ENGL 4810/6810: Rhetoric & the Graphic Novel
Instructor: Dr. Michael Rifenburg
Contact: Michael.Rifenburg@ung.edu / @jmrifenburg
Office: 206C Dunlap Hall
Office Hours: after class
Required Materials
 Handa, ed. Visual Rhetoric in a Digital World
 McCloud. Understanding Comics
 Mazzucchelli. Asterios Polyp
 Moore and Gibb0ns. Watchmen
 Satrapi. Persepolis
 Ware. Jimmy Corrigan

General Information:

As I write in mid-June 2017, a movie based on a series of comic book characters is on
pace to generate over a billion dollars, and this number doesn’t even include the
avalanche of money earned through toys, t-shirts, and splashing the images of the
characters on bags of chips, boxes of cereal, and other every day consumer products.
While movies based on comics are nothing new (America fell in love with Christopher
Reeve as Superman back in 1978, and Michael Keaton trilled audiences as Batman in
1989), Marvel, and its slew of recent superhero movies culminating in who knows how
many Avengers’ movies, indicates the booming business of comics.

Yet two things are often overlooked or even forgotten in the lucrative world of comics,
comics, which laid the groundwork for the billion dollar Avengers: Age of Ultron. One,
human history has a long tradition of merging the word and the image during
communicative action. Two, the merging of word and image is facilitating by the wave
digital communicative modes at our disposal so that merging of word and image may
indicate how communication will occur in the future. In other words, while comics point
us to our past, they also point us to our future.

In this course, we are going to approach graphic novels and serialized paperbacks
through rhetoric. We are going to poke, pinch, prod, and pull-apart the pages to think
hard about how color, lines, text, alignment and many other communicative modes
coalesce to make meaning, to drive the text.

We are going to think about what makes comics tick.

In an attempt to think through this challenge, I invite you to compose one 1500 word
and one 2100 word essay and deliver a presentation (for the graduate students).

Three objectives undergird this course. By the end of the course, students will be able to:

 Articulate orally and in writing how communicative modes are utilized in comic
design and how these modes rhetorically function.
 Apply class discussions on rhetoric and graphic novels to a rhetorical analysis of a
 Develop and sustain a written argument informed by class discussions and
readings and utilizing rhetorically appropriate communicative modes.

Assignments and Grading
I calculate final grades according to the percentages below.

Literacy Task #1: 40%
Literacy Task #2: 40%
Participation: 10% (20%)
Presentation: 10%

Definition of Letter Grades for Final Semester Grade:
A 89.5- 100
B 79.5- 89.4
C 69.5- 79.4
D 59.5- 69.4
F 0- 59.4

Submission of Work
Unless specified, I ask that all graded work be typed and submitted to the D2L dropbox
as a .DOC, .DOCX, or .RTF file. The campus maintains many computer labs if access to a
computer is an issue. Please follow MLA or APA format guidelines. See the following
link for more information on formatting according to APA
and MLA (https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/13/).

Additional Information

Follow the link below for the supplemental syllabus, including policy on plagiarism,
inclement weather, and student disability resources.


Release Statement
The policy statement and syllabus are open to change upon the instructor’s discretion.
Finally, continued enrollment in this class signals agreement to the policy statement.

Rifenburg Summer 2017

Literacy Task due dates
All literacy tasks due in the appropriate D2L dropbox by 11:59pm that day.
 Literacy Task 1: Rhetorically analyzing the communicative modes of comics, July
 Literacy Task 2: Teaching the visual in a writing class, July 27.

Week by week plan
Week 1
June 21: Rhetoric and Comics, learning comics
June 22: Handa introduction, Handa Part Two intro, Solomon’s “The Power of
Punctuation” (in Handa) Arnheim’s “Pictures, Symbols, and Signs” (in Handa),
Ehses “Representing Macbeth: A Case Study in Visual Rhetoric” (in Handa)
Week 2
June 26: McCloud chapters 1, 2, 3
June 27: McCloud chapters 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
June 28: Mazzuchelli, stop at “…damn flies…”
June 29: Mazzuchelli, stop at “My head is filled with Nietzsche”
Week 3
July 3: Mazzuchelli until the end
July 5: Paper preparations and Dahlonega library visit
July 6: Visit comic store in Gainesville (Area 52)
Week 4
July 10: Ware stop at “A Few Minutes Later.”
July 11: Ware stop at end
July 12: Porter and Sullivan’s “Repetition and the Rhetoric of Visual Design” (in
July 13: Individual conferences with me & writing


Week 5
July 17: No face-to-face meeting; grad student presentation & undergrad
July 18: No face-to-face meeting; grad student presentation & undergrad
July 19: No face-to-face meeting; grad student presentation & undergrad
July 20: Moore and Gibbons chapters I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII,

Week 6
July 24: Moore and Gibbons to the end; Hill (in Handa), paper preparations
July 25: Satrapi pp 1-62
July 26: Satrapi to the end

Rifenburg Summer 2017

July 27: LT 2 due

Rifenburg Summer 2017

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