LIT 3180                                                                         Ken Harmon
The Graphic Novel                                                        [email protected]
MW 3:30-4:45 2:00-3:15  AC 425                                  Office: Gateway Center, Suite 530
3 Credit Hours                                                               Office Hours: MW 2:00-3:15pm
Fall 2023                                                                                                 & by appointment
Prerequisite: ENG 1021 or ENG 1027                         Office Phone: (980) 598-3218

This syllabus contains the expectations established for this course that are intended to create a productive learning atmosphere for all students. Some university policies are posted in the course ulearn site (see Resources & Policies) and are to be considered part of this syllabus. Students should read the entire syllabus carefully and understand that they will be expected to fully abide by these policies and expectations.

Welcome to The Graphic Novel!

Graphic novels, an original American art form, are complex works of art and literature that combine visual and verbal representations.  The form of the graphic novel, which developed out of comics, has forced many critics to rethink the position that such works are less complex, less culturally relevant, and of less value than "real literature."  Graphic novels present both mainstream and alternative aesthetics which explore issues of sexuality, race, gender, and class and ask questions about the ways literature and art can represent, affect, and explain the histories and culture that produce them.  This course serves as an introduction to critical methods in popular culture studies with a focus on the graphic novel as cultural product and practice. Students will explore the role graphic design plays in storytelling and will also explore the ways in which meanings emerge in several celebrated texts of the graphic novel genre.  We will begin by developing a historical understanding of the genre, gain an understanding of how to "read" a visual text, and will examine the ways in which the visual elements of the medium provide fresh, creative perspectives on racial and gendered cultural representations.  We will conclude the course with an examination of film adaptations along with a look at how technology may shape the graphic novels of the future.

Required Texts:  

DeConnick, Kelly Sue & Taki Soma. Bitch Planet (Book One): Extraordinary Machine. Berkley: Image Comics, 2015. ISBN: 978-1632153661

Orlando, Steve & JD Faith. Virgil. Berkley: Image Comics, 2015. ISBN: 978-1632154392

Ferris, Emil.  My Favorite Thing is Monsters.  Fantagraphics, 2017.  ISBN:  978-1606999592


Recommended Items:  

A laptop, a tablet (such as an Ipad), and/or a smart phone. You should bring one of these items to class every day. These will be used to complete in-class course work such as blogging, electronic quizzes, etc



Upon satisfactory completion of this course, a student should have the ability to:

(1) Examine graphic storytelling as a cultural and artistic process that is the productive of (often) complex meanings within pop culture.

(2)  Synthesize social, metaphorical, and philosophical meanings/themes in graphic novels and critically analyze these pieces as "texts."

(3) Critique the effectiveness of cultural portrayals within graphic novels.

(4) Analyze and understand the particular textual and visual aspects which characterize the graphic novel as opposed to other mediums.

(5) Engage in critical debates regarding the graphic novel.


This course will involve several different kinds of assignments in an attempt to reinforce material and give you a chance to flex different kinds of scholarly and creative muscles. Those assignments will include short, fairly informal response papers, more formal analytical writing, a creative project of your choice, a chance to lead discussion, and a final project that may include all of these approaches and others.

1)  BLOG POSTS:  There are very informal responses to questions that I pose in class that ask you to engage in some way with the texts we have read for homework or visuals that I present in class.  These are free-writes, and I do not deduct points for grammar, spelling, or punctuation errors.

2.) READER RESPONSES: These are informal responses to the readings or explorations of your ideas, so they do not need to be research-based or make an argument. They should, however, be well thought-out and well-written. Each response should engage with one or more of the assigned readings for the day. Your response paper might attempt to answer one or more of the questions I have posed on the schedule, or it might draw some connection between the day's texts and others that we have looked at. Think of these as focused free-writes.

3.) MIDTERM PRESENTATION: Each of you will create a presentation using Adobe Spark (with a voice over) that demonstrates your understanding of all of the texts up to midterm.   You are graded on content and delivery (tone and speed of voice, etc.).

8.) FINAL PROJECT (Group Project): Your final project for this class will develop of our last unit, the(now quite common) translation of graphic novels to film. You will choose a pairing
(graphic novel and film) that interests you and do an in-depth comparison of how
the two address an issue of your choice. This is, above all, an analytical project. It requires both a paper that the group writes together as well as a group presentation created using Adobe Spark.
You will need to submit a proposal to me that I will approve before you can


Daily Assignments (37.5%)

Blogs                              50               (12.5%)             (10@5 points each)
Reading Quizzes           50               (12.5%)             (10@5 points each) 
Reader Responses       50               (12.5%)              (10@5 points each) 

Major Assignments (62.5%)

Diagnostic/Haddon     10                   (2.5%)
Claim/Subclaim             6                   (1.4%) (2@3 points each)
First Drafts                    6                   (1.4%) (2 @3 points each)
Peer Critiques                6                    (1.4%) (2@3 points each)
Smarthinking Plans       6                   (1.4%) (2@3 points each)
Midterm Exam             60                   (15%)
Topic Proposal             5                    (1.25%)
Group Project             60                    (15%)
Presentation               11                    (2.755%)
Final Exam                  80                    (20%)

  Final Grades:
  360 - 400 A
  320 - 359 B
  280 - 319 C
  240 - 279 D
  0 - 239 F

NOTE:  You must complete ALL major assignments in order to pass the course.
 Failure to complete any of the required assignments will result in a final course grade of F.

Official academic grades can be accessed via jwuLink. Grades maintained in the Ulearn course management system are for tracking purposes only and may not reflect all of the criteria considered with calculating a student's final grade.

Taking classes is your job here at the university. Thus, you should treat the work and requirements accordingly. In the workplace things such as absences, tardiness, and not doing your work properly have negative consequences. This is the case in my class as well. Many students’ low grades are a result of not following directions or policies as well as not expending enough effort. It is your responsibility to be aware of the policies on this syllabus. If you miss class it is your responsibility to check with your classmates to find out what you have missed. And though you are always welcome to follow up with me if you are absent, do not ask me if you “missed anything important.”

Your grade is dependent on a number of factors that, together and holistically, inform the evaluation and assessment of your performance. In summary, these criteria include attendance, participation, reading responses/journal entries, reading quizzes, discussion questions, a presentation, and the successful completion of any other reading and written assignments.

Note: The reading load is quite heavy and the pace fast. Also, because writing is a means of discovery and a pathway to understanding, it is an important activity in this class in conjunction with the reading. Indeed, you should think of your writing as a mode of reading that will help you begin to understand the literature at hand. When essays, journals, and in-class assignments are considered together you will be doing some kind of writing assignment every week. Be prepared to spend much time carefully reading, considering, discussing, and writing about the texts in the course. If you cannot devote the time necessary to keep up with the assignments, and to do so in a critical manner, you will not do well in this class and may want to consider if this is the right class for you.

PLAGIARISM: All course assignments ask you to write using what you have learned in the course and using your own thinking and writing skills. If you use any ideas, paraphrases, or exact wording from a source other than yourself (including the textbook), you must document the source using MLA parenthetical documentation style (see handbook or ask instructor). Any source used but not documented will be considered plagiarism, for which you will receive a failing grade for the course. You might also be placed on probation or expelled from the university. If you have any questions about plagiarism, ask before you act. Ask me; also see Best Practices for Avoiding Plagiarism.


A. Plagiarism, a SERIOUS, academic violation, which can lead to an F for the course, is the use of WORDS, IDEAS, or STRUCTURES of others (published sources, friends, relatives) without acknowledgment. There is no excuse for willful plagiarism.
B. Except where appropriate (quoting or paraphrasing from primary or secondary sources), your work is presumed to be totally your own writing (i.e. original).
C. When you QUOTE OR PARAPHRASE FROM ANY sources, you MUST cite them with appropriate specific documentation (usually author and page number in parentheses + Works Cited list at end). This includes subject matter of the essay. If you quote or paraphrase precisely from a work of literature, you must cite the author of that work.  
D. If you do not understand the format for documenting sources, see me for help before turning in an essay. Refer to your handbook for further clarification.

Examples of plagiarism can include, but are not limited to: 

a) Using another student’s work and submitting portions or the entire assignment with your name. 

b) Reusing your own work from a previous assignment or publication without acknowledging the earlier use and obtaining permission for the reuse from the faculty to whom the reused work is submitted. 

c) Failing to include citations, quotations, or works cited pages when using outside sources. 

d) Creating false citations, quotations, or works cited pages that do not correspond to the information you used in your assignment. 

e) Unauthorized collaboration: having another person edit portions of your assignment in their own words. 

Student Expectations include, but are not limited to: 

a) Understanding and complying with the Academic Integrity Policy. 

b) Obtaining clarification if they do not understand whether certain conduct covered by this Policy is permitted or if they do not understand how to properly credit sources. Students acknowledge that not knowing is not an excuse for violating this Policy.

c) Agreeing that by taking courses at JWU, their assignments may be subject to submission to plagiarism detection software (e.g., for textual similarity review and/or for the detection of plagiarism. All submitted assignments will be included as source documents in the plagiarism detection database solely for the purpose of detecting plagiarism or misuse of such assignments. Use of any plagiarism detection software service is subject to the usage policy posted on the software website.

TURNITIN.COM: All major essays written for this course must be submitted electronically to no later than class time on the date that an assignment is due. Essays that are not uploaded to will not be accepted. 

SMARTTHINKING TUTOR: Students are required to submit each draft of an essay assignment to the SmartThinking tutor a total of two times per essay for feedback and are expected to use that information to revise each essay assignment. If a student fails to do so, they will lose one letter grade per each assignment not submitted to the tutor. See the SmartThinking link in Ulearn for submission details.

SUBMITTING COURSE ASSIGNMENTS: You are required to electronically submit all assignments to Ulearn or a blog for this course. Assignments not submitted in the manner will not be accepted. Any items sent by email will be deleted.

ATTENDANCE: Students are expected to attend all classes, arrive on time and remain for the entire class period, and report to class fully prepared with all required materials. While active learning will take different forms in different classroom contexts, students are expected to demonstrate active engagement in the classroom. Any missed in-class assignments cannot be made up.


It is the student’s responsibility to initiate procedures leading to a formal withdrawal (“W”) in order to avoid a failing (“F”) grade. To receive a W, a student must withdraw prior to ber December 8, 2023. 

TARDIES: If a student is more than 10 minutes late for class or leaves more than 10 minutes before class is over, they are counted absent for the day. 

ETIQUETTE: Students are expected to respect their classmates’ time and learning environment. Therefore, show up for class prepared and on time. ALL CELL PHONES SHOULD BE SET TO SILENT BEFORE ENTERING THE CLASSROOM. Each time a cell phone disrupts class the entire class will take a pop quiz. Also, if a student leaves the classroom to answer a call, they will be counted absent for the day and not allowed back in the classroom that day. Other disruptive classroom behavior, defined as anything that would interfere with “an instructor’s ability to conduct the class” or “The ability of other students to profit from the instructional program,” is strictly prohibited. This includes texting while the professor is lecturing or during group work when students should be focused on completing the task at hand.


NOTE: Persons other than registered students are not allowed to attend academic sessions, laboratory classes, computer labs, and other University academically supported areas.

LATE PAPER/ASSIGNMENT POLICY: Turn in all your assignments on their scheduled due dates. You must submit the final drafts of all essays and their associated process work (critique, reflection, etc.) in Blackboard. NO PROCESS, NO GRADE. Keep a duplicate copy of all assignments you turn in and save all of your files in several locations (flash drive, hard drive, email, etc.). I DO NOT ACCEPT LATE PAPERS.

REVISION: You may rewrite one failing essay (original grade of D or F); the rewritten essay may receive no higher than a “C.” Revision must accompany the original graded copy.

GRADED ESSAYS: All essays for this course are graded electronically. Please see the Turnitin Grademark Feedback video in ulearn for instructions to obtain the comments and grading rubric for your essay. 

STUDENT E-MAIL: Students are required to obtain and use a JWU e-mail account for University communication. You must obtain your password to do so. Student accounts are created automatically for those who are active and in good standing. Student email addresses are available through Immediately contact the helpdesk at 1-866-598-4357 if you need assistance. Take care of this the first day of class. Students are expected to maintain an email account throughout the semester and check it daily for important information regarding upcoming assignments, course announcements, etc.

IN-CLASS ASSIGNMENTS: Students will often complete in-class assignments and short writing projects. In-class projects and quizzes are team-based and scheduled for a specific class period and cannot be made up after that class date.

WORKSHOPS/WRITING PROCESS: All essays will be critiqued by peer groups in class. Essays without workshop response will drop one full letter grade.

Scores for major essays are reduced by one full letter grade for each missing item of the writing process: invention/prewriting; late first draft or no first draft; Smarthinking report and revision plan; reflection

PARTICIPATION: Come to class prepared to discuss the assigned readings. Contribute productively to discussion. Quizzes and in-class writings are usually based on the readings.


WRITING CENTER: Located in the academic building, 4th floor (Suite 410), the writing center is open to all Johnson & Wales University students who need help with writing, whether they are taking an English course or not. Students are encouraged to seek assistance with essays, research projects, and related assignments. Students are asked to make an appointment with a Writing Center staff member in order to receive prompt assistance. The center provides 30 minute appointments and is staffed from 8:30-4:30 M-R. Consultants work with students on any part of the writing process -- planning, drafting, focusing, organizing, revising, or editing, and with papers from all disciplines. Please do not hesitate to use the tutor’s assistance. Remember to bring a copy of your assignment and your drafts to any Writing Center conference.

Going to the Writing Center does not guarantee you a good grade because tutors will not proofread your papers. The Writing Center’s goal is to improve your overall writing skills (organization, thesis & supporting paragraphs, audience/assignment issues, as well as teaching punctuation and grammar rules after reviewing big picture issues), which sometimes takes several sessions, depending on your existing writing skills. For more information, you may contact them at [email protected]
You may also visit the Center for Academic Support website at:

You may book an appointment by calling them at 980-598-1500 or dropping by Academic Center 410 during these hours.

You may also book an appointment online using these steps:

  Go to JWU Link. 
  Go to Academics. 
  Go to USucceed. 
  Click on “Courses”. 
  Click on the link beside your English class to schedule an appointment