INFO 281-11
Seminar in Contemporary Issues
Topic: Graphic Novels (Adult/Teen)
Summer 2018 Syllabus

Morgan Rose Pershing
Office Hours: Virtual

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Canvas Information: Courses will be available beginning June 4th, 6 am PT unless you are taking an intensive or a one-unit or two-unit class that starts on a different day. In that case, the class will open on the first day that the class meets.

INFO 281-11 is a one-unit course that runs from June 4th - July 2nd. It will open on Canvas on June 4th.

You will be enrolled in the Canvas site automatically.

Course Description

Overview of the current state of adult graphic novels with some teen crossover. This class will include an overview of what makes a graphic novel, graphic novel history and assessing what makes a well-rounded graphic novel collection. In addition, students will learn about intellectual freedom challenges to this medium and examine graphic novels from several different categories: Marvel/DC, game-changers, classics, non-fiction/memoir and new/recommended (core collection lists to be provided upon class start date).

Course Requirements


  1. Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics - Using McCloud's text, write a five-page paper on the "invisible art." CLO 1

    Comics are so much more than just words plus pictures. This assignment is your chance to elucidate that by explaining how reading a graphic novel requires active participation and pointing out how unique the medium is, especially as opposed to just prose or single panel cartoons.

    • Reader participation in the story:
      • What happens in the gutter?
      • Explain closure
    • How does the reader come to understand "invisible" things like the passage of time or motion?
    • Did McCloud's book cause you to look at comics in a new way? How so?
  2. Your public library's graphic novel collection - Write a 3-page assessment of the state of the graphic novel collection at your local library. CLO 1

    • Are the collections for children, teens, and adults shelved together in their respective areas or apart from each other (i.e. integrated into the regular book collection)?
    • Are the adult graphic novels separated out from the 741.5s or are they shelved in Dewey order?
    • Does your library treat graphic novels as a medium or a genre? For instance, is Maus shelved with other World War II books (genre) or in the 741.5s (medium)?
    • Does the collection contain the majority of the graphic novels on our core collection lists?
  3. Annotated graphic novel list – Read two graphic novels from each of our core collection lists, 10 in total, and write a 200-250 word annotation for each. CLO 1

    • Start each item with a proper (ALA) bibliographic entry
    • Sum up the plot
    • Comment on any unusual aspects – is there a creative use of the arrangement of panels or a device you’ve never seen used before?
    • Your personal reaction: Did you like it? Does this book deserve a spot in the graphic novel canon?

  4. Weekly and ongoing discussions
    Ongoing: What Are You Reading
    Please post at least three times during the class duration about what graphic novel you are reading from our core collection lists for your annotated list. I want to know if you recommend it and why (or why not?). Things to think about:
    • Do the text and artwork well together?
    • Did you enjoy (or not) something in particular? The art, the plot, etc.
    • What is your gut reaction to this work?
    Discussion Assignments
    • Week 1: Introduce yourself and tell us about your history with graphic novels.
    • Week 2: Publishers – Choose a comic book publisher from the list I provide you and write a post on: the type of materials it publishes, does it have any award winners, how long has it been around, and anything else you think we should know. CLO 3
    • Week 3: Intellectual freedom – Choose a case study from Comic Book Legal Defense Fund ( Sum up the “issue” and the outcome. CLO 3
    • Week 4: Wrap it up and comments – Tell us about your favorite graphic novel you read for this class or recommend one that didn’t end up on our core collection lists. Also, did this class change your mind about graphic novels and what did you come away with?

Course Calendar
*Subject to change with fair notice

Assignment due dates:

  • Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics - Due June 10, 2018
  • Your public library's graphic novel collection - Due June 17, 2018
  • Annotated graphic novel list - Due July 2, 2018

Discussion due dates:

  • Ongoing: What Are You Reading - All three entries due by July 2, 2018. I encourage you to post throughout the four weeks, but you won't be dinged if you post at the end.
  • Week 1: Introduce yourself and tell us about your history with graphic novels - Due June 10, 2018
  • Week 2: Publishers - Due June 17, 2018
  • Week 3: Intellectual freedom - Due June 24, 2018
  • Week 4: Wrap it up and comments - Due July 2, 2018

Students can accumulate up to 100 points.
Late assignments will not be accepted.

Understanding Comics 20
Collection Assessment 20
Annotated Bibliography 35
Discussion: What are you reading? 10
Discussion: Intro & Comics History 5
Discussion: Intellectual Freedom 5
Discussion: Wrap-up 5

Course Workload Expectations

Success in this course is based on the expectation that students will spend, for each unit of credit, a minimum of forty-five hours over the length of the course (normally 3 hours per unit per week with 1 of the hours used for lecture) for instruction or preparation/studying or course related activities including but not limited to internships, labs, clinical practica. Other course structures will have equivalent workload expectations as described in the syllabus.

Instructional time may include but is not limited to:
Working on posted modules or lessons prepared by the instructor; discussion forum interactions with the instructor and/or other students; making presentations and getting feedback from the instructor; attending office hours or other synchronous sessions with the instructor.

Student time outside of class:
In any seven-day period, a student is expected to be academically engaged through submitting an academic assignment; taking an exam or an interactive tutorial, or computer-assisted instruction; building websites, blogs, databases, social media presentations; attending a study group;contributing to an academic online discussion; writing papers; reading articles; conducting research; engaging in small group work.

Course Prerequisites

INFO 281 has no prequisite requirements.

Course Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Locate, evaluate, and use Internet resources that incorporate comic books and graphic novels.
  2. Evaluate and review published works.
  3. Articulate how comic books and graphic novels are a unique medium of communication and storytelling.

Core Competencies (Program Learning Outcomes)

INFO 281 supports the following core competencies:

  1. F Use the basic concepts and principles related to the selection, evaluation, organization, and preservation of physical and digital information items.
  2. I Use service concepts, principles, and techniques to connect individuals or groups with accurate, relevant, and appropriate information.


Required Textbooks:

  • Alpert, A. (2012). Read on..graphic novels: Reading lists for every taste. Libraries Unlimited. Available through Amazon: 1591588251arrow 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

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 or undergraduate (for BS-ISDA);
    For core courses in the MLIS program (not MARA, Informatics, BS-ISDA) — 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 if you wish to stay in the program. 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.

Graduate Students are advised that it is their responsibility to maintain a 3.0 Grade Point Average (GPA). Undergraduates must maintain a 2.0 Grade Point Average (GPA).

University Policies

Per University Policy S16-9, university-wide policy information relevant to all courses, such as academic integrity, accommodations, etc. will be available on Office of Graduate and Undergraduate Programs' Syllabus Information web page at: Make sure to visit this page, review and be familiar with these university policies and resources.

In order to request an accommodation in a class please contact the Accessible Education Center and register via the MyAEC portal.

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