question.

 

Writing Assignments:

In the two 3-5 page essays (due March 15 and April 19), you may address a particular aspect of one of the texts we have read or you may compare two of the texts.  The papers will be graded based on content, organization, style and basic grammar.  Be aware that I place a premium on organization.  In other words, I expect your essay to have a well-crafted introduction (­with a clearly-formulated and interesting thesis) and a conclusion.   You do not need to consult additional secondary literature for the essay.  I will give you a handout detailing requirements a couple of weeks before the first paper is due.  You are welcome to come and talk to me about your papers beforehand.  If you are not satisfied with your grade on an essay, I will accept a rewrite anytime within two weeks following the date the essay is returned.  I will then average the two grades.

 

Tests:

There will be two tests.  Test I (March 1) will be an in-class examination that covers the first half of the course.  Test II will be a take-home examination (due by May 5) that covers the second half.  There will be no cumulative final exam.  Both tests will include short term identification and essay questions.  I will give you a handout with the essay questions in advance so that you can prepare for the exam.

 

Close Readings:

Over the course of the semester you will be asked to give two short, informal presentations in which you will perform a close reading of a particular image or series of images from that day’s reading.  You should not do any outside research for these brief presentations; rather, you should pick a panel or a set of panels that you find particularly compelling and spend some extra time thinking about and analyzing it.  You’ll want to consider both its visual aspects (panel design, drawing style, connections between panels) and its verbal/textual features (dialogue balloons, narrative boxes) along with its overall narrative development and its place in the larger story.  In order to get an idea of what I mean by a “close reading,” we will read an excerpt from an article I’ve written in which I perform a close reading.  I will pass out a sign-up sheet for these presentations during the second class meeting.


Focus 178 / JNE 178

Spring 2010

 

Syllabus

 

Wednesday, January 20              Introduction to the Jewish Graphic Novel; What Is a Graphic Novel?

 

Monday, January 25                     What Is a Graphic Novel? (Part 2); History of the Graphic Novel; History of the Jewish Graphic Novel

Read:                                                  Wolk, Reading Comics (ARES), 11-16, 29-48, 60-64

                                                            McCloud, Understanding Comics (ARES), 2-23

Chute, “Comics as Literature? Reading Graphic Narrative” (ARES), 452-457 (not entire article)

Pekar and Waldman, Foreword to From Krakow to Krypton: Jews and Comic Books (ARES), 1-4

Gantz, “Jews and the Graphic Novel,” 1-22 (http://jbooks.com/common/uploads/graphic_novel/index.html)

 

Wednesday, January 27              How to Read a Graphic Novel

Read:                                                  McCloud, Understanding Comics (ARES), 24-117, 138-161

                                                            Wolk, Reading Comics (ARES), 118-134

McGlothlin, “In Auschwitz We Didn’t Wear Watches: Marking Time In Art Spiegelman’s Maus” (ARES), 66-69 (not entire article)

 

Monday, February 1                      Jewish History in the Graphic Novel

Read:                                                  Mack, The Story of the Jews: A 4,000-Year Adventure

 

Wednesday, February 3              American Jewish History in the Graphic Novel

Read:                                                  Gantz, Jews in America: A Cartoon History

 

Monday, February 8                     Will Eisner’s Dropsie Avenue

Read:                                                  Eisner, A Contract with God, 3-121 

 

Wednesday, February 10                        Will Eisner’s Dropsie Avenue II

Read:                                                  Eisner, A Life Force, 181-321

 

Monday, February 15                   Jews in New York

Read:                                                  Katchor, The Jew of New York

 

Wednesday, February 17             American Myths I

Read:                                                  Sheinkin, The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey

 

Monday, February 22                   American Myths II

Read:                                                  Sturm, The Golem’s Mighty Swing

                                                            “Golem” from Encyclopedia Judaica (ARES)

                                                           

Wednesday, February 24                        The Bible in the Graphic Novel

Read:                                                  Waldman, Megillat Esther  

                                                            Esther from the Tanakh (ARES)

                                                           

Monday, March 1                           Test I

                                                           

Wednesday, March 3                    Comics in Jewish-American Literature I      

Read:                                                  Wex, The Adventures of Micah Mushmelon, Boy Talmudist

 

March 8-14                                      Spring Break

 

Monday, March 15                        The Holocaust in the Graphic Novel I

Read:                                                  Spiegelman, Maus I, 1-127

                                                            1st paper due

 

Wednesday, March 17                  The Holocaust in the Graphic Novel I

Read:                                                  Spiegelman, Maus I, 129-159 ; Maus II, 9-74

 

Monday, March 22                                   The Holocaust in the Graphic Novel II

Read:                                                  Spiegelman, Maus II, 75-136

Katin, We Are On Our Own, 3-28

 

Wednesday, March 24                 The Holocaust in the Graphic Novel II

Read:                                                  Katin, We Are On Our Own, 29-129

 

Monday, March 29                                   American Traumas

Read:                                                  selections from Spiegelman, In the Shadow of No Towers (ERES)

Neufeld, A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge, 1-79

 

Wednesday, March 31                  American Traumas

Read:                                                  Neufeld, A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge, 80-193

 

Monday, April 5                             Sephardim in the Graphic Novel

Read:                                                 Sfar, The Rabbi’s Cat, 1-94              

 

Wednesday, April 7                       Sephardim in the Graphic Novel

Read:                                                  Sfar, The Rabbi’s Cat, 94-142

 

Monday, April 12                            Comics in Jewish-American Literature II

Read:                                                  Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, 3-122

 

Wednesday, April 14                    Comics in Jewish-American Literature II

Read:                                                  Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, 123-256                      

Monday, April 19                           Comics in Jewish-American Literature II

Read:                                                  Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, 257-380

                                                            2nd paper due

 

Wednesday, April 21                     Comics in Jewish-American Literature II

Read:                                                  Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, 381-512

 

Monday, April 26                           Comics in Jewish-American Literature II

Read:                                                  Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, 513-636

 

Wednesday, April 28                    Comics in Jewish-American Literature II / Wrap-up

 

 

 

Test II (take-home exam) is due PER E-MAIL (mcglothlin@wustl.edu) by Wednesday, May 5 at 9 a.m.!