assignment 3-2: making observations about a comic

Due date: Friday 10/14
Format: Leave a comment on this post
Length: At least two paragraphs: one for “patterns” and one for “anomalies.”

This assignment follows the same pattern of analytical activities that you did when you first encountered “Back to the Land.” These are the basic things that most people do when analyzing something, whether it’s a poem, a painting, a human behavior, a speech, or a comic. Those activities, once again, are:

  • Notice significant parts (divide the piece up) and observe how the parts are related to each other and to the piece as a whole
  • List patterns of repetition and contrast
  • List anomalies – things that seem unusual, that seem not to fit the pattern

Before you get started on the written part of Assignment 3-2, you should have already read the two short guides to understanding comics, uploaded on the Course Documents page. Also, it might help to review the DK Handbook: pages 18 – 19, pages 82 – 93, pages 184 – 189, and pages 260 – 263. You were assigned to read these pages earlier in the semester, but if you haven’t read them yet because you didn’t have your book, or if you need a refresher, you should read/re-read them now.

1. Notice and Focus

Read the main text for analysis, “A.D. New Orleans After the Deluge” on pages 215 – 237 in the First Year Composition Reader. As you read, circle and mark things that stand out to you. Then, take notes on what you observe. Go through the “notice and focus” process as you did for Assignment 2-1 a few weeks ago. Here are the steps again:

  • In your notebook, list as many interesting, significant, revealing, or strange details about the text as possible. Neufeld’s comic is extremely detailed in some panels. Notice big things (like page arrangement) and small things (like the writing on cars and the individual facial expressions, body postures, and tiny gestures).
  • Choose the three details that you think are the most important for understanding the comic.
  • In your notebook, write a paragraph to give reasons for why these three details struck you as the most interesting, significant, revealing, or strange. Ask how these details contribute to the argument of the text as a whole, or how the details relate to each other.

> You do not need to post your notice-and-focus observations.

2. Patterns

Then, look for patterns of repetition and contrast in “A.D.” This process has five steps. Use a separate sheet of paper to make your lists. The final step of the process will be part 1 of your comment.

  • List repetitions — details, images, or words that repeat exactly and write the number of times you see the repetition for each.
  • List strands. A “strand” is a grouping of similar details or words. Be able to explain the strand’s logic — what holds it together? For example, polite/courteous/well-behaved. That is a strand of similar adjectives. Similar shapes/colors could also be a strand.
  • List organizing contrasts (for example, open/closed, normal/strange, black/white, masculine/feminine). These are also called binaries.
  • Select and list the two most significant repetitions, the two most significant strands, and the two most significant contrasts. The formulation of primary repetitions, strands, or contrasts can reveal what the text (and the text’s composer) is about and interested in. This exercise often leads to a next step: what the text (and the composer) is worried about or trying to resolve.
  • Select one repetition, one strand, or one binary that you take to be the most significant for arriving at ideas about what the text communicates. Write one paragraph explaining your choice. Give reasons for why you think this pattern is the most important.

> This paragraph is Part 1 of your comment.

3. Anomalies

After you have looked for patterns, it can be helpful to search for anomalous details — those details that seem not to fit the pattern. In this second part of your comment, write a paragraph about anything that stands out. Write about anything you noticed but couldn’t list as a repetition/strand/binary in the “patterns” process above. If you have trouble finding an anomaly, you could write your paragraph about anything that is missing. What does the text leave out or omit, and what are the implications of this omission? Is there any other aspect of the topic that Neufeld seems to be avoiding? Obvious or subtle omissions can be anomalies because they defy patterns and expectations.

> This paragraph is Part 2 of your comment.

Remember to keep an open mind and suspend your judgment when you are doing “notice and focus,” listing patterns, and finding anomalies. For now, you are just trying to gain access to the world of “A.D. New Orleans After the Deluge” and understand what Neufeld is saying or what story he is telling in this piece.

To summarize, this assignment is a comment of at least two paragraphs:

  • Explanation of one repetition, one strand, or one binary that seems most important for arriving at ideas about what “Back to the Land” is arguing
  • Explanation of anomalies or things that are missing from the text

assignment 3-1: telling a story in a comic

An example of a Bitstrip comic I made in about 30 minutes

Due: Wednesday, October 12
Format: Share your Bitstrip link as a comment on this post. Or, if you don’t have easy access to a computer, you could hand-draw your comic using one of the blank panels available for download at the link below. (or you can draw your own panels from scratch…)

This assignment will introduce you to the language of comics in order to prepare you for reading “A.D. New Orleans After the Deluge” later this week. First, read the handouts I distributed in class and also uploaded to Course Documents. These readings are similar, but each one has information you’ll find useful. Since you may not have experience reading comics analytically (or perhaps you have never read a comic before!), it will be important to learn some terminology detailed in the two readings above: panel, gutter, gesture, etc. In the UT-Arlington reading, note the sections on choices and decisions. As you might know by now, your essays focus almost entirely on choices and decisions that authors/artists make. In the Duke University reading, note the questions that you could ask yourself, such as “Is the style cartoonish, abstract, photorealistic, etc.?” and “Is the panel order obvious, and how do you know the intended order?” Both of these readings will help you approach comics rhetorically.

After you’ve completed the reading, create a Bitstrip comic that narrates an event or experience that was dramatic, difficult, disappointing, or negative for you in some way. This could be something that happened to you personally or to someone you know. It could also tell a brief story of a current event that was tragic or negative somehow. If you don’t have easy access to a computer, you could hand-draw your comic using one of the panels I distributed in class. You can download these blank panels here.

As you create your comic, remember the terminology from the reading and see if you can put some of it to use. Be aware of the choices you make as you tell your story. Your narrative does not have to be complicated. It could only be two or three panels, and it doesn’t even have to use text.

To post your Bitstrips link
1. Give your comic a title by clicking “Title of Strip.”
2. Click the red SAVE button.
3. The website will ask you to register. You can sign in with Facebook or give a username and email address.
4. Once you verify your email address, you will be able to share your comic by clicking the Share icon, which looks like this:

5. Click Share. Once you click Share, you will see two options, Strip Viewer and Image. Copy the link for Image. Then paste the link in the comments here.
6. if that doesn’t work, you can Publish your comic by clicking the green Publish button. You will get a link called Short URL. Copy and paste that link into the comments here.