This site is an archive of the work I completed as part of ENG101 at Emory University during the spring semester of 2022. For more detailed information please visit the course site.
The ENGRD 101 (The Secret Language of Comics) from Professor Morgen was a very unique English course that was often challenging but very intriguing. Being an international student who had minimal experience in writing literary essays, I found some tasks extremely hard. I frequently had to dedicate much of the time thinking about the right phrase or grammar structure that sounded exactly the way I wanted. What was worse was my inexperience in academically analyzing literature pieces. I often was utterly lost in prewriting due to a lack of analytical elements I was able to find. However, as how the course was designed, I gradually was able to work out the way. I learned how each assignment should be done, and step by step I was able to acquire new tools to express my thoughts. In this letter, I will reflect back on the past semester and explore how I was able to achieve the learning outcomes.
Appendix 1. My Avatar
When I first heard that I have to make a blog, I was worried as it was not something that I had expected before taking the class nor something that I have ever done. Nevertheless, with Professor Morgen’s help and use of WordPress, I was able to quickly learn how to blog. It felt worthwhile as I posted my work on the internet, on my own blog that I designed with my name on it. It was the first time I felt my ‘digital presence’, the beginning of having a digital identity. After uploading the first Sunday Sketch – making my own avatar – it reinforced a sense of ownership and responsibility for the blog. In the assignment, I learned about intellectual property and giving appropriate credit to the source. While I utilized various resources via the internet for my own digital publication – such as using photoshop for Sketch 4 Combophoto – I was forming my own digital citizenship. Unlike before, I now feel confident in exercising appropriate digital citizenship to navigate the digital environment responsibly, and this would be a great asset to me as the use of the internet and acquiring information are inseparable nowadays.
Furthermore, there are new things that I realized about Sunday Sketches as I reflect. Throughout the course, assignments were a combination of major analytical essays and low-stake sketch tasks. The weekly task Sunday Sketches allowed me to attempt new creative methods of communicating. Every sketch assignment forced me to visualize my ideas and often combine them with texts. In hindsight, I believe completing the minor tasks was a process of establishing a foothold. What initially seemed unrelated to other assignments trained me and made me familiar with the new decisive way of communicating that was later meaningful in major writing assignments.
Literacy Narrative was the first significant writing task that was assigned, and it was an assignment that the foundation I built from the Sunday Sketches greatly helped. While this letter largely reflects on the past semester of how I become a better reader/writer, Literacy Narrative made me retrospect on my entire life. To recall old memories I used x-pages to brainstorm past events that greatly impacted me as a reader and writer. With the 10 memories, I was able to organize the events that formed the pattern and habits I have today in learning languages. In the first draft, I reveal my past of being a slow learner with anecdotes regarding my illiteracy and demonstrate how I was able to acquire different habits and abilities in learning the language. However, in the peer review, I was told that the connections between events were weak. Also, with some exaggeration, the first draft almost seemed to be an enumeration of the memories and respective outcomes while lacking holistic reflection.
Acknowledging the shortcomings, I transformed the story into comics. Embracing criticism from my peers, I tried to improve the probability between the events. I added explanations of how I gained interest in reading in elementary school, how the interest was disconnected, and how my passion revived. Also, I wanted my comic to have lasting meaning in the end, closing the story like in “Stitches”. Thus, I “metaphorically combined it with the train rail which has twists and turns however we think we are going straight while riding a train” (Literacy Comic Reflection). I thought it well expressed the lesson that I learned in retrospect: “unlike expectation, my efforts did not always translate into immediate performance” but “in the end, I always was standing at the destination” (Literacy Narrative: Part 2). While transforming texts into sketches and dividing stories into panels, I had to seriously think about the scenes that I would select. Although initially, I felt the story becoming less straightforward than part 1, losing details to some extent, I soon noticed that I was able to express other details more vividly in a totally different medium. For example, in Appendix 2, by inserting a pointed speech bubble that invades its original panel, I was able to stress Nuna’s scream that breaks the peace of adults that are in the kitchen. In Appendix 3, one wide panel was divided into three panels. As Hillary Chute states “comics shapes time by arranging it in space on the page in panels, which are, essentially, boxes of time.” (Chute 24) in “Comics for Grownups?”, I was able to demonstrate the continuity of the scene and quick pass of time by eliminating the gutters between panels.
Reading the first narrative after I finished making the comic, I realized that the flow of the flashback was somewhat awkward. Initially, the flow did not seem too complex, but as I once conveyed the story in the form of comics, I was able to realize that the sequence of the events needed to be more straightforward. Thus, I changed it to reflect the actual chronological order making the story easier to follow in the literacy narrative part 3. Also, after making the comic with a combination of visual and textual information, the first draft seemed to lack nonverbal expression. Hence, I wanted it to have more imagery in the third draft. Although I could not add any sketches, I tried to give an opportunity to readers for imagination so that they could think of their own sketches for each scene. I believe readers would easily draw a visualized image while they are reading the final literacy narrative.
Literacy Narrative not only made me identify patterns of learning reading and writing but also taught me the way of employing visual means in communicating. By actually making a comic, I was able to better understand the fusion of texts and visuals in comics conveying stories. Unlike the common recognition, comics were able to express complex ideas in depth. Visual representations sometimes were even more detailed than expressions in texts. Also, the process of writing a narrative in the text, then in the comic, and again in the text widened my perspective and somewhat shifted the initial focus. The characteristic of the literacy narrative changed from descriptive writing to a memoir. While it can be said that the literacy narrative part 1 was merely a repetition of cause and effect – events and outcome – once it was converted into a comic and after it was textualized, I gave more importance to the aspect of self-development. Showing the hardship I encountered and overcame, my progress as a human was more emphasized. The learning outcome writing as a process I achieved is especially significant to me as I will be able to apply it in other courses. Considering that essay has been my weakness, I believe I will be able to improve my quality of writing.
Appendix 4. Tracing of Stitches
Appendix 5. Tracing of Fun Home
Tracing Stitches and Fun Home was the aforementioned analytical assignment that I suffered from. Moving away from the familiarizing stage with comics, it required the ability to critically think and read as well as to write an analytical piece. The first step was selecting pages from two memoirs: Stitches by David Small and Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. In selecting pages, I roughly preconceived some points and tried to find exactly matching pages but I utterly failed. The analytical elements that I need for comparisons such as frame, image, and flow, or rhetorical contexts such as audience, genre, and purpose of pages were too profound and hidden to be found with a single glance. However, it was only after the assignment that I was able to realize it – feeling the importance of visual thinking strategies again. Nonetheless, the visual thinking strategy that I acquired from Sunday Sketch and Literacy Narrative was sufficient in analyzing the selected pages. Also, I adopted Scott McCloud’s ‘framework of writing with clarity’ to analyze the choice of moment, frame, image, word, and flow of each author. Before annotating, tracing the pages made me notice even the smallest difference between the two, especially when comparing the frame and image. As in Appendix 4 and 5, for Stitches, the choice of moment, frame, image, and absence of the word was analyzed and for Fun Home the choice of moment, frame, image, and flow was examined. By annotating the two pages I was able to find the unique patterns for each graphic novel and further connect their possible purposes with rhetorical contexts. Through Tracing Pages, I learned to critically think and apply them in writing analytical essays. From selecting a single page and noting its patterns to connecting the findings with larger rhetorical contexts, the assignment enable me to summarize, analyze, and synthesize the ideas of the author which ultimately helped me produce my own argument.
ENGRD 101 The Secret Language of Comics is a well-ordered course that prepares students step by step to achieve the learning outcomes. Students learn about comics and are able to realize how versatile and powerful medium it can be. Finishing the semester, I am very happy that I can walk away with great assets that will be used elsewhere. Writing as a process, for example, would be instantly applied to my theater class where I have to write a play. I already planned with my teammates to have a peer review for improvement. Also, for the digital citizenship that I formed while learning to blog, I would be able to use it when I make my own youtube account for vlogging in the near future. Although both writing as a process and digital citizenship are valuable lessons, visual thinking is what I will never forget. It was a totally new way of thinking that I have not thought of. I would not have imagined visual information as a serious medium of communication if it were not for this class. Although I am unsure where specifically I’ll be using it but I definitely know that it will come to use one day. I became a better critical thinker and writer thanks to ENGRD 101.