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Group III: Special Topics I

The Graphic Novel: Visualizing History and Bearing Witness to Trauma

Graphic novel on a table

The Graphic Novel: Visualizing History and Bearing Witness to Trauma. “It is rare for a new genre to appear in any art form,” remarks Stephen E. Tabachnick in an essay on pedagogy, yet “[with] the emergence of the graphic or comic book novel, precisely that phenomenon has been happening before the excited gaze of [readers] of both literature and the visual arts.”

This course will provide students with an opportunity to explore and to apply to this relatively new literary form the close reading and critical analytical skills they have become accustomed to applying to more familiar genres.

Framed loosely by a consideration of the history of the genre, we will interrogate the relationships between the graphic novel and other forms of sequential art.

Given that the development of the graphic novel by writers such as Will Eisner, Art Spiegelman, Joe Sacco, Marjane Satrapi, and Alan Moore has coincided with growing representation in literature of troubling social phenomena, our course will especially focus on ways that the genre gives voice to personal trauma such as mental illness, sexual abuse, domestic violence, and loss, and bears witness to such cultural trauma as racism, revolution, war, and genocide.


Assessment consist of:

  • One seminar presentation
  • one term paper
  • regular attendance
  • active participation 
  • final exam


  • ENGL 200
  • ENGL 290


Department of English, Queen's University

Watson Hall
49 Bader Lane
Kingston ON K7L 3N6

Telephone (613) 533-2153



Queen's University is situated on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.