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Vol 39  No 17
July 19, 2007


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The graphic novel gets the he said, she said treatment
by Leslie Vryenhoek

Drs. Andrew Loman, left, and Nancy Pedri are taking a team teaching approach to a new course on the graphic novel. (Photo by Leslie Vryenhoek)

Graphic novels, sometimes dismissed as “comic books,” are beginning to shake their pulp reputations and garner more respect. A new course offered in Memorial’s English Department this fall will explore the literary form. And talking with Drs. Nancy Pedri and Andrew Loman about the team teaching approach they’ll use in the course they’ve developed offers a taste of what students can expect.

“I work on words and image, and of course Andrew has published in the graphic novel…” Dr. Pedri noted.

“As a teenager I read the genre incessantly, and then when I was doing my PhD, I decided I had the credibility to go back to it,” Dr. Loman interjected.

“Academia finally is recognizing this as a form…” she said.

“… a form that’s been monstrously overlooked, but that has tremendous literary potential and that is really politically engaged, yet people have not been able to forget its pulp origins,” he said.

“More respect is being afforded to the graphic novel now,” she said, adding. “Many [undergraduate] honours theses are now being written around the graphic novel, but these are usually around a very narrow number of texts.”

The course will help expand students’ familiarity with graphic novels, examining such works as Persepolis, created by Marjane Satrapi, and the Pulitzer-prize winning Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman. According to Dr. Pedri, the former is the autobiographical story of an Iranian woman’s personal struggle and her ambivalent relationship to Iran and its customs. Dr. Loman explained that the latter is a holocaust narrative in which ethnic groups are emblematized by different animals.

“I taught Persepolis in my world lit course, and students love it. They have an innate comfort with it,” Dr. Pedri recalled.

Dr. Loman added: “They’re intimately familiar with the genre, but they haven’t brought critical rigour to it.”

Both English professors will be in the classroom for each class, teaching together.

“We’ll focus on a topic, and start a dialogue…” Dr. Loman explained.

“It’s a new model for teaching here. It lets students see that topics can be broached in a variety of different ways, and it will be more interesting than a straight lecture,” Dr. Pedri said.

“…and maybe a debate,” Dr. Loman continued. “And then we’ll open up the floor to discussion.”

“It makes it more exciting and more fun,” noted Dr. Pedri. “I think this will be a very engaging course with a lot of visuals and a lot of energy.”

English 3843: Introduction to the Graphic Novel is being offered Wednesday evenings in the fall term.

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