Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Comic Books in the Classroom

Explanatory Synthesis strives to weave together two or more sources into a presentation of fact to the greater end of a fulfilment of a thesis. Traditionally I have taught explanatory synthesis in College Composition I by having students trace the evolution of a popular fairy tale in order to say something about how or why that particular tale has developed the way it has, or to explore the socio-cultural significance or psychological impacts of said evolution. Students have enjoyed doing this, by and large. The secondary source material is basically provided through the textbook: Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum, in Maria Tatar’s “An Introduction to Fairy Tales.” Students are encouraged to use the college database to further their synthesis and add credibility to their thesis, which, usually, they have no trouble doing. This year we added comic heroes (and villains in some cases), to our practice of explanatory synthesis. It has been a challenge finding and recommending “foundational” secondary source material, such as Tatar, for the students of comic heroes. After some research I decided to use sections of Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. While McCloud defines “comic” and discusses why comics are an effective storytelling medium (in perhaps greater detail than necessary) I can’t help but feel that this source is not foundational to our study of comics the way Tatar’s essay is to our study of fairy tales because it doesn’t delve as completely into the psychology of how we process the messages comic books bring us.  

In short, I’m still searching for the magical secondary source that will validate and further elucidate our study of the comic book genre. Names like Will Eisner come up, and Micheal Chabon, but these are just really talented guys that discuss the genre without discussing specific effects comics have on the mind of children and adults. The book Superhero Origins by Robin S. Rosenburg has been interesting, as it offers analysis of several popular superheroes through the lens of modern psychology. The closest thing to a piece on the comic itself is the essay "Origin Stories: Why We Care."

What I'd like to see, again, is an approachable essay that is a hybrid between what McCloud has done and what Rosenburg does, with the psychoanalytical focus being on the reader, at both the childhood and adult level.

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