LIBR 271A-01
LIBR 271A-10
Genres and Topics in Youth Literature
Topic: Graphic Novels
Spring 2012 Greensheet

Gail de Vos
Other contact information: While the best method to contact me is by email, you are welcome to call at 1-780-797-3949. (MST).
Office location: Online
Office Hours: TBA

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Textbooks and Readings
Course Requirements
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D2L Information: This course will be available beginning January 25, 2012. You will be enrolled into the site automatically. I will send more information about course access as we approach this date through MySJSU.

Course Description

This course examines the history and contemporary reality of comic book publishing and readership in Canada, Great Britain, Japan and the United States and issues related to perception of the format by educators, librarians, and readers. Focus on collection development, censorship concerns and challenges, gender issues in readership and in content, genres, and the imact of the Internet.

Course Prerequisites: LIBR 200 required.

Course Objectives

Student Learning Outcomes

  1. Appreciate the diversity and potential of the comic book and graphic novel format.
  2. Understand comic books and graphic novels as a unique medium of communication and storytelling.
  3. Assess the role of comic books and graphic novels in western and Japanese society and popular culture.
  4. Evaluate and review published works.
  5. Create an annotated bibliography of a genre, subgenre, issue or topic found in the graphic novel format.
  6. Present a virtual seminar on issues and topics in graphic novels
  7. Be familar with Internet resources that incorporate comic books and graphic novels and understand the concept of Webcomics.
  8. Be prepared to select and maintain a comic book and graphic novel library collection in a school or public library.

LIBR 271a supports the following MLIS Core Competencies:

  • Recognize the social, cultural, and ecomiic dimensions of information use
  • Use the basic concepts and principles related to the creation, evaluation, selection, aquisition, preservation and organization of specific items or collections of information
  • Understand the nature of research, researh methods and research findings; retrieve, evaluate and synthesize scholarly and professional literature for informed decision making by specific client groups
  • Demonstrate oral and written communication skills necessary for group work, collaborations and profesional level presentations
  • Contribute to the cultural, economic, educational and social well-being of our communities

Course Requirements

Course Assignments
This course requires a variety of assignments designed to introduce students to the concepts covered in class and in the text, as well as to practical applications of methods.  Students will work individually and participate in group discussions on D2L.

Students accumulate 100 points to determine the course grade.  See Grading below for details.  Details for the assignments are given below. Any queries on the assignments are welcome by your instructor. If they are general questions, please post them in the appropriate section on the discussion board; if they are specific to you, please send your query to your instructor by e-mail.

  • Book Discussions
    25 points (15 points for the content and monitoring of the book discussion, 5 points for additional material, and 5 points for summary of discussion)

    The book discussion groups will consist of students in each of the two sections of this course. Group one will be students in Section 01 # 24366, and Group Two, students in Section 10 # 29445. Each student within the groups will be responsible for leading the discussion on one of the titles from our reading list, with the exceptions of McCloud, Sturm, and the superhero and manga titles which will be full class discussions. Please register your selection with me as soon as possible as there will be no duplications of titles within the groups. There will, however, be two simultaneous discussions for each title but you will only have access to the discussion conducted within your group. Summaries of each group’s discussion will be posted by each of the group leaders in the “Book Discussion Summaries” forum within a week of the conclusion of each discussion. Marks for this assignment will not be distributed until all of the discussions have been completed.

    The person responsible for the week’s book discussion:
    • Will establish the discussion format, offering background information and discussion questions, in the forum available by the Sunday of each week of classes but the official discussion will run from Monday through Friday (weekend contributions are optional and dependent on individual book discussion leaders).
    • Will monitor the discussion, leading her or his classmates in the discussion and responding to their comments and encouraging them to contribute further.
    • Will post additional material found online about the book, author, or topic which the student finds pertinent.
    • Will post a summary (of at least 500 words) of the discussion to the discussion board in the appropriate forum for the other group within a week of the conclusion of the discussion.
  • Students will be marked on all the above aspects of the assignment as indicated and are expected to contribute in a meaningful manner to all of the book discussions as part of their overall class contribution mark. (Outcomes A, B,C,F, G, H)
  • Virtual Seminar
    30 points (15 points for the content of the seminar, 12 points for the handling of the seminar itself, 3 points for a brief evaluation of the experience sent to the instructor within a week of completion of the seminar.) Marks will be distributed once all of the seminars have been completed.

    Each student will select a topic from the list below or from the course material itself that has not been discussed in any detail on the discussion site, research it, and post their findings on the conference site. They will then lead the rest of the class through a discussion of that topic and research. There will be no duplication of topics, so please register your choice with your instructor as soon as possible by mail. I will keep a current listing in the “Virtual Seminar Topics” in the forum on Discussion of Assignments. Please select the date you would like to run the seminar. They will begin on a Monday (the individual seminar forums will be created the previous Sunday for your convenience) and run for that week with the seminar leader monitoring the discussion. (Seminar leaders may request permission from their classmates to adjust the timing of their seminar to include Saturday.) The seminar forums will remain open without monitoring for further discussion throughout the duration of the course. (Outcomes A, B,C,F, G, H)

    Topics for the virtual seminar assignment: These are just suggestions. Please feel free to follow your interests but do pass them by your instructor before finalizing your choice.
    • How is manga different from western comics?
    • What ways do you think that manga and anime have influenced North American comics, animation and popular culture?
    • Classics Illustrated. Compare the contemporary Classics illustrated with the early versions. Are they faithful adaptations? Do they lose their literary quality? Does the artwork compensate for the loss of the words? Etc.
    • Marketing comics and graphic novels to female readers. How, why and what?
    • Crossover comics: The appearance of a major character on another character’s home field. The first crossover occurred in Marvel Mystery #8, with a clash between the Sub-Mariner and the Human Torch. Are these crossovers common? Why and how do they exist?
    • Discuss the Archie Publication phenomenon and the Archie website in relationship to literacy and learning.
    • Collecting Comics: a help or hinder to the industry? What does it mean for library collections?
    • Giveaways: The earliest comic books were giveaways of comic strip reprints, as Max Gaines sold such companies as Canada Dry, Kinney Shoes, and Procter & Gamble on the idea of distributing premiums. More recently, comic books were given away, or sold for a nominal price at MacDonald’s and other places. Free Comic Book Day in North America has become an annual event. What are the advantages and disadvantages of these “gimmicks?”
    • Webcomics.
    • Comics to films
    • Comic Book Legal Defense Fund: Why do comic book artists and retailers need protection? What are they afraid of?
    • Alan Moore
    • Sandman by Neil Gaiman
  • Annotated Bibliography Assignment
    30 points

    The completed assignment will consist of:
    1. A brief introduction stating the chosen theme and intended readership of the bibliography, documenting your search and sources, identifying your criteria for selection, and characterizing the body of material available on the theme. (5)
    2. A bibliography of your chosen titles, each entry consisting of the bibliographic citation for the book, the short evaluation and citations for any reviews. (15)
    3. Critical evaluation of one of the titles in your bibliography. (10)
  • The assignment is to compile an annotated bibliography of graphic novels for any intended reading audience of your choice (children, young adults, adults, females, males etc.) on a particular theme, and to document your search strategy and sources. You may not include any of the titles in our class reading list. There is no required format. You may create a website or a word document to be attached or pasted on the discussion site in the discussion forum “THE BIBLIOGRAPHIES” under the umbrella heading of “Assignments”.

    The purpose of the assignment is to have the students work with selection and reviewing tools, explore the possibilities of subject access to graphic novels, and to evaluate the graphic novels themselves.

    Choose a theme that interests you or you think would be worthwhile and register it and your intended audience on the discussion site in “selections for bibliography” as soon as possible. There will be no duplication of themes for specific audiences. (I.E. two bibliographies may be created on historical fiction if one is intended for middle school readers in a school library and the other for adult readers in a public library.)

    Select ten titles dealing with the chosen theme, including at least three published after 2008. Make a note of your initial search strategy and the modifications you had to make to it: that is, record how you set about finding titles on your theme, what worked and what didn’t. Characterize the body of material available on your theme: are there many titles to chose from, or did you have trouble finding ten? Is access straightforward? Have graphic novels on this subject been published steadily over the years, are they a recent phenomenon (beyond the obvious increased interest in graphic novels), or is the subject out of fashion?

    Choose one of the titles in your bibliography and evaluate it according to the criteria discussed in the class material and the concepts listed below. Please cover these concepts in any order or format that is appropriate for the central thought of your evaluation. Please register your selection of this title on the discussion site in “selections for evaluation” as soon as possible. There will be no duplication of titles for evaluation. Please supply a short plot summary and concise evaluation (no longer than 250 words) for the nine other titles in your list. Are there reviews available for these titles? If so, do you feel that they are adequate? Please include the citations for at least two reviews (if available) with your annotations.
  1. Who created the work and why?
    1. Relevant personal history of the creator(s)
    2. Artistic influences
    3. What they were attempting to achieve
  2. Is the work significant in the history of the medium? Why?
  3. Discuss how meaning is developed in the work?
    1. How does encapsulation (breaking down the narrative into panels) contribute to the meaning?
    2. How does composition (elements within the panels) contribute to the meaning?
      1. Signs (icon, index, symbol)
      2. Color/shading
      3. “Cinematic” elements (lighting, distance, angle)
      4. Style
    3. How does layout (arrangement of panels on the page) contribute to the   meaning?
    4. How does closure (meaning created by the combination of panels) contribute to the meaning?
  4. What is your personal response to this title? Why did you select it for evaluation?

    (Outcomes A, B, C, D, E, H)
  • Class participation
    15 points

    Students will participate on D2L, Blackboard Collaborate sessions, and in response to student presentations.  (Outcomes A-H)

Course Calendar

Tentative Schedule (subject to change)

  • Week 1 (Learning Outcomes A, B)
    • Introduction to class
    • Overview of comic books, graphic novels, manga
    • Selection of topics and titles for the book discussions, virtual seminar and annotated bibliography assignments
  • Week 2 (Learning Outcomes B, C)
    • Comic Book Fandom
    • Comic Book Culture
    • Perception of Comic books and graphic novels (general public)
    • Schedule all presentations
  • Week 3 (Learning Outcomes D, E, F, G)
    • Book Discussion on Chapter 1 & 2 of Understanding Comics
    • History of comic books in Canada, United States, Great Britain, Japan
    • Students begin research on topics chosen
  • Week 4 (Learning Outcomes A, B, C, D, F, H)
    • Book Discussion on Chapter 3 & 4 of Understanding Comics
    • Book Discussion on Arrival (Tan)
    • Mechanics of Comic Books
    • Student presentations: Virtual Seminars (1-3)
  • Week 5 (Learning Outcomes A, B, C, D, F, H)
    • Book Discussion on Chapter 5 of Understanding Comics
    • Book Discussion on Owly (Runton)
    • Book Discussion on Superhero title
    • Discussion of Genres and Subgenres
    • Student presentations: Virtual Seminars (4-6)
  • Week 6 (Learning Outcomes A, B, C, D, F, G)
    • Book Discussion on Chapter 6 of Understanding Comics
    • Book Discussion on Bone (Smith)
    • Discussion of Themes and age appropriateness
    • Student presentations: Virtual Seminars (7-9)
  • Week 7 (Learning Outcomes A, B, C, D, F, G)
    • Book Discussion on Chapter 7 of Understanding Comics
    • Book Discussion on Bigfoot (Pascal)
    • Awards in the comic book world and the book world in general (including the graphic novel format);
    • Comic Books and Awards: do they make a difference?
    • Student presentations: Virtual Seminars (10-12)
  • Week 8 (Learning Outcomes A, B, C, D, F, G)
    • Book Discussion on Chapter 8 of Understanding Comics
    • Book Discussion on Lewis & Clark
    • Discussion of Comic books in the library: Collection development and selection policies for graphic novel collections
    • Student presentations: Virtual Seminars (13-15)
  • Week 9 (Learning Outcomes A, B, C, D, F, G)
    • Book Discussion on Chapter 9 of Understanding Comics
    • Book Discussion on Essex County (Lemire)
    • Discussion of Comic books in the library: access issues
    • Book reviews for graphic novels: online and in print
    • Student presentations: Virtual Seminars (16-18)
  • Week 10 (Learning Outcomes A, B, C, D, F, G)
    • Book Discussion on Adventures in Cartooning
    • Book Discussion on Smile (Telgemeier)
    • Book Discussion on American Born Chinese
    • Discussion of Comic books in the library: comic books and education
    • Student presentations: Virtual Seminars (19-21)
  • Week 11 (Learning Outcomes A, B, C, D, F, G)
    • Book Discussion on Manga of choice
    • Discussion of Manga and anime
    • Student presentations: Virtual Seminars (22-24)
  • Week 12 (Learning Outcomes A, B, C, D, F, G)
    • Book Discussion on Scott Pilgrim (O’Malley)
    • Discussion of OELM (Original English Language Manga)
    • Student presentations: Virtual Seminars (25-27)
  • Week 13 (Learning Outcomes A, B, C, D, F, G)
    • Book Discussion on Skim (Tamaki)
    • Book Discussion on Anya’s Ghost (Brosgol)
    • Discussion of comic book publishers and mainstream publishers
    • Student presentations: Virtual Seminars (28-30)
  • Week 14(Learning Outcomes A, B, C, D, F, G)
    • Book Discussion on Tricksters (Dembicki)
    • Book Discussion on Persepolis (Satrapi)
    • Discussion of the portrayal of other cultures (from the inside out)
  • Week 15 (Learning Outcomes A, B, C, D, E, G, H)
    • Book Discussion on Fun Home
    • Discussion of censorship issues
    • Student presentations: Annotated Bibliography due
  • Week 16 (Learning Outcomes A, B, C, D, G, H)
    • Book Discussion on Maus (Spiegelman)
    • Discussion on Maus

Course Grading

Students accumulate 100 points to determine the course grade.

Book Discussion 25 points
Virtual Seminar 30 points
Annotated Bibliography 30 points
Class Participation 15 points

Note: the marks for the book discussions and virtual seminars will not be distributed until all of the assignments have been completed. Late penalites will apply for the annotated bibliography but lateness for the other two assignments will not be tolerated. Your instructor is somewhat flexible if deadlines must be adjusted for the first two assigments if absolutely necessary.

Textbooks and Readings

In addition to the textbooks below you are required to read and discuss (1) any superhero title of your choice as long as it was published in the last two years an (2) any recent manga title of your choice.

Required Textbooks:

  • Bechdel, A. (2006). Fun home: A family tragicomic. Houghton Mifflin. Available through Amazon: 0618477942 arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Dembicki, M. (2010). Trickster: Native American tales: A graphic collection. Fulcrum. Available through Amazon: 1555917240 arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Lemire, J. (2009). The complete essex county. Top Shelf. Available through Amazon: 160309038X arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • McCloud, S. (1994). Understanding comics: The invisible art. Harper Perennial. Available through Amazon: 006097625X. arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Runton, A. (2004). Owly vol 1: The way home & the bittersweet summer. Marietta, GA: Top Shelf. Available through Amazon: 1891830627 arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Satrapi, M. (2003). Persepolis: The story of a childhood. Pantheon. Available through Amazon: 0375422307 arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Smith, J. (2005). Bone, vol. 1: Out from boneville. Scholastic. Available through Amazon: 0439706408 arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Spiegelman, A. (1996). The complete Maus: A survivor's tale. Pantheon. Available through Amazon: 0679406417 arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Sturm, J., Arnold, A. & Fredrick-Frost, A. (2009). Adventures in cartooning. First Second. Available through Amazon: 1596433698 arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Telgemeier, R. (2010). Smile. Scholastic. Available through Amazon: arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Yang, G. L. (2006). American Born Chinese. Square Fish. Available through Amazon: 0312384483 arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain

Grading Scale

The standard SJSU School of Information Grading Scale is utilized for all iSchool courses:

97 to 100 A
94 to 96 A minus
91 to 93 B plus
88 to 90 B
85 to 87 B minus
82 to 84 C plus
79 to 81 C
76 to 78 C minus
73 to 75 D plus
70 to 72 D
67 to 69 D minus
Below 67 F


In order to provide consistent guidelines for assessment for graduate level work in the School, these terms are applied to letter grades:

  • C represents Adequate work; a grade of "C" counts for credit for the course;
  • B represents Good work; a grade of "B" clearly meets the standards for graduate level work;
    For core courses in the MLIS program (not MARA) — INFO 200, INFO 202, INFO 204 — the iSchool requires that students earn a B in the course. If the grade is less than B (B- or lower) after the first attempt you will be placed on administrative probation.  You must repeat the class the following semester. If -on the second attempt- you do not pass the class with a grade of B or better (not B- but B) you will be disqualified.
  • A represents Exceptional work; a grade of "A" will be assigned for outstanding work only.

Students are advised that it is their responsibility to maintain a 3.0 Grade Point Average (GPA).

University Policies

General Expectations, Rights and Responsibilities of the Student

As members of the academic community, students accept both the rights and responsibilities incumbent upon all members of the institution. Students are encouraged to familiarize themselves with SJSU's policies and practices pertaining to the procedures to follow if and when questions or concerns about a class arises. See University Policy S90-5 at More detailed information on a variety of related topics is available in the SJSU catalog at In general, it is recommended that students begin by seeking clarification or discussing concerns with their instructor. If such conversation is not possible, or if it does not serve to address the issue, it is recommended that the student contact the Department Chair as a next step.

Dropping and Adding

Students are responsible for understanding the policies and procedures about add/drop, grade forgiveness, etc. Refer to the current semester's Catalog Policies section at Add/drop deadlines can be found on the current academic year calendars document on the Academic Calendars webpage at The Late Drop Policy is available at Students should be aware of the current deadlines and penalties for dropping classes.

Information about the latest changes and news is available at the Advising Hub at

Consent for Recording of Class and Public Sharing of Instructor Material

University Policy S12-7,, requires students to obtain instructor's permission to record the course and the following items to be included in the syllabus:

  • "Common courtesy and professional behavior dictate that you notify someone when you are recording him/her. You must obtain the instructor's permission to make audio or video recordings in this class. Such permission allows the recordings to be used for your private, study purposes only. The recordings are the intellectual property of the instructor; you have not been given any rights to reproduce or distribute the material."
    • It is suggested that the syllabus include the instructor's process for granting permission, whether in writing or orally and whether for the whole semester or on a class by class basis.
    • In classes where active participation of students or guests may be on the recording, permission of those students or guests should be obtained as well.
  • "Course material developed by the instructor is the intellectual property of the instructor and cannot be shared publicly without his/her approval. You may not publicly share or upload instructor generated material for this course such as exam questions, lecture notes, or homework solutions without instructor consent."

Academic integrity

Your commitment, as a student, to learning is evidenced by your enrollment at San Jose State University. The University Academic Integrity Policy F15-7 at requires you to be honest in all your academic course work. Faculty members are required to report all infractions to the office of Student Conduct and Ethical Development. The Student Conduct and Ethical Development website is available at

Campus Policy in Compliance with the American Disabilities Act

If you need course adaptations or accommodations because of a disability, or if you need to make special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible, or see me during office hours. Presidential Directive 97-03 at requires that students with disabilities requesting accommodations must register with the Accessible Education Center (AEC) at to establish a record of their disability.

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