Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Graphic Literature.

So I'm teaching Macbeth at the moment, which I haven't taught for many years. Murder, betrayal, sex, sword fight and naked witches (OK - so that last one's in the Polanski version) Teaching this to teenagers? What could possibly go wrong?

I have lots of support material to wade through, lots of text analyses, lots of historical information, lots of commentary. Some of it is good, some of it needs culling. One of these is a comic...  um, I mean a graphic novel version of the play in modern English. I haven't yet had time to read it, due to end of semester marking and report writing. I have scanned it and it's really good. But there's a blurb on the back which caught my eye. It's a quote, and it's along the lines of "If I were a Literature teacher, I'd buy a whole set of these for my students."

Really?  Why?

Aside from this quote sounding more like a sales pitch than a realistic review, why would students studying Literature use this text? A Literature course should be using the original version. I suppose it could be used briefly if they are looking at comparisons of the same source material. As support material it may be useful in some instances, but from my experience students can't take Literature unless they are doing reasonably well in mainstream English.

During the past few years I've been asked why we don't study more film/TV/graphic novels in English. And yet others have asked me why we do teach these forms, as though they aren't valid texts.

We cover these media because they convey meaning and communicate. We don't spend as much time on them as books (paper and e-book) because they don't use English as much or in the same way. Graphic novels use images to convey setting, and most of the written text is dialogue.

I love my graphic novels - everything from Asterix and Tintin, through Aztec Ace and Alien Legion, to Moonshadow and Saga. And they're as deep and as rich as many other texts. But they usually sit on the fringes of the assessable criteria of English as a subject.

Don't worry, though. There are units available for students which do cover these forms.

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