Zach Zhang English 181

Welcome to my site! This site is an archive of my work that I have completed as part of ENG181 at Emory University during my spring semester of 2021. If you would like to visit the course’s site, please click here: Course Site

After taking English181 as a college course, my perception on comics has changed dramatically. I used to think comics are for children and did not have any purpose besides entertaining adolescents with action packed visuals. However, after reading Spinning by Tillie Walden and Stitches by David Small, I realized comics are a great way to convey deep messages in ways text can not. This realization was slowly enlightened throughout the course and its five course outcomes. 

The learning outcome, rhetorical composition, was encountered through several assignments, but I believe literacy narrative part two targeted it the most. In this assignment, I had to create my own comic based on literacy narrative part one, which was an essay on an experience that shaped my reading and writing. Throughout the whole comic process, I realized that if I were to follow and create based on my literacy narrative part one completely, my comic would not have good flow and the audience would not be able to follow along. I had to compose the comic slightly differently than my narrative so that the reader would apprehend. Not only did I use a variation of modes for my narratives, but I was also attentive to my audience.   

While literacy narrative part two focused on rhetorical composition, literacy narrative part one and three reflected on writing as a process, the next learning outcome. When I completed my rough draft on my narrative, I had a one on one meeting with Professor Morgen, and he provided me with insight on what aspects in my narrative I had to further develop. I had to restart my story as my first draft did not dive deep enough analytically. It took multiple drafts until I could finalize a successful narrative. Additionally, I was open minded to other students’ criticism with my narrative and took their advice. On the other hand, I also provided constructive criticism to my peers as well. 

Critical thinking and reading resulting in writing is another learning outcome, and the Sunday Sketches, Quadriptych and Assemblies, directly target this course outcome. I had a lot of trouble drawing my own quadriptych, so I had to use examples from Nathan Pyle to spark ideas of my own. Instead of copying his quadriptychs, I analyzed them to see what length my own story should be to produce a simple, yet funny little story. For the Assemblies Sunday Sketch, I used the cocktail construction chart as a guide for my own architectural diagram. 

Composing my own quadriptych and triptych overlaps the learning outcome, visual thinking. When creating these sketches, I had to experiment with multiple story ideas to see if they would fit into a three or four panel comic. At the end, I was able to assemble comics that had visuals and text boxes illustrating a mini story. Furthermore, I was able to analyze and interpret the comic books, Spinning and Stitches, through the tracing assignment. I had to trace a page from each comic and then annotate the panels. Annotating the panels gave me an in-depth understanding of the character’s feelings and emotion. 

The last learning outcome, digital citizenship, was reflected by the combo photo and avatar I had to create for my Sunday Sketches. Both sketches required creative common licensed images so I had to go on Flickr or Google Images with a CC licensing filter on. This allowed me to practice being a good digital citizen and not copyright other electronic properties. Dr. Morgen’s course taught me the principle of fair use, to respect other people’s digital work and to either use creative common licensed images or provide appropriate citations when needed. 

These five learning outcomes have shaped the way I write and analyze text. Before this course, my writing was two-dimensional and eminently dull. Looking back at all the work I have produced over this semester, I see more emotion in my writing pieces. I have become evidently more expressive and the progression of expression can be seen from my rough draft and my final narrative. In the rough draft, it was more about what happened in my story and in the final copy, it was more about how I felt in the story. In the final narrative, I wrote, “My growing hatred for literature turned my initial frustration into hopelessness. Writing became an incorrigible obstacle that I could not get over, and I was ready to give up.” I am displaying strong signs of internalized emotion that I would not have done before the semester. 

Furthermore, my final narrative flows a lot better and is easier to follow along. This is credited to literacy narrative part two when I had to create a comic based on literacy narrative part one. When composing the comic, I realized that my narrative part one did not flow well because my comic kept jumping from different choices of moments. In order to have better fluidity within the comic, I had to change my story slightly. The slight change in my comic is reflected on my final narrative as it flows much better compared to literacy narrative part one. My desire to have better flow was the consideration of the audience. I wanted the reader to be able to read my narrative and easily comprehend what was going on in the story. Additionally, the comic process opened up the visual component to my narrative and I had a greater understanding of the emotion involved with my story. That is why my final narrative was much more expressive than part one. 

The course has strengthened my visual learning skills and I am able to apply this to my current classes. In my introduction psychology class, I was learning about mental health and the different emotions involved with various mental illnesses. For example, one mental illness I learned about was depression. First, I would read the textbook about depression and have a textual understanding of what the illness is. Then, I would search on youtube and find out what depression looks like through facial expressions of depressed patients. If I were to only read the textbook, I would have a surface level comprehension of what the illness is and the impact it has on individuals. In reality, depression is much deeper than I thought and from analyzing facial expressions of depressed patients on youtube, I have greater empathy for people diagnosed with depression. Analyzing facial expressions rooted from the tracing assignment I had to do for this course. When annotating the traced pages, I had to analyze the facial expression of the characters in the comics and understand why the author chose those choices of images. The theme of the comics, Spinning and Stitches, also played a role with my psychology class because both comics revolved around trauma. 

This course has done a tremendous job encouraging me to express myself and has changed my analytical thinking process. Reading comic books has broadened my visual thinking and creativity. I hope that whoever reads this seriously considers enrolling in this or a comics course.