Fall 2024

Graphic Lives

Listed in: First Year Seminar, as FYSE-130


Sara J. Brenneis (Section 01)


Graphic novels have become a potent way to tell stories about individual lives lived during moments of cultural and social upheaval. Once known as “the funnies,” comics have breathed new life into periods and events as diverse as the Renaissance, the Holocaust, the Iranian Revolution, and dictatorship Spain. But has the graphic novel killed the novel? Authors and illustrators have adapted canonical works of literature into a vibrant visual format, perhaps even putting text-only literature in peril. Some graphic novels have been criticized for trivializing serious topics. In this first-year seminar, we will examine and think critically about contemporary, international graphic novels by Art Spiegelman, Marjane Satrapi, Paco Roca, Sarah Varon, and Enriqueta Zafra, among others. We will also study literature and film in dialogue with these graphic novels, including The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes, Night, Reading Lolita in Tehran, and “Robot Dreams.” Via our comparative readings and class discussions, we will ask ourselves: What are the limits of the graphic novel? In a culture dominated by visual narratives, where do textual narratives belong? Our seminar will be highly interdisciplinary, as we read, think and write about history, politics, gender, memory, art and storytelling.

Fall semester. Professor Brenneis

How to handle overenrollment: Dean will handle this.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: The seminar will focus on the related skills of close reading, engaged discussion, and critical writing. Reading prompts will ask you to practice the reading skills required for active class discussion and effective writing. Students will write frequent short papers and are expected to be active participants in discussions. Creative assignments will also feature in this course.

Course Materials


Other years: Offered in Fall 2024