The Graphic Novel - EN717

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2017-18 2018-19
Canterbury Autumn
View Timetable
6 30 (15) MR JP Virtanen




Not available as wild



This module focuses on the exploration of the graphic novel as a visual and literary medium. The module will interpret the term ‘graphic novel’ broadly, and incorporate discussions of comic books, political cartoons, as well as film and television adaptations as a part of its curriculum. The module will begin with an examination of the more mature aesthetic that became increasingly popular for graphic novels during the late 1980s, and examine how these developments have continued to evolve to the present day. Strong emphasis will be placed on readings informed by sociological and political discourses. Students will be encouraged to relate their close analysis of texts to topics such as the distinctions between art and popular culture, and the connections between literary and social history, as well as contemporary concerns such as identity politics, neo-liberal capitalism, protest, and anarchy. As such, the module will demonstrate how the study of graphic novels directly relates to several key concerns in the study of undergraduate English.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

Ten 2-hour weekly seminars and ten 1-hour weekly lectures/workshop sessions

Method of assessment

This module can be taken by standard coursework route or by dissertation. NB: students can only take ONE MODULE by dissertation in stage 3.

Module by standard coursework:
100% coursework: seminar performance (10%), two essays, 3000 words each (45% for each essay, thus constituting 90% of the final mark)

Module by dissertation:
Assessment will be in the form of:
1) a 500-word dissertation proposal (formative assessment and non-marked)
2) a dissertation of 6000 words (90%)
3) seminar performance mark (in accordance with the criteria published in the School of English Undergraduate Handbook (10%)

Preliminary reading

Primary reading

Bechdel, A. 2006. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. London: Jonathan Cape
Morrison, G et al. 2008. New X-Men Ultimate Collection Book 1. New York: Marvel Comics.
Kirkman, R. et al, 2010. The Walking Dead. Berkeley: Image Comics
Miller, F. & Johnson, K. 2006 The Dark Knight Returns. New York: DC Comics
Moore, A. & Gibbons, D., 1996. The Watchmen. New York: DC Comics
Satrapi, M. 2008 Persepolis. London: Vintage

Secondary reading

Delany, S. R. 1999. Shorter Views: Queer Thoughts & the Politics of the Paraliterary. Hanover: Wesleyan University Press.
McCloud, S. 2001. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. New York: HarperPerennial
Wolk, T. 2007. Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What they mean. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students will be able to demonstrate the following subject specific learning outcomes:

• Demonstrate an ability to study and critically respond to a range of graphic novels published between 1980s and the present day.
• Relate their reading to developments and debates within wider social, political and historical contexts.
• Explore and analyse a range of theoretical approaches to graphic novels, both in terms of their literary and visual qualities.
• Critically consider and reflect upon the interrelationship of cultural trends and political discourses in graphic novels, as well as film and television adaptations.
• Show an enhanced understanding of structures and conventions in graphic novels and their adaptations.
• Investigate and question the boundaries between art and popular culture in the context of the 20th and 21st centuries.

On successful completion of this module students will be able to demonstrate the following generic learning outcomes:

• Apply critical reading skills, both in terms of close textual analysis and comparative studies, across a wide range of interdisciplinary materials.
• Demonstrate clear and precise presentation skills, as well as an ability to participate actively and constructively in group discussions.
• Display a heightened ability to conduct individual research, including the ability to analyse, discuss and deploy secondary texts (both critical and theoretical) from appropriate scholarly resources.
• Identify and evaluate relevant research questions and to develop clear, reasoned and original arguments.

In addition, students taking the module by dissertation will be able to:

• Marshal complex knowledge and present it clearly and logically in the substantive form of a dissertation

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