Danny Snelson

ENGL 91D | Prof. Daniel Scott Snelson
http://dss-edit.com | dsnelson @ humnet.ucla.edu
Tuesdays & Thursdays | 5:00 – 6:15pm
.•°¤*(¯`★´¯) @ BROAD 2160E (¯´★`¯)*¤°•.

Office Hours: Thurs 2-3pm Kaplan 203
danny snelson @ youcanbook.me

Course TAs:
Josh Hueth | jhueth @ g.ucla.edu
Leo Martinez | martinezleo2112 @ gmail.com



This course explores expanded forms of comics—from traditional graphic novels to the most recent experiments in text and image. Alongside a study of foundational works in comics and graphic novels, we’ll also survey recent publications in manga, webcomics, visual novels, and other experiments in graphic fiction. In each instance, this course attends to issues of representation in comics, including questions of race, class, gender, sexuality, and ability in new modes of graphic storytelling. Students will also experiment with making their own critical comics and graphic narratives. Throughout, we will read many comics and related forms, including the work of Lynda Barry, Eleanor Davis, The Fullbright Company, Akiko Higashimuro, Satoshi Kon, Ilan Manouach, Matt Marden, David Mazzucchelli, Scott McCloud, Brian McDonald and Toby Cypress, Richard McGuire, Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, Trung Le Nguyen, Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, Ben Passmore, Alec Robbins, Dan Salvato, Walter Kaheró:Ton Scott, David Sim, Jillian and Mariko Tamaki, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, and Disa Wallander, among others—up to and including those we discover together in the course of our study.

All students should purchase at least a few books—as many as you can afford—because it’s more fun to read on the page and it’s great to support all the comics publishers, bookstores, creators behind the works we study in this course. 

A map of local comics purveyors will be distributed via Discord, and extra credit will be offered for patronage.

*That said*—every effort will be made to make high quality facsimiles of all books for this course freely accessible online. Where this might prove impossible, digital access may be found through Comixology or Amazon or elsewhere for a modest price.

As a general outline for the course, take note that these are broad strokes subject to change. This seminar is fully interactive, growing and responding to its users. Each week will build on previous weeks, class conversations, and the directions that our study happens to follow. The content of the syllabus will be updated regularly as a result, though the requirements will remain fixed. The syllabus will only be completed after we finish the course, and all research (including your own) has been collected

This course requires synchronous play and participation during lecture sessions. I will not be “lecturing” in a way that will be usefully recorded and accessed asynchronously at some later time. I aim to produce live and meaningful interactions in the classroom. For this reason, your attendance is essential for the quarter.

Attendance is tracked via in-session doodles, which will often have collaborative and interactive components. Repeated absences will cut into your percentages. 

If you cannot attend a meeting for any reason, please make arrangements with your TA before the session.

Approved absences can be made up by posting an external resource related to the session’s reading (an interview, video, article, or otherwise) to the group Discord with a 200 word commentary. In this way, you can still participate in the collective knowledge-building functions of the course. 

This seminar will develop critical and creative tactics for writing through, with, and for comics. Through a series of reaction experiments and collaborative comics productions, a substantial body of creative scholarship on comics, graphic novels, and other sequential arts will be generated. Alongside creative/critical production, students will learn new trends in comics studies and digital platforms. Particular attention will be paid to gender, race, class, and ability in comics studies. Technical and poetic proficiency will work hand-in-hand to develop new perspectives on the creative potential inherent to today’s innovative comics practices. 

Throughout this course, our central meeting place will be Discord. To the uninitiated, it’s a chat server that we’ll be using as our Course Management System and social hub. All news and information about the course will be conducted over Discord. An invitation and signup to the dedicated (private) server will occur on our first meeting. This is a platform for informal conversation, bi-weekly reaction comics, and advance preparation for seminar meetings and course experiments. Responsive posts are encouraged.

Before each class session, we will all produce a short “reaction” to the reading—this may take many different forms, and the rules will vary as we experiment together (and in response to the specific work we study). In short, we’ll produce reaction comics: some response in sequential or graphic format. We’ll discuss and develop this aspect of the course over the first week, and further revision to the process of posting and sharing may respond to course use patterns as they develop.

We will be *playing* in a variety of modes—part of the course will be to learn how to work in these platforms. How does one have meaningful conversation in live digital space? What does a collaboration in a virtual space look like?  Throughout, we’ll interrogate form and function of our reading technologies alongside the comics we discuss each week. 

As such, the course will occasionally require access to a computer, phone, or tablet and adequate internet access in order to fully participate in the range of activities we will explore. If you have any questions or concerns about your setup, please feel free to write or meet with me at any time. 

This course aims to facilitate access to research and exploration across a variety of platforms. Please don’t hesitate to draw attention to any point of access that might be improved: from the volume of the conversation, the size of text, the digital access to the texts, and so forth. All possible accommodations will be made. Additionally, or for more information, you may contact the CAE at (310) 825-1501, or access the CAE website at www.cae.ucla.edu.

Course Actions Due Date % of Grade
Lecture Attendance & Doodles. Attendance will be tracked via DOODLE. Each lecture requires an attendant set of doodles, IRL or digital, submitted to the appropriate Discord channel or IRL. These doodles will be collected and arranged at the end of the quarter for a collective publication. They are also an opportunity to ask any questions of the course or provide commentary to the lectures. See "Lecture Sessions" above for absence policy.
Ongoing, due at end of each lecture
Reaction Comics. Each session will be preceded by the posting of a reaction comic to the featured work to our group Discord. This can be in any format, and will respond to course interests. Your timely engagement with these bi-weekly experiments will enable the ongoing conversation of the course. Please note that these are *experiments* in the fullest sense—you are expected to play, fail, discover, and surprise yourself. Grades will be fully non-qualitative given timely assignment fulfillment. Late work has a daily half-life in credit.
Ongoing, due Monday and Wednesday evenings
Discord Server Interactions. Playful, constructive, collaborative, civil, expanding, informal conversation should characterize the "expanded seminar room" that is Discord. This includes: gathering & sharing resources; responding to peers' works & sharing your own creative process; idle chatter; pet pictures; etc.

Before each session, you should at minimum share:

• Your reaction comic and reflections on what it means in context with the readings, and how it makes meaning.

• At least two responses to peers' works.

• Something (anything) else.
Ongoing, due before class meetings
Friday Seminars. Active participation and conversational engagement with your peers in Friday seminars. These sessions are your opportunity to openly discuss the readings of each week and related issues, as developed collaboratively in dialogue with the course TAs.
Ongoing, Fridays
Final Project or Paper. Any sequential argument. Following expanded comics, this is very open to interpretation: any comic format, even including the academic essay. Open format, open platform, full creative license. Must synthesize and respond to course materials & conversations. We will discuss the scale & scope of final projects in conversation, but a rough guideline might be to imagine the equivalent to 4-5 pages of *polished* academic writing.

Pte. 1 : Comics Gerunds

Week 0

Week 1

Week 2

Pte. 2 : Comics Explorers

Week 3

Week 4

Pte. 3 : Comics Structures & Makers

Week 5

Week 6

Week 7

Pte. 4 : Comics Futures

Week 8



Week 9

Week 10