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