121: Rhetoric of Fiction
In this course we will survey rhetorical gestures -- logical, topical, and tropological -- through which a selfhood whose substance is construed as narrative is variously conjured up and deployed in a host of (mostly) contemporary graphic serial textual forms from Trajan's great stone self-promotional column to the scattered photographs of the deceased Didier Lefevre organized and supplemented between the covers of "The Photographer." What passes for selfhood -- from the records of notorious historical figures to traces from anonymous everyday citizens, from the voices of reporters and storytellers, from politicians on a mass mediated campaign trail to the ethos of a whole socioeconomic class at a particular historical juncture, to a "living" political document, among many other subjects -- and what matters in and about these selves varies enormously across the range of these works of graphic biography and autobiography, imaginary memoir, advocacy journalism, adapted ethnography and media transcripts we are reading, as well as in a couple of film adaptations we'll watch together. We will devote attention to writings by artists Will Eisner, Scott McCloud, Alan Moore, and Art Spiegelman on both the theory and practice of storytelling and characterization in graphic novelization, but the center of gravity for our conversations will remain our shared and intensive engagements with these extraordinary works over our weeks together. By the end you'll have a story to tell about selves for yourselves.
Our reading list is long and, I fear, dauntingly expensive. I will make a copy of every piece we are reading together available on reserve in the Rhetoric library, and I hope that at least some of us can arrange to trade and share copies as a community to defray some of these costs. Those of you who buy all of the required texts may find you have accidentally embarked on a new and ruinously costly obsession: my apologies. These works will be supplemented by practical and theoretical essays collected in a brief reader.
Alison Bechdel, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
Michael Crowley and Dan Goldman, 08: A Graphic Diary of the Campaign Trail
Howard Cruse, Stuck Rubber Baby
Emmanuel Guibert, Didier Lefevre, Frederic Lemercier, The Photographer: Into War-Torn Afghanistan With Doctors Without Borders