Comics in the Literature Classroom: How Multimodal Learning Can Create Better Citizens

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2018


In a discussion with Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust entitled “Do We Need to Rescue the Humanities?”, writer and cultural critic Leon Wieseltier answered with a resounding yes. We live in a “Republic of Opinion,” he asserted, and the humanities prepare us to be citizens of that republic. He argued that the humanities develop our imagination, that imagination “combat[s] tribalism” through empathy for others, and that empathy for others creates ethical citizens. Put this way, the stakes could not be higher. As a professor at a land-grant, state university, populated by a majority of students who grew up in small, insular communities across the upper Midwest, my imperative to lead students along this trajectory is clear. I strive to create assignments that push them to use their imaginations in different ways, to develop creative capacities in the literature classroom that will translate into practical skills in the workplace and empathetic action in the world. One such assignment involves students creating comics, a project I have assigned in two different literature courses in lieu of a final paper or exam. In the first course, Introduction to English Studies, students created a comics narrative about their identity as English scholars. In the second, Literature of Diverse Culture, students interpreted a portion of a course text by adapting it into a comic. In this essay, I will outline the theoretical and practical value of this assignment and provide a detailed description of its implementation.

Publication Title

The CEA Forum