Colleges have noticed the growing number of thought-provoking graphic novels on bookstore shelves. Graphic novels like Maus, Persopolis, and Metamorphosis are becoming staples in freshman composition and humanities classes. These graphic novels are accessible, culturally relevant, and serve as excellent tools to teach students about complex historical events, visual rhetoric, and written communication in general.
As graphic novels become more visible in the academic community, the way the world views comics is changing. Just a couple of decades ago, devoting class time to comics and graphic novels would have been unheard of. Now, as doing so becomes the norm and more schools launch sequential art programs, comics have the unique opportunity to change literature as we and college students around the world know it. Persepolis and Maus have what it takes to one day be considered great works of literature. They challenge historical assumptions, provide unique viewpoints, and have the power to expand people’s minds and the ways they view the world.
Budding graphic novel authors and comic book artists have a number of academic options if they choose to pursue their passion for comics in college. Savannah College of Art and Design, Rhode Island School of Design, the Art Center College of Design, and the Kubert School all offer degree programs in sequential art/comic arts. These programs give students the unique opportunity to develop the skills they need to become the next greatest graphic novelists and top comic book authors.
Sequential art and comic arts majors aren’t the only students who are learning more about effective visual rhetoric. Many illustration, graphic design, and art programs now offer sequential art classes to students as electives. Additionally, Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, a seminal book about the rhetorical techniques used in comics and graphic novels, has become a popular addition to quite a few communication and rhetoric classes.
Academia’s recognition and inclusion of comics and graphic novels is a big step in the right direction. Fans of comics and graphic novels have always recognized the intellectual merit of their favorite texts. Comics are what get many children interested in reading. Graphic novels are what keep quite a few high schoolers and college students interested in the written word. And this is not simply because comics and graphic novels are “easy-to-read” and entertaining. It is often because sequential art is stimulating, full of meaning, and complex.
(Barbara Jolie is a freelance writer and content strategist. When she’s not writing content for www.onlineclasses.org and other online education sites, she blogs about things like art, literature, and interior design. Send your comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Barbara is happy to hear from you!)