On April 26th, the Cartoon Library had the pleasure of hosting Ben Owen’s English 367.01: Language, Identity and Culture in the U.S. Experience, a second-year composition class that Owen structured around the study of comics. Throughout the course, students look at a wide variety of comics (from Shaun Tan’s The Arrival to selected pieces from the What Things Do website) to learn how to think and write about the medium analytically, as well as gaining an understanding of visual rhetoric.

The specific assignment that brought Ben Owen’s class into the Cartoon Library was on comics and social diversity in the United States- using the comics medium to understand the pluralistic nature of race, gender, class, ethnicity and religion, and how their own attitudes are shaped by these aspects of American society. To do so, students were instructed to use our multiple Cartoon Library search tools to find cartoon and comics work related to a topic that interests them within the American experience, with a chance to study them in person. They then had to do a 5-minute presentation in pecha kucha style to make a compelling argument about why their topic is important and how it can be understood through comics.

The results were fascinating, and students presented on everything from medicine to religion, World War II, Hurricane Katrina, and more. Curator Jenny Robb and I were lucky enough to be able to view some of the final presentations on May 24th, pictures of which can be seen below:

One student presented on Religion and Comics, opening his presentation with the religious themes in Jack Kirby's Captain America, and Siegel and Shuster's Superman

Student Nelson Ballard gave a 5 minute history of his life, and his experiences throughout America that led him to study medicine at OSU. Supported by the illustrations of Charles Bragg.

An excellent closing slide from a student presentation on Comics and World War II

We love having classes of any discipline visit the Cartoon Library, both from OSU and beyond! Professors, if you’re interested in doing a session with us, please contact cartoons@osu.edu with your schedule and subject matter.