Honors 295 - Fall 2003
Writing 1: Art

Due at the start of class, Sept 10


In Chapter 1 of Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud starts by defining comics. His definition of comics is a statement that summarizes the distinctive features of the category, in a way that sets the terms for the arguments he wants to make about the category. In Understanding Comics, McCloud's arguments build on his definition in three ways. McCloud's definition challenges readers: he wants readers to know from the start that the potential of comics defies our typical associations of comics. Comics is not just Batman. His definition allows McCloud to show that important examples count as comics, from Mayan codices to Medieval pamphlets to Egyptian funerary art. And McCloud's definition lays the groundwork for explaining the principles that distinguish comics as an expressive medium. McCloud believes that comics offers unique ways to tell stories, describe ideas and express emotions. For McCloud, what makes comics special is that the juxtaposition of pictorial imagery in comics pulls readers in, so that readers fill in inferences about time, and space, causality and narrative for themselves. Because these crucial links between images are unwritten and unseen, comics is actually an invisible art. (Hence McCloud's subtitle!)

To complete this assignment, take any artistic medium or paradigm that's important to you, and define it. Like McCloud, you should use your definition to summarize the distinctive features of the category in terms that allow you to make an argument - to challenge readers' preconceptions about this category, to show how notable examples fit this category, or to explain what makes this category special.

You should write about two double-spaced pages. So strive for economy: everything you say should contribute to your argument. And strive for fun. Pick something special: something that you enjoy writing about.

If you're in doubt about what's required here, you can use this assignment as a model. This assignment defines what a definition is, and shows how one important definition, Scott McCloud's definition of comics, counts as a good one.

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