The Wrap- Up
English 101 is a required course at Emory University, and with that requirement I took a great deal of time to course shop and find a course I felt would most benefit me. I enrolled in several English 101 courses at once so I could attend each one and get the syllabus. I emailed a few professors whose classes had filled up and begged them to overload me because I liked the course time or the professor or the topic. Finally, after a lot of searching, I landed in English 101 with Dr. Morgen. I came to class the first day and was intrigued from minute one. And then I found out we were going to be expected to make our own website. I was horrified. I am so bad with technology; it takes me five minutes just to remember how to change a Word document from portrait to landscape orientation and every time I need to take a screenshot on my laptop I have to Google search the key shortcut. I am insanely ungifted with computers. But I decided I would stick it out and try start up my website, and if I could handle that, I would stay in the class.
Months later, here I am. I have learned how to use so many online programs. I have my own domain, which I can actually navigate with some success. I have created over twenty pages on my domain and made more than ten posts. I have made infographics (Fig. 1), visual poems (Fig. 2), visualized quotes, visual academic notes, a triptych, and so much more. I did not even know what those were before this course. I have read three graphic novels—my first graphic novels. I have even watched one of them in movie version and traced pages from that novel. And I have translated those three graphic novels into strings of pages and subpages of analysis. I have read through my peers work as well, and even mapped out one of their projects, which was hopefully of mutual benefit. Most importantly, I have grown to be much more confident in my abilities to make something meaning online, and I have a lot to show in terms of that skill. In fact, I have an entire website!
Our first major assignment in this class was called Tracing Persepolis, on the novel Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. This project was my first attempt at making pages and subpages that were connected by hyperlinks. My final project turned out really well, considering my low skill level at the time. However, just in the last few weeks of the semester, I went back through the project to clean up some of the rookie mistakes I had fallen victim to. For example, I hyperlinked practically every other phrase in the essay. It was horrendous. I got so excited about learning how to hyperlink, that I went crazy and used it frivolously. Also, the Persepolis project asked us to pay close attention to how we set up the subpages and the layout of our argument. Thus, I had gone overboard on the subpages and the network of webpages got confusing so I had occasionally linked to the wrong page or created a dead end. I had to go back through that project and edit much of the technological aspects after the fact, because I have acquired a lot more skills later in the course. This project thus dealt a lot with the third student-learning outcome, which is that writing is a process. This outcome applies, because I was still editing this assignment months after “completion” because I felt there were parts of it that I could improve later on.
The second big project we finished was called Mapping Fun Home, and it was on the graphic novel Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. This book was my favorite one we read in this class and the assignment was really fun and reflective. My final result ended up being helpful and deeply analytical of the novel’s message. I made a concept map of all the interactions shown in the book between the author and her father. I then analyzed the relationship I saw develop out of those interactions. I wrote that, “[Bechdel’s father] sometimes has odd ways of showing his support and affection and maybe she could have used more guidance here and there, but in general, he tries to be the best father possible while working within the tight confines of a closeted homosexual man.” This assignment was very much a learning process. I did not start with any novel ideas; instead I chose how I would visualize the book and then, during that process, I actually learned what the book was about and the topic I would write my analysis on. I found this way of writing and looking at a text to be extremely rewarding and more true to the text. I learned a lot about how I work as a writer, and that looking at the big picture helps me to get direction for my writing. I feel this project applied to the first student-learning objective, which is rhetorical composition because I used multimodal analysis to make my argument. Due to the order I did the research for the project, where I made the visual first, and then was able to pull out a theme, I feel this project was my best work out of all three major assignments. It had the freshest views and ideas that were well thought out and backed up.
The final major project, Analyzing Vietnamerica, was on Vietnamerica by G.B. Tran. We were asked to analyze the book through the lens of Carolyn Ellis’s “Autoenthnography: An Overview“. For my project, I focused on the visual components of the book to explain why the novel fell under this genre. I wrote, “One can observe through the novel a few specific visual aids that Tran uses to relay his own biases and thus help the reader form their own opinions. For example, he uses varying font styles to add meaning, and emotional and dramatic visual devices, such as color schemes or layout, in hopes of adding in his own values and opinions into the text.” While completing the assignment, I learned a lot about what it meant to read a text through a particular lens. And what it means for that lens to answer some questions, but also further complicate others. This assignment fell under the second learning objective of critical thinking and reading resulting in writing, because Vietnamerica was tough to understand and required a lot of critical thinking before I could move into the writing process. The project also allowed me to hone in on my domain skills, placing it under the fourth learning objective as well.
My favorite Sunday Funnies is definitely the Sunday Funnies 6: Visualize a Quote (Fig. 3). The important thing about this assignment was that it was insanely relevant to my life and quite therapeutic in a way—which is how I feel all successful writing should be. I did the assignment soon after spring break, where I had just spent some time at home and was feeling very strangely lost. I did not feel like home was the same place I had left last August. Also, I had also just watched Garden State, which makes me nostalgic. So when Sunday Funnies 6 was assigned, I instantly thought of this quote:
“You know that point in your life when you realize the house you grew up in isn’t really your home anymore? All of a sudden even though you have some place where you put your shit, that idea of home is gone… Maybe that’s all family really is. A group of people that miss the same imaginary place.” (Garden)
The assignment gave me a sense of reflectiveness and understanding. Because I felt so connected to the prompt, I feel this is was my best Sunday Funnies work. I also really enjoyed doing the Sunday Funnies 8: Sunday Sketches, because though my drawing (Fig. 4) does not look intensely artistic. I thought the idea of the assignment was fun and fresh and a nice break from all the dense reading homework for other classes I had to do the same weekend.
English 101 has taught me so much about the writing process, the vast array of technological tools at my fingertips, and what it means to analyze a graphic novel. All of these skills will surely serve me well in the future. Now I have my own electronic domain in which I can display my works online to the public and hone in on technical abilities that are becoming much more treasured in today’s high-tech world. I am so fortunate to have had this experience, and I hope in the future to read more graphic novels and enhance my assignments with online programs that I can now able to take advantage of. This course has taught me to both more closely reads texts and appreciate the idea of a distant-reading. I have broken my mindset of the five-paragraph traditional essay. I have rethought the idea of a rubric and for the first time ever, I have heard of dynamic criteria mapping. I now have a better grasp of different writing genres, such as autoethnography, ethnography, and Bildungsroman. Most importantly, I have become better at visualizing and interpreting visualizations. I can recognize patterns and turn those patterns into deeper meanings. These skills will certainly serve me well in the future.
“Garden State: Quotes.” IMDb. IMDb.com, 2015. Web. 26 Apr. 2015.