In his 1924 book, The Seven Lively Arts, cultural critic Gilbert Seldes wrote, "With those who hold that a comic strip cannot be a work of art I shall not traffic." This course will take a prolonged look at this form of art in order to trace the history of comics and graphic novels in America. Focusing on representative texts that define and redefine the medium, we will learn how to approach comics as a distinct literary and visual form, while familiarizing ourselves with the critical vocabulary of "sequential art." By examining the graphic novel with an eye toward the literary, the course will explore a variety of genres and the ways they deploy conventional literary forms such as allegory, epic, character, setting, symbolism, and metaphor. We will consider how comics resist, represent, and entrench dominant cultural ideologies about power, myth, heroism, humor, adolescence, gender, sexuality, family, poverty, religion, censorship, and the immigrant experience. The course will provide students with the critical tools to read this key vehicle of contemporary creative expression. Readings will include seminal works and newer classics, by Gaiman, Bell, Miller, Moore, Crumb, Bell, Spiegelman, Ware, Derf, and shorter pieces by many others. In addition, we will read selections from texts on graphic narrative theory and comics history, beginning with Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics. Students must attend the first lecture. Instructor permission is required for registration after 5/18.