Thanks to the irrepressible and creative Robin Truslow (public relations relations coordinator at our fabulous library) I have been participating in a series on graphic novels given by Dr. Phillip Troutman from The George Washington University where he is assistant professor of writing. The class reminds me of a college seminar, a small group intent on sharing ideas and listening. One of my favorite things.
As are graphic novels. The genre came to my attention when a graphic novel was a finalist in the Young People’s category of the National Book Award. It took me weeks to find a copy of AMERICAN BORN CHINESE by Gene Luen Yang. I read it in one long day and was hooked.
The graphic novel combines words and drawings, enabling the creator to tell his story in an entirely different way from the written word or from a purely pictorial format. The combination of writing and drawing inform each other, giving the story a depth which will surprise the novice reader.
Don’t take my word for it. Give it a try. While you are at it, find a copy of Scott McCloud's, UNDERSTANDING COMICS. This amazing book will take you into the hitherto unexplored and (in my case) unimagined depths of graphic novels. It is not a quick read. It is not an easy read. But it is worth the effort. Here is an example: McCloud spends pages explaining the cartoon as the idea of form. At the end of the discussion he asks if there is any more iconic form of a human face than the smiley face we all know [too] well? Just as I am shaking my head and thinking impossible, McCloud, with an interactive panel, demonstrates to me that “words are the ultimate abstraction.” (Pam I think you would love this book – when’s your birthday?)
What does this have to do with research? The origins of the graphic novel are lost in history. Here are a few examples: The Bayeux Tapestry -- that's a small sample of it at the right, William Hogarth's series of paintings, A HARLOTS PROGRESS (1731) though short in the number of "panels" has all the elements of a graphic novel, some of Rowlandson's work in the early nineteenth century especially the Dr. Syntax series. I would suggest that Diana Sperling’s MRS. HURST DANCING (1812-1823) would qualify as well.
I so wish that someone would do a graphic novel of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. Are you familiar with graphic novels? Do you have any you can add to my "must read" list? Are you willing to give it a try?