Exploration 8 – EL&IC

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
(But No Cigar)
Pages 1-107


You’ve struggled and strained and finally generated a topic for your final project.

Now some loser goes and assigns you a whole new illustrated novel to read. And he expects you to write about it. Doesn’t he realize there’s a final project to complete?!

Actually, he does.

For this exploration, you are to find some way to connect Foer’s novel to your final project, then write about EL&IC in relation to that connection.

It’s all too easy to develop tunnel vision when working on a project. Let this brief exploration help you to think laterally about the issues, possibilities, and problems relating to your final project. Your engagement with your final project will benefit.

Being Multimodal

Check out Alison Bechdel’s review of Jane Vandenburgh’s A Pocket History of Sex in the Twentieth Century: A Memoir in this weekend’s New York Times Book Review. Bechdel is an artist and cartoonist, and so composes the review in a milieu that makes sense to her. Highly recommended.


I Live Here Online

In case you missed it, there’s an online space for I Live Here that has some interesting material related to the book. Check it out at http://www.i-live-here.com.

Course News

I updated the Course Calendar with correct, up-to-date info for the rest of the semester, so be sure to check that out.

For class next week (April 1st, no foolin’), read Susan Sontag’s Regarding the Pain of Others chapter 5. It’s on electronic reserve at the library. Print out a copy (or bring your laptop with the pdf on it) and bring it with you to class.

We’ll also be discussing the last two “chapters” (well, what do you call them? Books? Stories?) of I Live Here, “Ciudad Juarez” and “Malawi.”

For class, be prepared to discuss your answer to this question:

Does I Live Here support or contradict Sontag’s argument in Regarding the Pain of Others? Why?

Finally, and most importantly, your proposal for your final project is due. Your proposal should explain what you plan to do, how you plan to do it, and any particular challenges you foresee it raising for you.

Your final project is the capstone project for your English major. This is where you get to show off what you’ve learned, what you can do, and how very interesting your ideas are. I’m open to practically anything, but I have one condition: your project must address in some way the issue of multimodal storytelling. That is, the combination of words and images is as old as written language itself (human-made images predate written language), but we’re still not quite sure what to do with it as a serious art form (or forms). Most people today think of illustrated books as being for children. As we’ve seen in this course, that’s not (exactly) true. Illustrated novels for adults raise interesting questions about literacy, literariness, interpretation, art, and media, to name just a few. Your final project must address (in some way) a question about illustrated novels that you feel is important and significant. That particular question, how you address it, and what conclusions you reach are up to you.

For those of you who think better with lists, here’s the summary of what should be in your proposal:

  • Your topic/argument/message
  • The medium/media format of your project
  • Problems you see with completing your project

Your proposal doesn’t have to be long. 1 page is probably too long, in fact. Just try to be as complete as you can in explaining your idea(s) and decisions. Bring your proposal with you to class.

Watchmen Linkdump

Man, there’s been a lot of discussion online about the WATCHMEN movie/book! It’s exhausting keeping up with all of it. But to facilitate our discussion today, here are some of the more… let’s say interesting… ones.

To start us off, here are the awesome (and awesomely dense) opening credits to the film. The company that made the credits posted this to the Web, but then took it down. It’s still around, though, if you look for it.

And while you’re watching the credits obsessively, looking for every last detail, this post might help you find a few tasty tidbits.

Charlie Jane Anders opines on the reasons why the movie felt flatter than the book. For Anders, it’s the difficulty of expressing the mindset of the Cold War years. An interesting read.

Jive Tarken, on the other hand, says both the strengths and weaknesses of the film are due to its closeness to the original book. Also a good read.

And if you want to read a nice rant about how the new ending ruined everything, John Patricelli has just what you’re looking for. (And if you play a druid in World of Warcraft, you really should be reading John anyway.)

Not everyone is happy with the changes to the movie. Here’s one concerned reader/viewer sharing his thoughts:

And if you’ve been bitten by the grown-up-comic bug, Graeme McMillan has some suggestions about what other comics you should check out.

Really, truly, finally… Hooray, kids! The Saturday Morning Watchmen are here!

Comics on Your iPhone?

Here’s a link to an article we’ll discuss in class today:


The UClick people (and the IO9 writer) seem to think that this is a good thing. What do you think?

Shelly’s “Ozymandias”

As we discussed in class, Adrian Veidt’s superhero alterego is Ozymandias, which is also the name of a famous 1818 sonnet by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Here’s the text of Shelley’s poem:

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled hp and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
.And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my works. Ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Next week, when we discuss the entire book, I suspect we’ll want to touch on this sonnet.

Not to be all spoiler-y or anything.

Exploration 7: WATCHMEN 7-12

Exploration 7

Watchmen chapters 7-12

Due: 10am, March 4th


In The Lazarus Project, Hemon separates his chapters with photographs. In Watchmen, Moore and Gibbons separate the chapters with textual material. Quite an interesting shift. For this Exploration, please answer the following question:

Which interchapter did you find most interesting, provocative, or disturbing? Why?

Exploration 6: Watchmen, part 1

Exploration 6
Watchmen Chapters 1-6

Due: 10am, Wednesday February 25th

For this Exploration, please answer the question:

Is Rorschach a super-hero?

You may, but you are not required to, find it useful to refer to Eco’s analysis of Superman, or to our previous discussions of characters and plot in The Lazarus Project. You may also wish to discuss not merely the plot of Watchmen but also the visual style and Moore and Gibbons’ use of images as they relate to Rorschach.

Exploration 5 — Myth of Superman

Exploration 5
Understanding Comics chapters 6-9
“The Myth of Superman” (electronic reserve)

Due: 10am Wednesday February 18th

In Eco’s essay, “The Myth of Superman,” he analyzes the comic book figure of Superman, exploring the most salient aspects of the comic for literature, culture, society, and our understanding of ourselves as human.

Since 1962, when Eco first wrote the essay, much has changed in comics and in our narratives of and about superheroes. But much remains the same. For this Exploration take a superhero narrative (from comics, graphic novels, television, movies, radio, or any other media/medium with which you might be familiar) and analyze that superhero narrative according to Eco’s discussion of Superman.

You may find that your narrative is quite similar to Eco’s 1960s Superman, or quite the opposite. Finally, meditate briefly (~1 paragraph) on what the similarity or difference you have found means to the readers/watchers/listeners of your superhero narrative, and to its time (that is, the culture and society that existed when the narrative was created).

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