Eric Qian ENG 181

Hello, my name is Eric Qian and I am a freshman at Emory University. This website serves as an archive of my work for Professor Morgen’s English 181 course The Secret Language of Comics.

A brief summary of the components of my learning and thinking progress in a diagram.

“Comics has branched out from the realm of the specialized and the cult into countless corners of culture in the twenty-first century,” said Hillary Chute in her book “Why Comics? From Underground to Everywhere.” For many years, the idea that comics are only about superheroes and the targeted audience is children has solidified in my mind. I have always thought that comics is an inferior genre compared to literal books, and cannot be considered true literature. Nonetheless, my perspective towards comics changed when I was introduced to the secret language of comics by Professor Morgen, which made me realize the unique ways that comic books integrate words and images to combine visual and verbal literacy, guiding the audience along the storyline. 

This realization did not occur instantaneously, but was a result of an entire semester of reading and analyzing comics to complete a series of assignments guided by the learning outcomes of the class. Firstly, the rhetorical composition objective was achieved by the Tracing Stitches and Spinning assignment. After reading both Stitches and Spinning, I analyzed two aspects of the books that were very similar: the flow and the description of the authors’ crushes. I then composed an essay that included annotated tracings of the books and enlarged images of certain sections to emphasize my argument. By using a variety of composition in addition to generic conventions, I helped my audience understand the similarities between the books using multiple modes, which is the first learning outcome of the class. 

The next learning outcome, critical thinking and reading resulting in writing, was achieved through the series of Sunday Sketch assignments. A majority of the Sunday sketch assignments were inspired by other creators, such as Christoph Niemann, who takes an everyday object and creates a sketch around it. In fact, even the concept of Sunday Sketches originated from him as well. From the combo photos by Stephen Mcmennamy, to recreating a movie scene, I encountered a variety of ideas from others, which I took inspiration from and created my own sketches using appropriate citation and adaptations so that my work is original. 

In addition to the previous two learning outcomes, the next one, writing as a process, is reflected by the literacy narrative process. For the literacy narrative project, I initially completed a first draft of my essay, which I then turned into a rough draft of a comic. During the process of creating the comic draft, I realized many flaws and inconsistencies within my essay, and found that it was difficult for others to comprehend my story. There were many details that I did not mention that were crucial to understanding my story, and I mistakenly assumed that the audience would know of those details, which was clearly false since the audience were strangers that have never been a part of my life. Therefore, I gathered my thoughts and re-wrote my literacy narrative, which I believe is a much better version of my story. Throughout this entire literacy narrative process, I also completed several reflection posts that helped me critique my own writing, and as a whole helped me discover that writing is a process. 

The visual thinking learning outcome is achieved through the literacy narrative comic. Like what I described in the previous paragraph, converting the first draft of my essay into a draft of my comic is a key step to helping me realize the flaws with my essay. Transferring from the essay’s literal perspective to the comic’s visual perspective, I developed a set of visual thinking strategies and gathered visual information to what I was missing in my story. I could see my story spread out across the panels, and whenever there would be a gap is where I need to insert or delete information. Furthermore, by seeing the inconsistencies through the visual perspective, I could also rearrange the sequence of the panels while adding or deleting panels to improve the quality of my comic, which also contributed to improving the final version of my essay. 

Lastly, the digital identity learning outcome was achieved through the creation of my own website on WordPress. Before this class, I have never had to worry too much about copyright, creative common licensing, etc. I only had to provide a citation at the end of a piece of writing and that was all. However, since almost all the materials and assignments of this class is presented through the online format, I learned how to use technology and the online space appropriately and responsibly. Simply put, I learned that not everything online is freely available to everyone, and some creators actually does not allow others to utilize their work unless informed. Therefore, I learned to respect the online space and practiced good digital citizenship through creating my own website. 

As a whole, the five learning outcomes of this class helped me approach writing with a different mindset. Stepping back and looking at all the work I have produced this semester, I can see how I have changed as a writer. Before the semester, my writing was very obtuse and not flexible, repeating the same patterns and structures. Now, looking at the writings I have done this semester, I found myself to be more creative and expressive. I came to a realization that writing is not simply following a set of structures, but instead an expression of myself. Each individual piece of writing had its own structure, and is unique in describing different stories or experiences. 

Specifically, one example of my evolved writing is literacy narrative part three, which is the final draft of my essay that tells my story of how I became a reader. As mentioned previously, I went through multiple drafts before completing this final version of the essay. My first draft was the first time that I tried to write without using any essay structure, and although it was expressive and free, it lacked a purpose, and felt like a random mixture of thoughts. This was reflected when I created a comic based on that essay, which brought a visual perspective to my story. I could imagine my story as a river that had multiple blockages, side streams, and waterfalls that disrupted the flow. Therefore, I edited the essay based on the feedbacks from the comic, and made it flow from one idea to the next using many transitions to emphasize key moments to guide the audience. Also, I focused less on the cliche benefits of reading a book but more on my actual story of how I became a reader, which is more interesting to read and is also the purpose of my essay.

As I move further in may college career and even in my lifetime, the insights I gained after being introduced to the secret language of comics will help me with a variety of tasks. One of the most recent one if my philosophy final response. Interestingly, my philosophy professor attached an essay structure along with the prompt, which I found confusing since that contradicts with everything I have learned from this class. I decided to contact my professor to inquire about this specific essay structure, and he explained that it was only for students who are not as strong at writing. Thus, I completed my response without a structure, but instead focusing on my purpose and argument while visualizing my essay as a whole. In other words, my philosophy response is easily comprehensible for all types of audiences rather than sounding obscure. Overall, I believe that the creativity cultivated by this class will help me make my future writings both expressive and purposeful, such as making scientific reports less boring and repetitive. The visual techniques that I learned from this class will also help make my future endeavours easier, as I have already started taking visual notes for my biology class. This course is not just a freshman English class, but the start of my realization on how to express myself through writing and comics.

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