Visual Narrative: Manga to American Comics

Visual Narratives

Students in this FIG will study numerous examples of verbal-visual storytelling drawn from two nations — the United States and Japan — across a wide span of history.  We will consider the following questions (among others) in our discussions: In what ways is the art of comics unlike any other narrative form?  How have American comics and Japanese manga influenced one another—and in what ways are they different?  Why were comics once regarded with suspicion by educators and parents in the USA, and why has that situation started to change?  What is the cultural status of the artform in Japan, and how has it changed over time?  And what are the best critical and intellectual tools for understanding and analyzing this rich and complex mode of storytelling?

Students who participate in this FIG will acquire a transferrable toolkit of analytical methods and strategies leading to increased media literacy.  They will also acquire a deeper knowledge of both the origins and historical development of both American comics and Japanese Manga, and the specific achievements of some key creators within those traditions.  In addition, they will learn about the economic and material conditions of comic book production, and the range of comics forms (from picture scrolls to newspaper strips to the graphic novel and beyond).


Students explore the intersection of topics by taking the following course package*:

*Courses in the FIG package may be subject to change

ENG 199 College Connections - FIG Seminar, 1-credit

This College Connections seminar is scheduled as remote, but will likely have in-person components in fall.

ENG 280 Introduction to Comic Studies - CoreEd or major satisfying course, 4-credits

Introduction to the art of comics and the methodologies of comic studies. Covers a range of comic texts from the early 1900s to the present, and a variety of comic-art forms, ranging from editorial cartoons to graphic novels.

JPN 250 Manga Millennium - CoreEd or major satisfying course, 4-credits

This course looks at the thousand-year history of visual-verbal narratives – comics – in Japan. In particular we will concentrate on three forms of visual-verbal literature: the narrative picture scrolls of the classical and medieval period (ca. 11th-16th centuries), the “yellowback” comic books of the early modern period (18th-19th centuries), and the manga of the 20th-21st centuries.