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Notes Towards Day 9 (Tues, Feb. 14): "The Art of Intervals"

Anne Dalke's picture

"The art form of comics is many centuries old, but it's perceived as a recent invention and suffers the curse of all new media, the curse of being judged by the standards of the old .... as long as we view comics as a genre of writing or a style of graphic art this attitude may never disappear" (Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics, p. 151).

Exemplary for our (proclaimed!) exploration of "the ways new genres evolve, asking what aesthetic, cultural and political purposes those transformations may serve."

But first, looking back, at the genre of academic writing --and the "genre" of the classroom!

I. coursekeeping

Valentine Day's gesture of naming one another!

a long time between Thursday and Tuesday...
so nice to listen in on you thinking, Sunday night!

(don't forget about making your links active ....)

froggies315: One of the questions I’ve been asking myself this week in response to our readings and discussions about making the academy more accessible is: what is my personal responsibility in facilitating this change?

Ayla: Price's idea of a flexible school… seems to me like it would be hindering my own experience …. I'm frustrated by this idea.

dglasser: Maybe life should be viewed more like the web? … more of a process than a production of products? And should school be viewed in the same way, never-ending "plateaus"?

kobeita: During Thursday's discussion … I was defending the educational system… The thought of changing a system that I have successfully maneuvered for the last 16 years of my life scares me. I’m not even sure I want to imagine a world that is any different... I have always known my place a student and never questioned it, just always adapted to this role. But it never occurred to me that other people can’t. I was selfish in my thoughts the other day when I mentioned that in an environment that caters to everyone’s needs, I will be displaced. Why do we, as a society, always want to be “normal” yet “unique”?

EGrumer: ... perhaps people want to be unique in ways that demonstrate agency? ... Having a skill or talent is better than normal. Having a medical condition is worse. Or, perhaps, it is about power. I have no power over whether I am ill or not ... However, I do have power over whether or not I embroider, and it is something I can practice to improve. 

KT: I wonder if the extent to which we want to be “normal” or “unique” depends on the reward system ... we tend to do things that make us feel good about ourselves.…. I wonder how our culture and society could be made to change the things that are rewarded in order to give us more freedom not to be ostracized if we’re the “wrong” kind of “unique" ... more education to foreground the benefits of the “non-normal” differences?

Ayla: there is a connection between mental disorders and brilliance… mental illness and intelligence are connected.

sterrab: The past month has been an enjoyable journey in digital writing but I remain a tourist in the field. I hope to eventually  break free from convention... to be a proud participant of a world of information abundance and access.

vspaeth: I'm confused .... I've wrapped my brain around the idea that mental differences among people can lead us to create various genres of people.  I also understand ... that catagorizing anything into genres is extremely complicated and difficult ...I'm a little nervous for this upcomming theme of graphic novels. …I'm not sure how we're going to tie them together with academic writing and mental differences and digital humanities and everything we've been looking at so far.

leamirella: As revealed by our discussion about what it's like to be "mad at school", I've started to see the difficulties in categorizing literary genres. They're all "differences"…. I'm interested in how the digital humanities ...has started to create a genre out of the digital born texts. Can we do away with genre all together? Why do we need them?

vspaeth: I learned in my Intro to Psych class my first semester of freshman year that we categorize things automatically so we can comprehend the world with live in without having a sensory overload ... genre ... is a part of what makes us human ...

related to my reflections on Margaret Price's visit,
on the necessity--and the necessity of revising!--genres:
* thoughts about structure, or: the dance between opening up/
closing down the "genre"/conventional form of the classroom -->
like medical discourse, what enables one of us
is likely to disable another (Egrumer/leamirella);
I came away from our day-long discussion w/ two counter-impulses:
to relax expectations, and to be clearer about them;
acknowledging our diverse brain-needs, and
our need for shared conventions for learning -->
forthcoming mid-sem evaluation/assessment).

* "What is the academic essay for?"
-- to show what you know (kobieta)
-- to demonstrate competence (i.e. that you know -- sterrab)
but "how well you do it" is irrelevant and uninteresting! (vs. keeping on-->)
-- to learn (= "move" beyond what you didn't know--
still very assessment-driven/productivity based);
-- to enable/further "the" conversation (for whom? what's the social context?)
--> "less agonistic forms of writing" (Cassie's "diablogs").

* "tell dglasser about the Burkean parlor!"

cf. conversation between dglasser:
Competition in my mind can result in great results
and froggies315: imagine places where we don’t need competition

II. Relevance here of Butler's Precarious Life:
* finding a basis in community in our vulnerability to loss and mourning
* The 'I' cannot come into being without a 'you'
* challenge the notion of ourselves as autonomous and in control
* we are compelled to take stock of our interdependence
* fundamental sociality of embodied life, implicated in lives that are not our own
* a normative reorientation for politics, in our collective responsibility for one another
* we are not separate identities…but are already involved in a reciprocal exchange...
that dislocates us from our subject-positions...fundamental modes of dependency bind us…
* I am not fully known to myself, because part of what I am is the enigmatic traces of others"

III. on Thursday, we'll continue our discussion of Understanding Comics....

sterrab: could you help us out w/ some physics here? explain the difference
between Euclidean space (with time as a universal constant,
independent of an observer's state of motion), vs. relativistic spacetime?
see esp. McCloud's discussion on pp. 98-100....

let's begin!
--wonderful guide on "how to read"/what's going on, focusing on vocabulary
(explained to me why I like this form so much: it's Platonic/abstract/
makes me work/engages me as reader the way words do:
about concepts, not the visible world!)

--go 'round, share our range of experiences in reading this text

--a nice bridge from Margaret Price's asking,
"What would academia look like if we built in more
interstices, more time when 'nothing' happened?" and
Scott McCloud's saying, "Comics is an art -- -- of intervals" (pp. 81-82).

Marshall McLuhan's "tetrad" of media effects --
a pedagogical tool for examining the social effects any medium (or of
explaining the social processes underlying the adoption of that medium):
what does it enhance/make obsolete/retrieve (that had been obsolesced earlier),
and "flip into" (when pushed to extremes: it "overheats", or reverses into an opposing form).

So, for example,
* amplifies news and music with sound,
* reduces the importance of print and the visual,
returns the spoken word to the forefront,
"flips into" audio-visual TV.

What happens when we replace "media" with "genre,"
and put "comics" in the center of this tetrad...?

Repeat: what happens when the form of academic
writing takes the form of what it writes about?

V. Reading notes from Understanding Comics

1. record

"sequential art"(5)
space for comics = time for film (7)
history of "woodcut novels," etc (10f)

2. vocabulary

pictorial icons: cartoons simplified reality
abstraction = amplified meaning (30)
our "sketchy" sense of our own faces as masks =
primary cause of childhood fascination with cartoons (36)
deemphasize appearance of physical world, in favor of idea of form;
cartoons in world of concepts (41)
viewer identification speciality of cartooning =
"masking effect" of iconic characters (42)
objectifying power of realistic art: emphasize otherness of reader (44)
Platonic ideal of cartoon (45)
words ultimate abstraction: how different from drawing? (47)
instanteously received pictures, vs. decoded, perceived info in language (49)
(more abstracted pictures require more perception, like words;
more direct words received faster, like pictures)
picture plane: shapes, line, colors themselves, not pretending otherwise (51)
(increasingly realistic) art and (increasingly elaborate) scripts grew further apart over time (55)
triangle of values: art (picture plane)/reality (nature)/ideas (meaning) (57)
cool media (t.v., cartoons) involve audience participation through iconic forms (59)

3. blood in the gutter

fragmented perception of reality (62)
observing hte parts, perceiving the whole;
closure the agent of change, time, and motion (63)
the gutter where human imagination operates (66)
comics fracture space and time:
we make jagged reality continuous (67)
surpassed by the written word: contract between
author and silent, complicit reader (69)
craft of transitions: moment-to-moment, action-to-action, subject-to-subject,
scene-to-scene, aspect-to-aspect (standing still?), non-sequitor (70)
gutters force readers to make a whole (73)
length =space (80)
east/west split: wandering vs. goal-oreintation: being, not getting there (81)
art of intervals/omission (82)
comics is a subtractive art (85)
closure: can be intense, ambiguous, vague (86)
mono-sensory (visual) medium;
gutters require none =engage all senses: released into imagination! (89)
particular awareness of art =closure requires effort (91)

4. Time Frames

panels indicate division of time, space (99)
in comics, time = space (100)
real life = now, yet can see past and future (104)
reader can choose direction (105)
motion lines (110)

5. LIving in Line
emotions made visible, evoked; expressionism
"Art makes visible" (123); "represents the invisible" (129)
drift from visible to invisible: all language (133)
world ballon as "desperation device":
representing sound in a visual medium (134)

6. Show and Tell
convention of keeping words, pictures separate (140)
words increasingly abstract, pictures increasingly representative:
representing the invisible, vs. the visible world (144)
modernist shift: worlds increasingly concrete, pictures increasingly abstract (146)
new media judged by old standards (151)
catalogue of different word/picture combinations (154)

7. Six Steps
art: anything beyond survival or reproduction (164)
idea/form/idiom [GENRE]/structure/craft/surface (170)

8. Color
186: commerce and technology
189: objectify subjects, increase awareness of physical forms

9. Putting It All Together
194: profound isolation of us all -->
media by-products of our inability to communicate directly
199: separate form from content
207: balance of visible/invisible most conspicuous
in split of pictures from words....