“The medium of comics is not necessarily about good drawing… It’s just an accident when it makes a nice drawing.”
– Art Spiegelman
Secret Language Reflection
I started Emory expecting my classes would be different than those I had taken in high school, mainly because I would be able to pick and choose my classes and be able to focus on subjects and class structures I enjoy. This class “The Secret Language of Comics: Visual Thinking and Writing” definitely did not disappoint.
The main aspect of this class that initially attracted me was the focus on visual representation and the minimal alphabetic texts. Even though there were some alphabetic texts like Comics for Grown-Ups by Hillary Chute, the class focused on six graphic novels. This class, as the first class I had taken that was truly an academic class that had a visual aspect, showed me that visuality was not solely reserved for non-academic courses like studio art.
I was able to explore this visuality throughout the semester in multiple modes: written, aural, nonverbal and digital. This learning outcome was achieved in the form of weekly Sunday Sketches (see Posts), a Halfa Kucha presentation (aural), Tracing Pages (written and visual) and Literacy Narrative’s in both written and visual form. The Halfa Kucha was a relatively new thing for me. I had in high school watched a Pecha Kucha presentation, but had never made one myself. As a debater, public speaking has always been enjoyable, but that was always because I could take my time thinking and articulating. This was far from the case with the Halfa Kucha. Though stressful, this format, to0, benefited my learning. Since I had limited time I came prepared so I could ensure I was concise and could keep up with the fast paced slides. I I realized that I could use this conciseness even with other presentations. I came to the conclusion that taking this aspect of Halfa Kuchas and combining it with the forgiveness of a traditional presentation I could improve my presentation ability greatly.
Most of these assignments were visual by nature, but even the ones that weren’t, like the Halfa Kucha, by being a part of this visual oriented class, encouraged visual thinking. This visual thinking, in fact, was most influential in my alphabetic texts, mainly my Literacy Narrative. The narrative consisted of two alphabetic texts with a visual comic in between. By being forced to think in a visual form I was pushed away from my usual writing habit. Since it was something I had never done before I did not have a set pattern I could slip into. I felt free to do whatever I wanted. Once I had found this freedom, when In went back to the alphabetic text I felt like I could do whatever I wanted. Before, even when I had a lot I could write passionately about, my essays would generally be quite dry and reflect what I thought my professors expected. It resulted in very modulated, cold and quite frankly boring essays. This was still the case when I wrote the first draft of my Writing Narrative. I went through the guide questions and went down the list answering each question in a few sentences. I was checking boxes and completing assignments, not really caring about the qualitative aspect.
When I was asked to transfer my writing to visual form is when I started to think about and express my true thoughts and memories. When creating and talking about my Writing Narrative Comic, I, with the help of professor David Green, realized that the parts of my comic where my interest shined through was the parts discussing and referencing my cultural and sexual identity. After I made this conclusion, I completely rewrote my essay focusing on those subjects. Unlike the earlier version this one was uniquely me and reflected an important part of my identity, my duality. Even though I used none of the original text, it was essential to the discovery of the ideas prevalent in the final version. This helped me succeed in learning an outcome of this course, writing as a process.
Tracing Pages, similarly, had perfect harmony between visual and writer forms. For this assignment, when searching for pages t trace, I came across two scenes in which the respective characters where alone and having fun because of the lack of parental presence. I was curious to see if there was some connection or possible take away. As I annotated the the tracings the qualities of each page began to stand out. I finally noticed that though the two were telling quite similar stories on the page the way they did this and the feeling they conveyed was different. As I wrote my essay I noticed traces and indicators of their childhoods. As I concluded my essay I noticed that the abuse they experienced played an important role in how they reacted to the situations. Throughout the whole process I noticed two ways I discovered new details. The first way was the tracing. As I went over each detail and traced the faces, everything about the characters popped out. Once I had a good understanding of the expressions and feelings I began to write. The second aspect of this assignment that influenced my writing occurred: I discovered writing as an experiment. When I started writing I had nothing planned and write what I thought and came to a conclusion his aspect of writing as an expert
Though assignments like the Sunday Sketches also had elements of freedom, they were more effective in the process of developing my digital citizenship. Even though over the years I have spent hundreds of hours on the internet reading blogs, I did not know how to make one. Every week’s sunday sketch post had a unique aspect and it required little changes to what I had done the week prior. Initially I did struggle. I posted some pages instead of posts and some tags were just written into the text. Over time, however, I did get better at organizing and my work was streamlined. By creating these technologically sound weekly posts I have created an online presence that shines a light into my life and thought, communicating to readers in an informal format. Now, for whatever reason whether it is for an organization or just fun I am confident I can create and edit a webpage to convey any message.
I would like to conclude by taking a step back to acknowledge the self-improvement I have experienced throughout this class. My benefit from this class was not solely skill improvement either, I also expanded my understanding of trauma, and was introduced to serious comics and graphic novels. Judging from the amount of enjoyment I experienced, I know this introduction is just the beginning of my comic reading journey, and I am thankful for the having had the opportunity to have taken this class.
Feel free to explore my final portfolio for the class, this website.