Month: December 2015

Primer for “Developments in Comics Pedagogy” (MLA, January 8, 2016): Introduction

Next week, Friday, January 8, Keith McCleary at UC San Diego and I will be leading the roundtable “Developments in Comics Pedagogy” at the Austin, Texas, meeting of the Modern Language Association.

For the next few days, in preparation for our discussion, I will be writing about what led to this roundtable, recent approaches in the teaching of comics and graphic novels, and my own contributions to this discussion about pedagogy and visual texts. Abstracts and bios for all roundtable participants are available here.

“Developments in Comics Pedagogy” is a continuation of discussions started in 2013 with other scholars and teachers, with a few goals in mind: to consider comics outside of only literature classes; to recognize comics studies as not necessarily a new field but now a firmly entrenched part of studies of art and language; and to discuss the implementation of comics programs and comics departments at major universities.


New Publications: Lady Gaga, Poe, and The Avengers

I am fortunate to have had two books recently come out, and within weeks of each other, both featuring my writing. I’ve been working on these chapters for a long time, so it is satisfying to see them finally in print.

My first chapter, “Teaching Bad Romance: Poe’s Women, the Gothic, and Lady Gaga,” appears in the November 2015 volume Teaching Tainted Lit: Popular American Fiction in Today’s Classroom, edited by Janet Casey for the University of Iowa Press. The overall volume looks at the issues of tackling popular American fiction in innovative ways, as well as the challenges incorporating that content in meaningful ways for students.

My chapter on Poe and Lady Gaga is based on a talk I gave at New York University’s Poe Room Showcase, regarding successes I had teaching a course on the pop culture afterlife of Edgar Allan Poe at Stony Brook University. The course traces Poe’s continued influence on popular culture–in film, television, new media, and especially recent music. Lady Gaga and her song “Bad Romance” serves as one example I bring into the classroom to consider how more recent artists have reinterpreted Poe’s literature, such as his short story “Ligeia,” not only in flipping gender roles but in making his works still resonate in the twenty-first century. As I argue, such pedagogical techniques motivated students to consider the potential feminism inherent to both Poe’s literature and Lady Gaga’s music, as well as how portrayals of violence in both of their works can undermine such feminism.

My second chapter, “Some Assembly Required: Joss Whedon’s Bridging of Masculinities in in Marvel Films’ The Avengers,” appears in the December 2015 volume Screening Images of American Masculinity in the Age of Postfeminism, edited by Elizabeth Abele and John A. Gronbeck-Tedesco for Lexington Books. This volume looks at how discourse after second-wave feminist debates in the 1960s and 1970s have influenced portrayals of masculinity in film and on television. 

“Some Assembly Required,” emerging out of scholarship on Joss Whedon, considers how his film continues his work after Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dr. Horrible to represent struggles of competing forms of masculinity as embodied by superheroes, men and women, establishing a more productive heterosocial structure that dismantles patriarchal hierarchal structures. At the same time, this film raises questions about masculinity as well as genre and race that are never fully answered, remaining acts of negotiation so that Marvel can continue producing new films and television shows.

This article on The Avengers has gone through significant revisions and multiple drafts to keep up to date with all the new content released by Marvel, in comics, in film, and in television, so this chapter has been instrumental in collaborations I have made with other scholars, including in hosting an upcoming roundtable on the Marvel Cinematic Universe at the March 2016 meeting of the Northeast Modern Language Association. And that’s fitting: this article started partially with a roundtable I had the honor to join at NeMLA in 2011.

Both chapters went through extensive revisions, and I am grateful to the books’ editors–Janet, Elizabeth, and John–along with their editorial staff, and the staff at Lexington Books and the University of Iowa Press, for their close collaboration with me to make the chapters as good as they can be.

Thanks as well to Brandi So for assisting with editing these chapters for clarity and conciseness. I also want to thank the following for being sounding boards at the time of writing and editing: Angela Carter, Mary Ellen Iatropoulos, Dan Madsen, Keith McCleary, and Jeffrey Santa Ana. Thanks as well to Keith Friedlander, who provided thorough and helpful feedback on a previous essay related to “Some Assembly Required” (and whose chapter included in Screening Images, “When Eleven-Year-Olds Kick-Ass: The Gender Politics of Hit-Girl,” is an excellent assessment of the comic and the film).

Finally, “Teaching Bad Romance” would not have happened without the opportunity to meet with and teach such intelligent, engaged students as the ones I had in all sections of my Edgar Allan Poe course. I am indebted to those students for their critical assessment of Poe’s works, and contributing to the discussion about the place of his literature in the twenty-first century.

Screening Images of American Masculinity in the Age of Postfeminism and Teaching Tainted Lit are both available at Amazon, the publishers’ web sites, and many bookstores.

CFP: Transnational Comics: Crossing Gutters, Transcending Boundaries (Deadline Jan 15, 2016)

My colleagues at the University of Florida are organizing an important conference on comics scholarship:

The Graduate Comics Organization at the University of Florida invites proposals for the 13th UF Conference on Comics and Graphic Novels, “Transnational Comics: Crossing Gutters, Transcending Boundaries.” The conference will be held in Gainesville, Florida from April 8th to 10th, 2016. Confirmed keynote speakers are comics scholars John Lent (Professor Emeritus, Temple University, Editor of International Journal of Comic Art), Derek Parker Royal (Clinical Associate Professor, University of Texas, Dallas) and international comics translator Edward Gauvin.

Please read the complete CFP here. Please submit 300-word proposals with contact information to by January 15, 2016.