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Palestine, Persepolis and Maus hero image
Campus Life Series: Announcements

Students become literary critics with comics

City’s English department challenges students to become literary critics with comics.

by Matthew Little (Communications Officer)

A new module on City’s English MA will allow students to make more choices in their education by looking at refugee comics as well as traditional texts and novels.

The Image and Text module which is led by Dr Dominic Davies, Lecturer in English, will focus on stories like Joe Sacco’s Palestine, Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis and Art Spiegelman’s Maus. Three comics which analyse the human impact of refugee crises in different parts of the world.Dr Davies, who published, Urban Comics: Infrastructure & the Global City in Contemporary Graphic Narratives, a text looking at the decolonisation of comic studies in urban environments, said:

“When you say the word comic, it is easy to think of a superhero, but these stories are so much more than that. There is a whole dedicated genre about immigration or refugee comics which do a lot more than just pit good verses evil.

“Comics can offer a more detailed and thought out account of global events. They can take time to write and draw, so they take a longer look at major incidents, which works against the snapshot view of the quick and responsive news we see on social media or in journalism.”

Dr Dominic Davies, Lecturer in English

Comics can do things that texts cannot

With a form made of panels and boxes, Dr Davies believes that comics require a different type of reader engagement.
Dr Davies said: “Comics are able to do things that texts can’t, they allow cross communication between cultures through images – sometimes without the need for language translation.

“The narrative is not laid out line by line as a text would be. Readers are able to go at their own pace, pause to dwell on particular panels or revisit panels, making it a much more collaborative experience.”

Empowering our students’ education

Soon to enter her second year, comic lover, Azhar Arale, (BA English), who studied Persepolis, said:

“I chose to study English at City in particular because the books that the students are expected to read are much more diverse than that of other universities in terms of culture and time periods.

“I am in love with the comic layout as well as the beautiful and intricate illustrations that they are made from, which is why I really appreciated having the option to study them.

“The main difference I noticed between studying a comic as opposed to a novel or text was that they offer a lot more comedy. In Persepolis, the writer used this as a tool to show the main character’s naivete when it came to not understanding the political turmoil occurring around her, during the Islamic Revolution in Iran.

Azhar Arale, (BA English)“I have never seen a novel unconventionally use comedy in this way to heighten the drama and tension of a story. It made things more upsetting for the reader as you are faced with images revealing that she doesn’t fully grasp the harsh reality of her situation and the awful things that will and have happened to her as a result.

“Outside of the stories themselves, there was less of a financial burden as some of the comics are available in their entirety for free online, meaning I didn’t have to spend money on books, which is very helpful for a student.”

Azhar Arale, (BA English)

Dr Davies said: “Of course like most English courses, we offer modules on Romanticism, contemporary literature, creative writing, but offering students the option of studying comics lets us give them control of something unique.

“There will always be some form of prejudice against comics in education. Some critics won’t view them as a literary form in the same way as texts or novels, but they are in no way easy to study.

“Comics deal with challenging topics like immigration and paint a far bigger picture about the human impact of these events, therefore demanding a different complex thinking and reading from our students.”

Dr Dominic Davies, Lecturer in English

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