This personalized website is an archive or portfolio of the work I have completed in my Freshman English 101 course at Emory University during the spring 2018 semester- Visual Writing and Thinking.
This Freshman English 101 course was the first time that I abandoned the stigma that graphic novels and comics are immature; I have learned just how sophisticated, multi-layered, and in depth the visual aspect of literature is. The given assignments and buildable projects allowed me to grow as a more involved reader and writer. On one of the last days of the semester, my professor David Morgen asked our class if visualizations count as writing. While before this semester I might have argued against this point, this English class has allowed me to realize that a thesis statement can be supported by non-linear writing. I feel as though this is a pure example of how I have met the standardized learning objectives and outcomes for this writing course. I have learned how to write and get arguments across with diverse rhetoric styles instead of just simple alphanumeric text, base my writing off of critical analysis of text, and reform first drafts of assignments into finished products after analyzing my work.
Being the first time where I was exposed to visual literature and writing in a classroom setting, it was inevitable for me to meet the first learning outcome of this Freshman English Course: being able to compose literature using multiple rhetoric techniques. Each week we completed a different sketch assignment. While at times the specific assignment mirrored the course material for the week, there were other times where the assignment entailed a more unique visual representation.
These sketches continuously allowed me to expand my rhetoric horizons from mere text to these visual representations. The broad prompts allowed me to use my own creativity to take each sketch to a new level. While creativity is also expected from alphanumeric writing, it is much harder to turn the words of a research assignment into something of your own. One specific sketch assignment that truly encompasses my strength in this new rhetoric technique was sketch seven: “Tell A True Story.” We were told to prepare for this assignment by going on an adventure, listening to a conversation, or taking a moment in during our spring break. We were then told to turn our personalized story into a sketch.
For this specific assignment, I drew comic panels that tell a story of my friends and I doing what we enjoy most in our hometown- driving to our favorite view of the city skyline across the water. Instead of drawing this story out exactly how it happened o I generalized the scenario. Along with the sketch I describe how “telling my true story in this comic is not the exact scene that may or may not have taken place with my friends at home during spring break; it is the adventure that I have gone on countless times all leading up to the same view. The view that depicts home for me.”
The unique visual rhetoric style we mastered in this course allowed me to keep this piece brief and general. I was not forced to describe in detail our conversation, the exact song we blasted, or what the view looks like. I was able to produce the storyline without many words which is something I am definitely not used to in an english class. In addition, explaining the beauty of this view would not do it justice, inserting the photo after the simple black and white sketches allows for an abrupt transition that shows just how special this recurring story is to me.
In addition to these creative Sunday Sketches we completed every week in this course, we read graphic novels, analyzed the importance of the accompanying visual panels, and compared different text to one another. One assignment that encompasses the learning outcome of critical thinking and producing arguments based off text is our “Comparing Palestine and Pyongyang” assignment. This was the first more tradition textual based research assignment we completed in this class. Though I compared many aspects of both “instructive guides to global combat zones” (Newsweek), I purposefully kept with the visual theme of this course and evaluated the difference in the frame of the panels and how it corresponds to the unique moods of the texts.
I analyzed the deliberate reasoning behind the difference in graphic style between the two novels. In general, “Joe Sacco’s vignettes are chaotic, harsh, and abrupt both visually and informationally which sets a mood that accounts for the intensity of the uprisings in Palestine. However, Guy Delisle’s plain panels with a more subdued and less confrontational storyline mirrors Pyongyang’s non-existent lifestyle.” This expanded thesis of mine emphasizes why getting through each novel was a completely different process because of the contrasting styles. This made it clear to me how important and purposeful the use of visualization is according to the plot it pertains to.
The final learning outcome I have proved to meet during this course is working through rough drafts, peer review, revisions, and multi-stepped or buildable projects. The mastery of this outcome is most evident in my “Literacy Narrative.” While at first this was a simple prose essay, it later became much more.
The prompt for this initial assignment was to “write an essay in which you analyze the key experiences that shaped the way you read and write.” As broad as this prompt is, I had a similar one as my first assignment in my Advanced Placement English Language and Composition class in high school. As a start to why this project allowed me to become comfortable with a revision writing process, I reworked and added to the simple assignment I completed in eleventh grade. I explained what I wrote about two years ago- my relationship with writing through the journals I kept as a child- and elaborate on my more embarrassing relationship with reading that I was too embarrassed to share two years ago.
This project had many more steps which ultimately lead to the final Graphic Literacy Narrative I created. In between the first alphanumeric version and final illustrated visual one, the Literacy Narrative was peer reviewed. A peer of mine noted that “[he wished he] could have heard what [I] thought specifically changed and turned me into the reader [I am] today.” I even noticed that the writing in my essay about the “less flattering parts of my history with reading” was not as detailed or seemless. My writing style proved that I was not very comfortable with this information. So, when I turned the paragraphs of this linear essay into distinct illustrated panels, I worked to show more of the setbacks I had while learning to read- how I worked through them, understood them, and finally came to terms with them. It was easier to physically show them rather them intensely explain information I was embarrassed of and have not shared before.
I am extremely pleased with the way this specific English course has expanded my reading and writing horizons. Crafting my own illustrations was difficult at times because of the broad prompts and mere creativity necessary, but “purposefully [reading the prompts] a few days in advance… gave me time to brainstorm” throughout my everyday life. I gained inspiration taking in the visualizations around me and made them useful for this class. In addition, these visualizations helped me put my thoughts on paper without putting them straight into words. During future academic projects, I believe illustrating thesis statements and elaborating on ideas in this form first could help me get my words across in a more productive way.