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Reflection Letter

In the “Secret Language of Comics: Visual Thinking and Writing”, I had the opportunity to explore multiple forms of rhetorical composition. I wrote blogs, created a comic strip, and composed narrative essays. All of these were created with accessibility in mind. In other words, I was writing for everyone, including my professor and peers, and was not trying to be scholarly, though occasionally, such as in my analysis of graphic novels, was more formal than in my blogs or narrative compositions. My awareness of my audience can be seen in the tone and style of my Literacy submissions in which I use contractions and other informal conventions to communicate personably, even intimately, with the reader as the purpose of these pieces was always to communicate with readers, but also, through the processes of creating a variety of kinds of compositions, learn how these inform each other. Some forms were more challenging for me than others. The blog posts, for example, were light-hearted and enjoyable, while the comic strip was particularly challenging as I am not the best artist. That said, I was still able to communicate my narrative visually and effectively with Mr. Stick Man.

Through practice of all three types of rhetorical conventions, I learned a lot about revision. Through it, I was able to adequately adhere to the conventions of writing, such as consistency with tense, which was particularly challenging in my Literacy piece as I bounced between times starting the narrative in the present and then switching to the past. I came to realize how crucial revision is to a successful piece and that often many revisions are necessary for a polished, completed draft. This is demonstrated quite clearly in my piece analysing the two autobiographical graphic novels, Stitches and Spinning, in which little time or effort and little editorial work was done on the first draft. The published revision reflects my understanding and implementation of the revision process as much was changed. For example, the revision contains a clear introduction of my observation before jumping erratically into the content as I did in my initial draft. In the first version, I start by stating, “In the Graphic Novel Spinning, by Tillie Wallden,  the clearness of a characters face is based off of depth perception”, which is an inadequate introductory sentence as it implies that I will be discussing only one novel, when, in fact, I discuss two. The revision, which is significantly more concise, is clearer and is inclusive of the other novel without stating either title, yet clearly lets the reader know what they can expect for me to discuss in the essay that follows. The revised introductory sentence reads: “A graphic novel relies not only upon text to communicate a story,” which, again, is a vast improvement on the introductory sentence of the first draft. In addition, I formalized sentences by writing less in first person. In the first draft, for example, I wrote: “In the page I chose from Spinning, the faces in most of the frames are unidentifiable”. This was revised to read: “In the graphic novel Spinning, for example, Wallden uses variation in detail in character’s faces to show distance. Those characters further away from the front of the picture plane are without facial detail while those closer to the forefront are more defined.” Not only is there significantly more detail in the revision, it is formalized by the removal of the first person “I”. This formal analysis and revision of the two graphic novels Spinning and Stitches exercised my critical thinking capacities as did the in-depth conversations in class of the other four novels that we read throughout the semester. The small in-class assignments and Sunday sketches also encouraged close analysis and questioning.

A particularly engaging part of this course for me were the practices in visual thinking. This was most encapsulated in the creation of my own comic as a translation of my narrative on literacy. This exercise encouraged me to think clearly about the highlights and main points of my narrative in order to communicate visually as comprehensively as alphabetically. It further helped me to eliminate any descriptive filler and to focus on the points of the story which propelled the narrative forward. Finally, creating my own comic translation taught me the value of the visual in communication. For example, in the panel in which I drew the book fair of my childhood, I was able to communicate the degree of my buying binge very simply yet effectively.

Over the course of the semester, there were really just two main projects upon which several others were based. The first of these was a narrative created at the very beginning of the semester pertaining to our personal experience with writing and reading referred to as “The Literacy Narrative Part 1”. The first of these I spent a lot of time on. I was initially not at all sure of how to proceed, but trusted my voice, my natural story-telling ability, and allowed for a degree of informality so that I could be playful. The first project based upon this initial essay was a translation of it into a comic strip. As discussed above, this process enabled me to really pinpoint the primary points of interest and propulsion within the narrative. The final Literary Narrative was a revision of the first one. I struggled a bit with this one as I was pleased with the initial submission and was not sure how I could improve it. Interestingly, I was guided by my comic in which I really focussed on the pivotal points of the narrative. One key component in the creation of the comic was the peer revision, which I found incredibly helpful. My classmate, Andres, took time to read and to comment upon my comic, inserting truly helpful comments that clarified the narrative such as “more distinct facial expressions”, and, “for the book fair scene, add a clock in the upper left hand corner to indicate that this scene is a flashback”. Implementing Andres’s suggestions and then referring to the revised comic significantly guided my final revision and enabled me to be more concise. For example, my initial submission begins, “It is Sunday afternoon. I went out last night and slept a bit later than I had planned, though I don’t have to start on my calculus homework for another couple of hours. First thing: I check my phone” became “It is Sunday afternoon, and the first thing I do when I wake up is check my phone.” It communicates almost the same thing but more forcefully and with greater relevance to that which follows. Another change I made in the final alphabetical revision was a change in scene; instead of ending with a subway scene, I ended with a description of me with my phone in bed, inspired by the visual narrative and more in line with the themes of my essay.

The other significant project, as already introduced above, was a close critical analysis of two single pages, one each taken from two different autobiographical graphic novels. The first draft of this was, frankly, not well-considered or written. As a writer, I have grown increasingly confident over the course of the semester, occasionally too much, having the audacity, for example, of publishing the poorly written first draft. I believed that I could write it quickly and  without multiple revisions or a thesaurus at hand. I learned concretely, though, through the experience of this piece’s revision, the value of doing so as I am pleased with the final result. I took my time, considered my audience of peers, and was careful to make my point clearly and more concisely.

Finally, in this course we also investigated elements of digital citizenship including what it means to have a digital identity. As a part of this, I created a website upon which all of my work is displayed for anyone to see. I had to ensure that I gave credit and cited any images or pictures I used in order to avoid copyright infringement. I did this, for one, by citing the images that I used in my digital avatar depicting some of my personality traits.

As one hopes with every course, I will take components of “Secret Language of Comics: Visual Thinking and Writing” with me. I have already, in fact, started to employ visualization in some of my other classes, using visual note-taking, which has helped concretize my understanding of abstract material, particularly in calculus. I also believe that I will use the visual narrative again in order to storyboard and clarify longer alphabetical narratives in the future.