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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: July ::
Classical Comics
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0460  Monday, 9 July 2007

[1] 	From: 	Mike Jensen <
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	Date: 	Friday, 06 Jul 2007 10:43:07 -0700
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 18.0456 Classical Comics

[2] 	From: 	Larry Weiss <
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	Date: 	Friday, 06 Jul 2007 14:52:02 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0456 Classical Comics

[3] 	From: 	Hannibal Hamlin <
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	Date: 	Friday, 06 Jul 2007 15:14:04 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0456 Classical Comics

[4] 	From: 	Carol Barton <
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	Date: 	Sunday, 8 Jul 2007 17:33:05 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0456 Classical Comics


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Mike Jensen <
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Date: 		Friday, 06 Jul 2007 10:43:07 -0700
Subject: 18.0456 Classical Comics
Comment: 	RE: SHK 18.0456 Classical Comics

Ah, I should never read SHAKSPER posts except those answering a question 
that I have posed, and I should never, ever, go back and read the past 
posts of a thread. As usual, too many members comment from the gut, 
without citing or perhaps even knowing the literature, which leads to 
mere opinion and repetition. Opinions are fine, but they are not "right."

Those who wish to be better informed may want to see the next few issues 
on Shakespeare Newsletter, where a series on Shakespeare comics begins 
(I believe) in the next issue.

All the best,
Mike Jensen

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Larry Weiss <
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Date: 		Friday, 06 Jul 2007 14:52:02 -0400
Subject: 18.0456 Classical Comics
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0456 Classical Comics

 >Comic books are not, IMHO, a substitute in a classroom for
 >Shakespeare, or Vergil, or Dickens or Woolf, or Rushdie, or ???

No one here said they were.  Please re-read what I said.  You will find 
that I AGREE with you that comic books are not a substitute for the real 
thing.  They might, however, inspire young children to want to try the 
real thing, or at least not be too afraid of it.  I don't see that you 
disagree with that or think it is a bad thing.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Hannibal Hamlin <
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Date: 		Friday, 06 Jul 2007 15:14:04 -0400
Subject: 18.0456 Classical Comics
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0456 Classical Comics

I suppose I can join those who are fessing up to a youth absorbed in 
comics. The Classics Illustrated were especially helpful in 
comprehensive exams, though with some exceptions (Michael Strogoff and 
Lorna Doone seem to have passed over the horizon). I'm not sure the real 
point here is an either/or. To condemn an entire genre even on the basis 
of dominant trends is critically narrow, though I do notice that every 
time this topic comes up, everyone cites Maus.  One brilliant example is 
not really enough to make the point, and my (admittedly haphazard) 
reading around in the genre hasn't turned up anything else to match 
Spiegelman's work, not even Satrapi's Persepolis , a compelling story 
that doesn't seem to be much enhanced by the comic form.  Most comics 
were and remain enjoyable (perhaps) but Literature Lite.  Studying them 
can reveal much about national (adolescent?) cultural values, to be 
sure, and one can chart the development of techniques of drawing and 
writing, but the content of most comics is formulaic and superficial. 
Of course, that may not prove the case in the future.  John Knapp's 
responses point to a larger problem, however, and that has to do with 
the danger of falling for the trendy and techy simply because they're 
there.  Since the 60s arguments have been made for the power of images 
over texts and the new "literacy," and now there is a whole new 
generation of gadgets to support the case for what has been relabeled 
"digital media."  There is nothing inherently wrong with these media, 
but I find most of the arguments for their "content" unconvincing.  The 
adage "a picture is worth a thousand words" is true only if one is 
speaking of naturalistic description.  If one turns to the development 
of complex ideas or the representation of interior psychology, say, the 
reverse tends to be true.  This is what we risk missing if we rush 
uncritically to embrace film or comics versions of great literary works. 
  Maybe a comic book Proust does appeal to students more than the 
novels, but what is the point?  It's hardly important to read Proust for 
plot (!), and this seems much like the Lambs' tales from Shakespeare. 
Maybe they will encourage the reading of the originals, but more likely 
not.  And the students who do end up reading the originals will have to 
spend a good deal of time unlearning before they can really learn.  You 
know what I mean if you've taught Romeo and Juliet or A Midsummer 
Night's Dream to undergraduates and have had to spend time at the start 
cutting away misconceptions based on early experiences in high school or 
the popular media.

Hannibal

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Carol Barton <
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Date: 		Sunday, 8 Jul 2007 17:33:05 -0400
Subject: 18.0456 Classical Comics
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0456 Classical Comics

As a sometime academic (but still publishing scholar) who no longer has 
the leisure to contemplate, a la MLA, how many gay angels can dance on 
the head of a Native American pin, I too have been distant from this 
thread. I read Shakespeare (to the extent that one can) at 11; I also 
grew up on Superman and Batman and Archie comics in a non-literary 
household (my mother--who had completed the English equivalent of high 
school--never read, and my Dad, who left school at 13 to help support 
his widowed mother, was self-educated, reading mostly what his 
generation would call drug-store novels, though he strenuously 
encouraged me to do otherwise), and wonder (as Anne Cuneo seems to be 
doing) how much of the interest they engendered in story-telling and 
plot-lines and a child's general fascination with fantasy contributed to 
my later love for literature writ large?

In theory, like most of the respondents, I am too old-school to advocate 
what is apparently the recent introduction of the genre of "comics" to 
the formal study of literature. But seeing what I see of "literacy" in 
the real world (that is, among business and government employees who 
have difficulty writing at the tenth-grade level the documents they 
produce are supposed to achieve, though they possess what are supposedly 
advanced academic degrees), I question if any venue--whether it is 
Sesame Street, Marvel comics, or some other unconventional avenue of 
inspiration--that induces students to think, to analyze, to care enough 
to read Shakespeare or Milton, should not be considered legitimate?

An anecdote: exhausted from studying for my written doctoral 
examinations at 4:00 a.m. the night before the 18th century exam (the 
area in which I was admittedly least competent), I gave up, and played a 
tape one of my students had made for me from something she saw on TV. It 
was the "Three-penny opera," which at the time I had no idea was a 
reincarnation of Gay's "Beggars' Opera." Cotton-candy for the mind? Yes. 
But at that point, exactly what I needed. (I couldn't have read another 
word in print if my life had depended on it.) Of course I had already 
read the text--but in the muddle that was at that point my assimilation 
of eighteenth-century drama, this "comic book" version of the original 
was saving grace. When I arrived at the examination, the play (in its 
written form) was so fresh in my mind that the words necessary to 
respond to one of the major essay questions simply tumbled out of me.

Would I advocate comics in lieu of reading the actual text? No--no more 
than I would tell my students to read "Cliff's Notes" in lieu of 
_Paradise Lost_ or _Hamlet_.

But that doesn't mean that the comics' version of great literature is 
trash, if it inspires them to take on the real thing.

The Demi Moore version of _The Scarlet Letter_ was an atrocity--but it 
served, for anyone who had actually read the novel, to emphasize the 
ways in which the only thing resembling Hawthorne's work was the title.

Judging from what I've read of this thread, "classic comics" seem to be 
doing better than that.

Best to all,
Carol Barton

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