assignment 3-4: forming interpretive questions

Due: Wednesday, October 19
Format: Leave a comment on this post
Length: At least two questions

In class on Monday, we returned to our observations about “A.D. New Orleans After the Deluge.” (Check out this document [RTF] to see a list of these observations.)  We tried to explain some of these observations as choices or strategies that Neufeld is using to accomplish a purpose, with an audience in mind and a context at hand. For Assignment 3-4, write two (or more, if you like)  interpretive questions about “A.D.” We will discuss these questions in class on Wednesday.

You can use the DK Handbook page 108 and page 120 to help you. Please give your questions a lead-in or a bit of context so that we know where you’re coming from and so that you are not just rephrasing an observation from the list as a question. For example, don’t simply ask

Why does Neufeld make his comic all about black vs. white?

This question is too broad, and it gives no context for what you mean by “all about,” “vs.” or how you think Neufeld actually handles the issue of racial division. The question doesn’t add anything to the discussion because it simply takes a binary from the list and poses it as a “why?” question. Instead, do a bit more work by being specific and adding some interpretation to your interpretive question.  To be more specific, you could cite a passage or a particular scene as an example, you could define/analyze a key term in your question, or you could explain a point of uncertainty in your thinking so that we know where the question comes from.

assignment 3-3: reading for purpose, audience, context

Due: Monday, October 17
Format: leave a comment on this post
Length: two or three paragraphs

This assignment asks you to start forming a sense of Josh Neufeld’s purpose, audience, and context in the September 1 chapter of his comic “A.D. New Orleans After the Deluge.”  First, re-read the comic.  For this second reading, try to develop your observant stance into a more advanced, critical stance. You are still composing to learn, but now composing to learn more and learn deeper.

To help you read critically, look at

These objective readings will provide the background information you need to piece together Neufeld’s context and the problem he seems to be responding to. Remember, use these articles not to bolster your own personal opinion about the issues surrounding Hurricane Katrina, but instead try to find things that will help you analyze “A.D New Orleans After the Deluge” rhetorically. After you look at those articles, re-read Neufeld’s comic for a pitch, a moment, and a complaint:

  • A pitch. Neufeld’s comic makes an argument, although at first glance it might seem like a simple story about one awful day. “A.D.” does make some sort of case, even if that argument or case is never stated explicitly.  As you re-read the comic, look for language that reveals the position or positions Neufeld seems interested in having you adopt.
  • A complaint. His comic is also a reaction to some situation, some set of circumstances that he has set out to address.  To help you understand another person’s writing, it can be useful to figure out what caused the person to write the text in the first place. Look for language that reveals the writer’s starting point. If you can find the position or situation he or she is worried about and possibly trying to correct, you will find it much easier to locate the argument (or the position the comic is asking you to accept).
  • A moment. Lastly, Neufeld’s comic is a response to the world conditioned by his particular moment in time. In your attempt to figure out not only what a text says but where it is coming from, history is significant. When was the piece written? (August 2009, but he started writing the comic in 2006.)  Where? (the comic was originally published as a series on the web, and then it was revised into a graphic novel.) What else was going on at the time that might have shaped the writer’s ideas and attitudes?

Now, write two or three paragraphs explaining your sense of what Neufeld’s purpose, audience, and context (his rhetorical situation) might be. Your post could address some of the following questions, which will resonate with the critical reading guidelines above.

  • What in the world around him is motivating Neufeld to create this comic?
  • What is it about the time he is living in? What historical events or changes are shaping how he sees the world?
  • How does the way he sees the world fit with the ways he sees/imagines his readers? Does he want to draw their attention to some issue or problem they might not be noticing?
  • How does Neufeld relate to his readers? Is he confrontational, caring, friendly, or… ? How exactly do you get a sense of his personality or attitude towards the audience?
  • What do you know about Neufeld’s audience? Do they need any special knowledge to understand the comic? Do they come from a certain area or country, share certain values or identity markers, or subscribe to similar beliefs?
  • Why does Neufeld try to accomplish his purpose through a comic, instead of some other medium or genre?
  • Do the visual elements of the text help him accomplish his purpose? How?
  • What thoughts, feelings, and/or behaviors might Neufeld wish to change in his audience? How would he like to see his readers respond to the comic?
  • What other kinds of changes might he be seeking?

Keep pushing yourself to find and cite specific evidence from the text as you write this post. Avoid unsupported claims.

It is always possible that Neufeld did not consciously choose to do some of the things you observe in his comic, but for now assume that he did and consider how this helps you understand “A.D.”

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