Jack Brodsky 12/14/18
If someone had asked me what to expect for my English 101 class, I would have told them something completely different than what I experienced. My expectations were exceeded: I developed my writing skills, was shown how to interpret a different type of medium (graphic narratives) which I was never exposed to before, and learned how to incorporate visual aids with my writing. My writing pieces from this semester achieved and fulfilled each of the learning outcomes that we touched upon this year. My biggest takeaway from this semester’s written works was incorporating pictures and images to supplement my writing. It helped me relax while writing because it was much less restrictive, and provided me with something to associate with the text.
I created a variety of different genres when crafting writing and visual pieces: comparative, self-reflective, and explanatory writing. For one project, Tracing Maus (my expository piece), I had to analyze two pages from the book Maus by Art Spiegelman. The idea was to examine and explain the relationship between a page from the beginning and end of the book. I learned how to bridge relationships between two unrelated parts of a book by examining minute details. I’ve also written numerous self-reflection pieces between my Sunday sketches and reflections. In my reflections, I discussed the process and the struggles I faced. Within each Sunday sketch, I utilized an array of modes of literature and media to complete each task. The Sunday sketches involved a written piece and/or an image that I had to draw or design on a photo-editing site. Being exposed to the variety of genres enhanced my writing ability by showing me there are many ways to express my observations of any book.
Most of the projects this semester revolved around analyzing, summarizing, synthesizing and comparing the ideas of respected authors and intellectuals. The authors that I examined the most were David Small and Tillie Walden for the comparative essay. In this essay, I summarized why I believed Small and Walden each chose to use a graphic narrative as their medium for their memoirs. I also explored Hillary Chute’s concepts in her essay about women and graphic narratives. I studied her ideas and opinions and related them to those of Walden’s and Small’s to form my own thoughts about how they utilized trauma and recovery into their memoirs: “The stories to which women’s graphic narrative is today dedicated are often traumatic: the cross-discursive form of comics is apt for expressing that difficult register, which is central to its importance as an innovative genre of life writing” (Chute 2). This quote is from Chute’s essay and I used it in my essay to relate her words with the actions that Walden and Small took. Her arguments augmented my own, which made her essay a valuable source to supplement. Another example of evaluating the ideas of others was when I took part in a peer-editing class. I introduced my project and was able to look at theirs. Not only did they provide me with useful feedback, but I also gave them insight on how to better their work.
The most fascinating and process-oriented writing piece that I produced this year was my literacy narrative. This was the only piece that was a true semester-long assignment. The first draft was the first project we were given, and the final composition was the last assignment of the semester. The writing and visual process I went through to create the final product taught me more than I anticipated and was extremely valuable. At the beginning of this writing process, my structure had minimal flow and was scattered at times. Soon after the first draft was completed, I found out that the next assignment was to illustrate a comic based off the literacy narrative. At first, I thought that this was going to be too difficult to manage and complete successfully; however, the process came a lot easier to me than I expected. Once the comic was finalized, I used parts of the drawings to help revise the written portion. The visual component of drawing, the increased freedom I had, and the conferences with my professor all helped significantly. After several stages of revision and multiple visits to the writing center, I put together the best form of my literacy narrative, which undoubtedly is better than my original draft. I am satisfied with the final outcome and am impressed with what it has become considering the length of the process. This work is the best that I’ve published because of the time that I had to perfect it. What this assignment taught me is that the writing process can be very time-consuming, but in the end, it is worth it if the work is put forward. Another major product where strategies of research and stages of revision were implemented was the comparative essay between Stitches and Spinning. Writing the comparative essay was a long and tedious process. Similar to my literacy narrative, I visited the writing center several times. Out of all of the projects this semester, this one undoubtedly had the most revisions made to it. The entire introduction paragraph was altered because of the lack of sophistication and appropriateness the first draft had. The first image is from the original draft and the second image is the revised product:
This is just one example of the many major revisions I made on this essay throughout the writing process.
It can be argued that the main purpose of the course this semester was exactly what is cited for the fourth learning outcome: to demonstrate visual thinking strategies to analyze and interpret visual information. Every major piece of literature I read for this class was a graphic narrative. The assignments that followed each of these books required me to examine the author’s choices both textually and visually and form my own written or visual response to my findings. I analyzed the images in Maus when finding the relationship between the two pages. I examined the pictures without any text in Stitches and Spinning when writing my comparative essay to understand why they both chose to use graphic narratives as their medium. I also interpreted Phillipe Squarzoni’s Climate Changed to figure out the patterns he included throughout his book and the purpose of these patterns. Further examples of demonstrating visual thinking strategies can be found in all of my Sunday sketch assignments. There would be weeks that I drew the image, or I would create it on the computer, or it would be a concoction of multiple items. Regardless, after each assignment, I wrote a reflection explaining what I experimented with and why I chose to do so. I used one of the sketches this semester for my Anthropology class to help me study. Rather than take notes on the unit, I drew images of the information on the slides and constructed links to show how everything was related to each other. I eventually used this sketch in my studying process for the exam. This is a prime example of demonstrating visual thinking strategies to interpret visual and written information.
A skill I learned this semester that will surely be used in the future is how to appropriately utilize technology and engage in online spaces responsibly. Unlike my other courses this semester, I used WordPress to publish all of my written and visual works. At first, it was a struggle to understand all of the features of WordPress and the way everything should be posted; however, with professor and classmate guidance, and familiarity over time, it became a simple and useful tool. I also used technology appropriately when crediting images found on the internet. Not all images were self-designed or drawn (some were taken from websites like Flickr), so I was taught to give credit to the owner of that image on my post to prevent copyright issues.
Successfully completing all five outcomes by the end of the semester is a bigger accomplishment for myself than I expected. I learned new techniques to use when working on writing assignments and really learned how to implement a visual aspect into my writing. The visual component of this course is what has affected me the most because I think it is what enhanced my writing ability. I never put much emphasis on the visual aspect of written works in the past, and this course opened my eyes to see that I become a better writer when I focus on the visuals of the text. It allows me to envision what I am reading or writing about which provides me with less restrictions and more freedom to be creative.