This site is an archive of the work that I completed as part of ENG181, The Secret Language of Comics: Visual Thinking and Writing, taught by David Morgen at Emory University during fall semester of 2019. The course page can be found here.
Final portfolio and reflection letter
“Unwilling” and “uninterested”. Those words could be used to describe my feelings towards reading and writing prior to my venture into this class. Yet, to say that those feelings have completely subsided because of this class would be a lie; however, there has certainly been a noticeable change. Although I was uninterested in reading and writing in general, the idea of visual thinking and writing intrigued me over other traditional topics that were available, leading me to select this class as my first year writing course. This class introduced me to an unknown yet intricate world of graphic novels, drove me to step outside of my comfort zone as I completed various assignments, and guided me towards achieving the various learning outcomes.
Like any good student, while I passed through this class, I desired to become a more refined writer regardless of my attitude towards writing. Particularly through the literacy narrative, I was able to take a step forward towards achieving that goal as the literacy narrative itself was a medium to discover some of the causes of my falls and strengths when it came to writing. As I completed the literacy narrative project throughout the semester, although unknowingly, I also began to pursue several of the learning outcomes for the class. Creating my initial draft felt fairly simple to me at first due to the fact that I thought I could just write down most of what I could remember from my past concerning reading and writing. At the time, I thought that this was the case, as it wasn’t difficult to recall my memories and simply place them in my work. Looking retrospectively, I realized that compiling those memories into one cohesive text that actually delves deep into its topic yet maintains its purpose and intended audience was one place where I struggled. Although I was able to demonstrate my understanding of the purpose of the narrative, my writing was somewhat vague and lacked direction. However, what I also noticed was that from very early into the assignment, I created an alphabetic text with a specified purpose that catered to the audience of my classmates, teacher, and online readers—I was displaying a part of the first learning outcome, rhetorical composition. As we moved towards the second part of the assignment, in addition to rhetorical composition, other learning outcomes such as critical thinking, writing as a process, and visual thinking became apparent as well. Charged with creating a comic, a somewhat tricky and unexplored medium for me, I thought about what was missing from my original literacy narrative. A conference discussion with my teacher finally made me begin to grasp and clearly see that my own rigidness and linearity was holding my writing back and was disallowing me from speaking my mind freely. While I created the draft of my comic, I consciously made decisions that allowed for my own voice and thoughts to be heard more freely as I took ideas and advice from the words of my experienced teacher. Additionally, words from my peers assisted in my revision of my literacy narrative as I was told about specific areas to work on to improve. I created the comic with the use of various modes of composing work such as written, visual, and digital. I was inspired by techniques and ideas that I had seen previously from other comics which I had read in the semester. For example, I utilized the concept of varying perspectives seen in Stitches and Spinning. I also accumulated multiple versions of my comic as I took the critique of others into consideration demonstrating its process of creation. I constantly questioned whether the images and text in each panel properly served its purpose and flowed into the next panel. For the third and final part of the literacy narrative, it was time to revisit my original alphabetic version and revise it using the techniques and lessons we have learned throughout the semester. This time around, I looked at my past attempting to put the authentic feelings that I had when reading and writing into words rather than simply telling a story of the past. My current reading and writing habits were attested by these feelings I described and this is demonstrated multiple times throughout my revised literacy narrative. For example, this is shown when I wrote “it partially impeded my individuality and creativity as I became more afraid to go outside of this seemingly rigid shell that I thought my writing must fit into” (2). By explaining how I truly felt, my writing could resonate with the readers and represent myself genuinely. Overall, the literacy narrative assignment as a whole is a testament towards my achievement of the learning outcomes as well. The creation of the same assignment in various ways, the thinking processes undergone, and the aspect of revision and editing define the knowledge and techniques that I have gained from this class.
Reading various graphic novels that attended to topics typically not captured by their medium opened my eyes to a world of possibilities. The authors utilized various techniques not only visually but also with their words or lack of words. These as well as other assignments and projects in this class were also instrumental for me when it came to developing myself as a reader and writer. Our weekly sketches and reflection posts gave me opportunities to create a multitude of unique works in fun and creative ways and exercise the non-linearity and flexible structure that I have been attempting to include in my writing. Two examples of this were the “Triptych” and “Quadriptych” sketches. In these sketches, although it was mainly visual, I created a story with the use of only three or four panels as I took advantage of techniques such as comedic and surprising moments. Additionally, I analyzed, traced, and compared two different pages from the books Stitches and Spinning. I approached this analytical essay differently than I had done in the past for similar essays as I abandoned the traditional writing structure of starting with an introduction with a thesis then a body and finally a conclusion. Rather, I placed my thesis towards the end of my essay and used it to tie everything I said up to that point together. This assignment caused me to understand a crucial point about a few of the books that we read this semester. In the essay, I stated that “the styles and features used… are representative of how both authors view the memories and events that they are describing, therefore displaying the relationship between the child version of themselves and their present selves” (3). Their books are a result of their feelings in the past as well as their view of the events currently. The combination of those feelings is what they expressed through their representation of the visuals, narration, and overall story. Lastly, I created a presentation that we named a “Halfa Kucha” inspired by the Pecha Kucha where I spoke over ten slides for twenty seconds each. In this presentation, I was able to delve into the books that we read once again and explain their role in describing trauma and recovery. Looking at aspects like their framing, word choice and diction, and portrayal of the stories, one can notice that each book has their own lessons on trauma and recovery.
This course has provided me with a path towards improving my reading and writing. It has sparked an interest in me once again and caused my desire to improve myself as a writer to grow stronger. Specifically, I have learned that overwhelming structure and rigidness causes more harm than benefit. Having flexibility and creative ideas can generate surprising and effective work and this has been seen not only in my own writing but in the books that we have read as well as the work of all the other students in this course. Additionally, as mentioned previously, this course and many of its components have driven me to achieve and fulfill all of the learning outcomes. They have encouraged me to think critically as I read the work of others and use those experiences to better my own writing. I have also learned to create various works in differing modes and mediums, to analyze and think about works that I read, to reflect on and revise my own work, and finally to understand and practice proper digital citizenship. I hope to be able to put all the knowledge and techniques that I have learned in this course to beneficial use in future classes and in life.