FRSEMR 60C. Comics and Graphic Novels

    Instructor: Stephanie Burt
    TBA | Location: TBA

    Comics and graphic novels, or sequential art, are one of the world’s great storytelling media: we’re going to learn how to read them, how to talk about how they get made and how they work, how to understand—and how to enjoy— some of the kinds of comics and graphic novels (that is, some of the genres) that make up the history of this medium in the modern English-speaking world. That history has three strands, which cross and re-cross, but which need to be understood independently, and we will see all three: short-form strip comics, designed for newspapers beginning in the 1890s and now flourishing on the Web; action-adventure and superhero comics, invented in the late 1930s, transformed in the 1960s and again in the 1980s, usually created by teams, and important to popular culture today; and a third strand beginning with “underground” or “alternative” comics or comix (with an x) in the 1960s and evolving into long form graphic novels, often created by single writer-artists, today.  That history comes with visual references, which you will learn to recognize; comics also comes with its own set of theoretical terms, which you’ll learn to use. Comics today share a medium (pictures and usually words in sequence) but belong to several genres: we’ll learn how to talk about them, and how they’ve evolved.You’ll get the chance to make comics, and to figure out how creators collaborate, advocate, distribute, and sometimes even earn a living from the comics they make, but the course will focus on existing comics, from McCay to Bechdel, from Kirby to Ms. Marvel— as events in culture and as works of art.

    Freshman Seminar 33x. Complexity in Works of Art: Ulysses and Hamlet

    Instructor: Philip Fisher
    Monday, 3:00-5:00pm | Location: TBA
    Course Website

    Is the complexity, the imperfection, the difficulty of interpretation, the unresolved meaning found in certain great and lasting works of literary art a result of technical experimentation?  Or is the source extreme complexity—psychological, metaphysical, or spiritual?  Does it result from limits within language, or from language’s fit to thought and perception?  Do the inherited forms found in literature permit only certain variations within experience to reach lucidity?  Is there a distinction in literature between what can be said and what can be read?  The members of the seminar will investigate the limits literature faces in giving an account of mind, everyday experience, thought, memory, full character, and situation in time.  The seminar will make use of a classic case of difficulty, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and a modern work of unusual complexity and resistance to both interpretation and to simple comfortable reading, Joyce’s Ulysses.  Reading in exhaustive depth these two works will suggest the range of meanings for terms like complexity, resistance, openness of meaning, and experimentation within form.

    Freshman Seminar 63n. Narrative Negotiations: How do Readers and Writers Decide

    Instructor: Homi Bhabha
    Tuesday, 12:45-2:45pm | Location: TBA
    Course Website

    Narrative Negotiations explores narrative “voice” in a wide range of literary and cultural texts. Narrative voice is a lively dialogue between the author and the reader as they engage in the experience of determining the value and veracity of the narrative: whose story is it anyway? The writer creates the imaginative universe of character, plot, emotions and ideas—she seems to be holding all the cards; but it is the reader who rolls the dice as she draws on her human experience and moral values to question the principles and priorities of the storyteller. The game of narrative becomes deadly serious when storytelling confronts issues of colonialism, slavery, racial profiling and gender discrimination. Is the right to narrative restricted to those who have suffered the injustices of exclusion? What is my responsibility as a storyteller—or a reader—if I am a witness to violence, or an advocate against injustice, but my life-story is one of privilege, protection and security? What is the role of the politics of identity or cultural appropriation in determining whose story is it anyway? Throughout the seminar students will be encouraged to draw on their own histories, memories and literary experiences as the enter into the world of the prescribed readings. For the final assessment I hope students will choose critical and creative ways of telling their own stories, or the stories of others who have captured their imaginations. Seminar participants will be required to come to each class with two questions that pose issues or problems based on the texts that are important for them, and may prove to be significant for their colleagues. I will invite members of the group to pose their questions and start a discussion.

    Freshman Seminar 64h. Our Borders, Our Lives: Creating, Dismantling, Rebuilding Borders through Art, Literature, and Film

    Instructor: Katie Daily
    Wednesday, 9:45-11:45am | Location: TBA
    Course Website​​​​​​​
    Enrollment: Limited to 12 students

    We are surrounded by borders, and to understand them is to explore how they’re drawn, why they’re constructed (and deconstructed), and who can pass through them. This seminar will invite you to open up our ordinary understanding of borders to discover an extraordinary variety of perspectives and media.

    This semester, we will think deeply and critically about borders and movement in order to better understand our individual positions as global citizens. We’ll consider borders in our personal lives through social media and how people curate their online worlds. We will briefly study maps so that you can construct your own, considering your own borders. We’ll visit a Harvard museum to discover how frames are both constraining and liberating. We’ll examine fiction and film, attuning to the conditions of border migration and how people move. We’ll sightsee in our lives and the spaces around us to begin understanding borders and movement in twenty-first century America. Through all of this exploration, we will discover the many lenses that can be used in order to grapple with the complicated nature of American borders while working to understand our own positionality in the world around us.