Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Maus, Jews and Neoconservatism

Part of the significance—and artistic strength—of Art Spiegelman's Maus is its pointed engagement with antisemitism not only past but present and future. An example given of a present-day social controversy which has a Jewish component can be found around the term "Neo-Conservative."

I have little personal or academic interest with, and no credibility in, present politics (outside, that is, ordinary citizen participation in our democracy) and so will simply point you to the Wikipedia entry on neo-conservatism and let you explore and judge for yourselves.

Keep in mind what I have explained about Wikipedia. It is entirely worthless—indeed, it is pernicious—as a scholarly authority. It has, however, value as an aggregation of common opinion about whatever it has listed.

Dan Brown & Bad Books

Mention made in lecture, a propos the concept of 'glorious junk', that Dan Brown, famous of course for his The Da Vinci Code, is an execrably bad writer. My colleague faculty Dr. Paul Budra includes this book in his excellent course on "Bad Books." When I teach it, I show in objective detail its manifold failings, yet conclude by explaining its one aspect of significant literary merit.

Judgement against Brown's dreadful writing is all-but a commonplace.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Evaluative Essay: Topic

The class engagement with Art Spiegelman's Maus has been exceptionally strong. Lecture (unusually) and seminar both (I barely escaped my Monday seminar this week with my life...) This is obviously a state of affairs very much to be desired.

Accordingly, the topic for the Evaluative Essay will be your feelings and convictions about this text in relation to lecture: as detailed in the Assignment Post and Course Outline.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Note-Taking for University Students

"Learn how to listen and you will prosper even from those who talk badly.” Plutarch (AD 46-120) Greek Biographer & Philosopher.
The Student Learning Commons at the W.A.C. Bennett Library has an exceptionally helpful on-line guide to effective note-taking at university lecture. (It is a trifle disconcerting reading for the Lecturers themselves, because it implies--indeed, all-but declares--that many of us are dull, confused, inarticulate, habituated and otherwise deficient in our craft.)

The guide is available online in .pdf format at this hotlink.

The Student Learning Commons additionally has an entire page of links to on-line resources to imprioove the student's "Listening & Note-Taking" at this hotlink.

Note-taking in lecture is one of the skills that one learns at university with broad applicability in life. Arguably, learning how to take written notes from oral delivery is one of the most practically valuable benefits of a university education.
These resources linked here are very valuable: especially as it is increasingly common for undergraduates to confuse note-taking with copying down PowerPoint slides. It is rule worth learning that PowerPoint is not the Lecture: lectures are what happen when you are distracted by copying down PowerPoint slides....

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Opening Lecture Slides

Here are the slides from today's definition-heavy opening lecture, available on-line. Lecture, befitting an upper-division course, will by and large be discursive, but where I do have lecture slides I will ordinarily post them here through the Term.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Course Syllabus

Instructor Contact:
Office Hours: AQ 6094 -- Tuesday one o'clock to three o'clock. Bring your coffee and discuss course matters freely. E-mail ogden@sfu.ca Phone: 778-782-5820

Reading Schedule
Be up-to-date with the reading schedule and you will be ahead of lecture. Note, however, that this schedule is not a Procrustean bed : week by week, lecture will follow students' developing interests and the course dynamic. Thus will all material be covered, sublimely, by the end.

Course Week 1: Spiegelman, Maus
Course Week 2: Gaiman, Sandman
Course Week 3: Gaiman, Sandman
Course Week 4: Satrapi, Persepolis
Course Week 5: Satrapi, Persepolis
Course Week 6: Moore, From Hell
Course Week 7: Moore, From Hell
Course Week 8: Waid & Ross, Kingdom Come
Course Week 9: Brown, Louis Riel
Course Week 10: Brown, Louis Riel
Course Week 11: Kuroda, Sexy Voice & Robo
Course Week 12: Kuroda, Sexy Voice & Robo

Course Weeks: Course week one starts September 14th. There are no classes on the week starting October 12th, due to the Thanksgiving Holiday. Course week five thus starts on October 19th. Course week twelve is December 7th, and there is no seminar that week.

Assignment Deadlines.
: There is a five percent per day late penalty for all assignments, documented medical or bereavement leave excepted. For medical exemptions, provide a letter from a physician on letterhead which declares his or her medical judgement that illness or injury prevented work on the essay.(The precise word "prevented" must be used in the letter.) The letter must cover the entire period over which the assignment was scheduled and may be verified by telephone.

Schedule of Assignment Due Dates:
Assignment details in "Pertinent & Impertinent" Links.

Course Week One: Goup YouTube Project teams set in seminar.
September 21st: Evaluative Essay topic posted.
October 5th: Evaluative Essay due in lecture.
Course Week Five: Group YouTube Project status report due in seminar.
October 19th: Evaluative Essay returned.
November 23rd: Evaluative Essay Review due in lecture.
December 6th: Group YouTube Project due.
December 7th: Evaluative Essay Review returned.
December 11th: Final Essay due in the Lecturer's mailbox.

Beneficial contribution to the class dialectic will be treated as follows. Consistent participation in class discussion is assumed, at the Instructor's discretionary judgement.
  • Full seminar attendance and perfect punctuality: For the Final Paper & the Evaluative Essay, rounding up to the next letter grade where percentage is within & under five points. (E.g. Final paper is 86.5 %: grade assigned is 90%.)
  • One seminar absence and perfect punctuality: For the Final Paper, rounding up to the next letter grade where percentage is within within & under five points. (E.g. Final paper is 86.5 %: grade assigned is 90%.)
  • Two seminar absences and perfect punctuality: For the Final Paper, rounding up to the next letter grade where percentage is within one point. (E.g. Final paper is 89.0 %: grade assigned is 90%.

Course Website FAQ

Here are FAQ about the course website.
  • The 5 most recent posts are displayed on the main page.
  • A permanent link list, entitled "Pertinent & Impertinent" is always visible on the sidebar of the course website, containing direct links to crucial information.
  • Also on the sidebar, always visible, is the "Blog Archive" displaying direct links to all posts on the course website.
  • The "Blog Archive" has sections for years 2009 and 2007. Our course links are under the 2009 section. The 2007 archive is for a previous iteration of the course which may, or may not, be interesting for you.
  • An "Older Posts" hotlink is always visible at the bottom of the main page which displays the next 5 most recent posts.
  • Certain PowerPoint lecture slides are occasionally posted on the course website.

Course E-Mail Netiquette

Here are the points of e-mail protocol for our course :
  1. E-mail (indeed, all communication) between Lecturer and student, and TA and student, is a formal and professional exchange. Accordingly, proper salutation and closing is essential.
  2. Business e-mail is courteous but, of professional necessity, concise and direct. It rejects roundabout or ornate language, informal diction, and any appearance of what is termed in the vernacular, 'chat.'
  3. Customary response time for student e-mail to the Course Lecturer or TAs is two to three office days. E-mail on weekends will ordinarily be read the Monday following.
  4. Use only your SFU account for e-mail to the course Lecturer. All other e-mail is blocked by whitelist.
In general, Course e-mail is for matters of Course administration solely. It is not an alternative to, nor substitute for, Office Hours or Tutorial. All questions about understanding of lecture material, course reading, assignment criteria, and deadlines are reserved for Tutorial and Office Hours.

Missed classes and deadlines are not to be reported by e-mail: if a medical or bereavement exception is being claimed, the supporting documentation is handed in, along with the completed assignment, either in person or to the Instructor's mailbox outside the Department Office.

Course Outline

ENGLISH 383 D1.00
Instructor: S. OGDEN
FALL 2009
Graphic Novels: Comic Books on Respectable Street
Comic Books are making a claim for literary respectability using the 'elegant variation' Graphic Novels. This claim will be examined in our course using empirical literary scholarship. We will subject a representative international sample of graphic novels to rigorous academic analysis of their historical, literary, visual and social aspects in the context of comics. A collection of secondary material to support this study is available on Course Reserve. Each graphic novel being, at best, material equivalent to credible short fiction and requiring, again at best, comparable reading effort, we will work from a substantial reading list at the university standard. The Lecturer has genial experience and credibility in the field-English comics first and best; North American as immigrant teen; manga from adult life in Japan-but is not otaku: student enthusiasms and genre minutiae must find their expression in assignments and tutorial.
PREREQUISITES: Credit or standing in two 100-division English courses and two 200-division English courses. Students with credit for ENGL 363 may not take this course for further credit.

Spiegelman, Art  The Complete Maus  0679406417
Gaiman, Neil  The Sandman: Vol. I : Preludes & Nocturnes 1563890119
Satrapi, Marjane  Persepolis  0375714839
Waid & Ross  Kingdom Come  1401220347
Kuroda, Iou  Sexy Voice & Robo  159116916X
Brown, Chester  Louis Riel: a Comic-Strip Biography  1894937899
Moore, Alan  From Hell  0958578346

10% Productive Participation
15% Evaluative Essay #1 (approx. 1500 words)
15% Evaluative Essay Review
20% Group Project
40% Final Essay (approx. 3000-3500 words)

Group YouTube Project

This project is an opportunity to work collaboratively on an engaging project that promotes understanding of "studying comics as literature."

In seminar week one, groups of five will be assigned. Each group will select one from the following list of possible angles of approach and will create a video documentary, to be posted on YouTube by no later than midnight December 6th. A one-page status report of the group's project is due in seminar, course week five.

Here is a list of possible topics. You are free come up with one of your own, subject to the Instructor's written approval. You are also by no means limited to the course texts: but by the same token you may use only the course texts as you prefer.
  • graphic novels versus comic books.
  • pre-modern precursors of the comic book.
  • modern origins of the comic book (England or America?)
  • literary analysis of a comic book series.
  • Maus as fine art.
  • the graphic novel as comic book: no more, no less.
  • the irreducible religious nature of the superhero.
  • an argument for comics as 'glorious junk.'
  • comics in film and TV.
  • arguments for or against comics as social bane.
  • the contribution of Mad magazine to c omics as literature.
  • the visual element of the comic book.
The length of your documentary should be anywhere from ten to sixty minutes. Quantity is not the salient matter; quality of effort is. And effort can be precisely guaged here: the assignment is twenty percent of the course grade, and with five members per group the total group project effort will be 5 X 20% of the course effort.

Evaluative Essay and Evaluative Essay Review

This essay assignment has two parts.
  1. Write a fifteen-hundred word essay that evaluates the lecture presentation of any one of the course texts. Your essay will show evidence of your own critical understanding of the course text and evidence also of careful engagement in lecture. Your evaluation, then, will need to show that you have read, analysed and evaluated your selected course text carefully and attended attentively and evaluated carefully all the course lectures. The topic post is here.
  2. After you have received your commented and graded evaluative essay, you will write a one thousand to fifteen hundred-word review of your essay in light of later course lectures. That is, you will compare and evaluate your own first effort in light of additional lecture material and a different course text.
For part one, you might, for example, develop a particular lecture point on Spiegelman's Maus--its presentation of his father as stereotypical Jew, say-- that puts additional, or even countervailing, light on that aspect. You are, in other words, entering into a dialectic with lecture, from your own detailed engagement with the text.

For part two, you might find that your first analysis lacked an effective historical context, and the lecture on Brown's Louis Riel made the importance of the historical dimension much clearer. You would, in other words, be continuing the dialectic, but adding your own first essay to the on-going conversation.

Nb. A legend for the copyediting symbols used in marking essays is now posted.

Dividing Post: 2009 from 2007

Posts above this dividing post are for the current (2009) version of the course. Posts below this dividing post are archived posts from the 2007 iteration.