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First Seminar

Studies in Comics: The Graphic Memoir

Course Code and Section Number: FS-1973-12
Tu & Th 2:00PM-3:15PM Chapman Hall 253(CH-253)
Spring 2019
Instructor: Carlos D. Acosta-Ponce
Office: Zink Hall 318/Fisher Hall East 204
Office Phone: (918) 631-2810
Personal Phone: (787) 219-4513
E-Mail: carlos-acostaponce@utulsa.edu
Office Hours: Tuesdays 11:30AM-1:30PM

Contacting Me

Please contact me via email with questions about course materials or policies. In my experience, larger
issues such as questions about readings, revisions, or assignments are best discussed in one on one
meetings. Therefore, you should come to see me during my office hours if your questions require more
than a one sentence or so response. Please allow at least 24 hours for me to respond to your emails—
longer on weekends.

General Course Description

First Seminar 1973, Writing Intensive Seminar. Designed by individual faculty members and coordinated
by the Writing Program Director, the seminars are discipline-centered courses that stress writing as the
primary way in which students demonstrate their learning of the material. Students enrolled in the
course are expected to produce 20-25 pages of revised writing during the course of the semester in a
variety of written assignments. Pre-requisite: English 1033, advanced placement credit, or equivalent;
required for students in Arts and Sciences. Staffing: Arts & Sciences faculty sometimes with assistance
from Teaching Assistants in English. Enrollment: 17

Detailed Course Description

The formation of identity, perceptions adulthood and coming of age are universal aspects of the life
experience of every individual. Regardless of social, ethnic, or cultural background, the individual is
formed by the cultural, political, and ideological forces that exist in their microsocial and macrosocial
environments. The study of the life narratives of individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds is an
excellent tool for deconstructing the homogeneous aspects of the formation of identity, while
understanding the different struggles that an individual can face in the process. Throughout the
semester students will read several graphic memoirs by authors from several different racial, ethnic,
religious, and ideological backgrounds. These authors also encompass a broad array of social identity
categories, particularly as they pertain to physical disability, gender identity, sexual orientation,
socioeconomic class, and nationality. Among the broad questions this course will explore are: What are
the universal elements, if any, found across these life narratives? How does each author interpret the
crucial aspects of their formation? What role does family play in the process? How do they cope with
adversity and/or status as an outsider? The requirements for this course include weekly informal
response posts, class presentations, three essays, and several short, in-class writing exercises.

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This course will require that students engage challenging, complex texts and conduct literary analysis.
Furthermore, students are expected to participate in lively, active discussions where they can provide
insights into their relationship with the material.

The texts discussed in this class will sometimes contain profanity, nudity, and other adult situations.
None of it will be gratuitous and it will have a purpose. If you believe that this will affect your
participation in this class, come and talk to me. We are all adults here and, as adults, these are things
that you will find in real life a must engage at one point or another.

Finally, RESPECT is one of the most important aspects to academic learning; therefore, respecting your
instructor and your fellow students will be expected of you. Concordantly, disrespect will not be
tolerated. Sometimes class discussion can lead us into some controversial topics, and you may find that
your classmates may have opinions that differ from your own. This type of discussion, if done in a
respectful manner, can be conducive to the formation of new ideas and the advancement of academic
learning. The classroom, therefore, is a place of sharing and safety. No one in the classroom should ever
feel afraid to express their thoughts and opinions in the classroom, as long as it is done in a respectful
manner. If at any point you are being disrespectful, you will be dismissed. On the other hand, if you feel
as if you have been treated poorly, by all means let me know. The bottom line is you should never feel
embarrassed or shy about expressing your opinion.

Learning Outcomes
This course’s student learning outcomes align with the Writing Program Learning Outcomes listed below
and with TU’s Institutional Learning Outcome Three: Write and present clearly, practicing the skills of
effective communication across the curriculum.

Writing Program Learning Outcomes

Every student who completes Writing Program courses as part of the Core Curriculum will be able to

1. Demonstrate the values and conventions of academic and professional writing

2. Apply a process-based approach to achieve successful written communication
3. Assess writing situations to read, analyze, and compose texts appropriate for various
purposes, audiences, and genres

FS-1973 Student Learning Outcomes

1. Compose a formal, well-developed (6+ paragraph), documented academic essay
2. Use the writing and research process to engage in academic inquiry
3. Argue a specific, researched claim within the context of an academic discourse community

Course Objectives
The primary objective of First Seminar 1973 is the implementation of a process approach to writing that
leads to a refined final product (a 12-page seminar paper). After First Seminar 1973, students ideally
should be able to do the following tasks:
● To determine, analyze, and target different audiences such as fellow students, teachers, general
readers, and others;
● To write for different purposes—for example, to explore a topic for yourself, to communicate
with others, and to create particular effects (persuading, explaining, etc.);

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● To develop and extend your own thinking by writing essays that move through an extended
train of thinking rather than just defending a static position;
● To use various strategies of writing (for example, narrating, explaining, analyzing, interpreting,
persuading, arguing, and using evidence)—such strategies draw on various sources of thinking
and information, including your own experience and observations, conversations with others,
and reading;
● To revise your writing in a substantive way by means of rethinking and re-seeing, and also by
means of playing with various forms and organizations;
● To copy-edit and proofread your final drafts successfully;
● To give constructive and helpful feedback in a supportive manner as part of a discourse
● To understand, manage, improve, and assess your own writing processes;
● To practice ethical modes of communication, including but not limited to avoiding plagiarism,
that can contribute to the development of students as better people;
● To learn skills and discuss topics that will help you become more articulate and well-informed
● To understand writing as a life-long practice that will continue to improve beyond college and to
encourage you to continue writing and learning over the course of your lifetimes.

Texts and Materials

Bechdel, Alison. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. Mariner Books, 2015.

Chast, Roz. Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2016.

McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics. Harper-Perennial, 1994. (Required. Instructor will provide PDF of
the text)

Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis 1: The Story of a Childhood. Pantheon, 2003.

Small, David. Stitches: A Memoir. W. W. Norton & Company, 2009.

Thompson, Craig. Blankets. Drawn and Quarterly, 2017.

Gibaldi, Joseph, ed. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 7th ed. New York: Modern
Language Association of America, 2009. (optional)

A good collegiate dictionary (recommended)

Supplementary readings and materials (provided by instructor)

Additional Materials:
Binder with dividers (for homework, notes, and handouts)
Pencils, pens, and paper
Access to MS Word
Online Course Portal (Harvey)

Announcements, quizzes, course materials, and attendance and grade records will be kept on Harvey,
TU’s online course portal. You can access Harvey at http://harvey.utulsa.edu, or by downloading the

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Blackboard app to your smartphone. Your login for Harvey is your TU user name and the password you
use for email.
Required Coursework

In order to receive credit for this course, all work must be completed. You should have a binder where
achievement and a reference of what you have studied. You will be held responsible for material
covered in missed classes.

Major Assignments

Essay 1: 5-page analysis paper 100

Essay 2: 8-page conference paper 150
Essay 3: 12-page research paper 250
Oral presentation 100
Weekly reflections and peer responses* 150
Daily work and homework 100
Attendance and participation 100
Twitter posts** (#TUcomicstudies19) 50
TOTAL 1000

*Every week (beginning the second week of class) students will post an approximately 150-word
formal written reflection on what they have read. It can be about something they found interesting in
the assigned graphic texts or secondary readings. Students will also briefly (25-50 words) respond to
two (2) of their classmates’ posts. Your posts and peer responses will ALL be due Fridays at midnight

**Since social media has become a de facto source of information for many, this course will also teach
you how to take advantage of the resources social media provides. Every student in this class will
need to have a Twitter account. You can use your existing account or create one exclusively for the
class. Twice a week, students will be required to tweet, retweet or share something related to the
class readings, comic books, or any related pop culture item they deem relevant to our class. The
point of this activity is to create an informal conversation space where the students’ own interests can
intersect with the course objectives. These are also due Fridays at midnight.
 First, make sure you follow me on Twitter @cdacostaponce
 Remember to always use the hashtag #TUcomicstudies19 in all your tweets

Other Required Coursework:

Two instructor-student writing conferences
Completion of all three major essays

Quizzes and short, in-class reading comprehension assignments shall be administered at the discretion
of the instructor and will count towards your daily work grade.

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Conferences and Office Hours
You will meet with me in writing conferences at least twice this semester. Conferencing is required by
the Writing Program and, since I cancel classes the weeks they are held, you will be counted as absent if
you miss one. I also encourage you to meet with me during my office hours. If you need to see me
outside of those hours, please send me an email to set up a time.


Grading Scale: The University of Tulsa uses the following percentage-to-letter grading scale:

Letter Grade Percentage

A 90 – 100%
B 80 – 89%
C 70 – 79%
D 60 – 69%
F 00 – 59%

Reviewing Your Grade

You should follow your progress by checking the grade center on Harvey. If you have any questions
about your grade during the semester, please see me during my office hours or send me an email.

Turning in Essays
All essays will be turned in electronically on Harvey.

Student participation is important in this class, and unexcused absences will affect your grade. The
Writing Program sets the penalties for absences as follows:

MWF (approximately 39 meetings total)

Missing 10% of classes (4-5 absences) results in the loss of one letter grade.
Missing 15% of classes (6-7 absences) results in the loss of two letter grades.
Missing 20% of classes (8+ absences) could be grounds for an F.
Tu-Th or MW (approximately 26 meetings total)
Missing 10% of classes (2-3 absences) results in the loss of one letter grade.
Missing 15% of classes (4 absences) results in the loss of two letter grades.
Missing 20% of classes (5+ absences) could be grounds for an F.

Excused Absences
As noted above, your first three absences in a MWF class and your first absence in a MW/TR class are
automatically excused. Students may not obtain an excused absence from the teacher; however, in the
case of athletes, excused absences are applied according to notifications from the Athletic Department
and in the case of students participating in sanctioned academic events, CSAS policies apply. Even if you
are absent, you should turn in the homework on time and keep up with the course. Refer to the course
announcements on Harvey to keep up with your class. For circumstances resulting in prolonged
absence, the Center for Student Academic Support provides documentation as described below.

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Late Homework:
All homework is due at the beginning of class. No late homework will be accepted. You should arrange
to turn in homework even if you are absent.

Late Essays:
Essays must be turned in on time, with the related drafts to receive full credit. Grades for late essays will
be reduced by one letter grade each day after the due date, including weekends and holidays. No essay
will be accepted after three days. Keep in mind that you must turn in all three essays in order to pass the
course. The requirement to write twenty-five pages of revised writing means that outlines and early
drafts must be turned in along with the final draft of each essay. Essay assignments with no outline or
rough drafts will not be accepted.

Electronics Policy
The use of electronic devices for language learning is encouraged for selected activities. These will be
announced by the teacher. At all other times, cell phones and other personal electronic devices are
prohibited. Phones should be switched off and put away when class starts and should not be used as

Nota Bene
While I am more than happy to answer emails with questions about specific parts of assignments, please
do not contact me to make sure your work is “OK,” especially right before a deadline. This is not fair to
me or the other students, and you will receive much better help if you meet with me during my office
hours or make an appointment with a tutor in the Writing Center.

Writing Center (https://utulsa.mywconline.com)

The university provides resources to help you as you work to successfully complete your written
assignments. You should use these, especially the Writing Center on the 3rd floor of McFarlin Hall.
Tutors can help with finding habitual grammatical errors, improving thesis statements, generating ideas,
developing paragraphs, and improving style. You should register and make appointments at

McFarlin Library
McFarlin Library, TU’s “Academic Town Square,” provides students and faculty with access to millions of
information resources (books, journals, multimedia, etc.) that support teaching learning and research in
all academic disciplines at TU. These include hundreds of thousands of electronic resources, such as e-
books, journals, and reference databases, that can be accessed via the TU campus network anytime day
or night. The library’s experienced research staff are willing, able and available by email, text, phone or
in person to assist students in learning the “ins and outs” of academic research to support the
development of writing skills as well as critical thinking skills that are essential to doing good college
level work. https://utulsa.edu/mcfarlin-library/

Center for Student Academic Support (CSAS) (csas@utulsa.edu, 918-631-2315)

The Center provides confidential consultations to any student with academic concerns as well as to
students with disabilities and is located in Lorton Hall 210.

Academic Skills Support:

All students are encouraged to familiarize themselves with and take advantage of services provided by
CSAS, such as tutoring, academic counseling, and developing study skills. Specifically, the Center offers

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support concerning issues such as test taking anxiety, time management skills, overcoming
procrastination, learning styles assessment, and academic rebounding.

Excused absences:
The Center for Student Academic Support provides documentation for excused absences. The
circumstances and type of documentation for excused absences are listed below.

Circumstance Documents Details Required

Illness requiring Hospital date illness or condition began
hospitalization records date of expected return to school
or quarantine diagnosis documented on letterhead
signature of the diagnosing profession
Death of immediate family Obituary date of funeral
member date of your return
name and relationship to deceased
funeral details for verification

Interpersonal Violence-Title IX Statement

Title IX makes it clear that violence and harassment based on sex and gender is a Civil Rights offense
subject to the same kinds of accountability and the same kinds of support applied to offenses against
other protected categories such as race, national origin, etc. If you or someone you know has been
assaulted, harassed, stalked, or if you have questions about violence prevention there are several
resources available to you:
Office of Violence Prevention: 918-631-2324, Coordinator Kelsey N. Hancock, kelsey-
TU Counseling and Psychological Services: 918- 631-2241
Campus Security: 918-631-5555
Domestic Violence Intervention Services: 918-585-3163, 918-743-5763
Tulsa Police Department: 918-596-9222
The University of Tulsa’s Policy on Sexual Assault:
Violence- Domestic-Violence-Dating-Violence-and-Stalking-Pertainin-12-1-2015-Rev-A.pdf
If you have other questions that are not answered here, please visit our webpage, or call the Violence
Prevention Coordinator at 918-631-2324. They will be happy to answer any questions and provide you
with the resources you need. Every student on our campus has the right to resources, please come
forward and ask questions, report, and help us eradicate interpersonal violence by stopping the silence
surrounding it.

Plagiarism is grounds for failure of this (or any other) course and dismissal from the University. Rules
against plagiarism are meant to ensure that students are applying themselves freshly to every
assignment, that they are completing their own assignments, and that they are respecting the
intellectual property of others. In an environment where writers work closely with one another, it is
important to understand the boundaries between collaboration and plagiarism. You are expected to
present your own work, properly documented. Keep all of your preparatory work (drafts, notes, and

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prewriting) for each assignment. I may freely question you about work that does not seem to be your

Plagiarism is presenting as one’s own efforts the work of someone else without proper
acknowledgement of that source. Plagiarism is presenting as one's own efforts the work of someone
else without proper acknowledgment of that source. Exact copying is to be enclosed in quotation marks
with an appropriate indication of its origin. Paraphrasing, wherein the basic sentence structure,
phraseology, and unique language remain the same, is also plagiarism. The failure to acknowledge
unique, unusual, or new ideas and facts not the product of one's own investigation or creativity is
plagiarism. When in doubt in a particular course on these matters, it is the student's responsibility to
seek guidance from the instructor of the course.

We will discuss various types of plagiarism early in the semester. If at any time you have questions
about crediting information and documenting sources, please ask the instructor. As a student, you are
bound by the “Academic Misconduct: Standards and Definitions” statement in the Handbook. We will
discuss your rights and responsibilities within an academic community, how to present and document
your own work, and ways to distinguish carefully between your ideas and those of others.
Please note that the definition of plagiarism refers to all work (homework, rough drafts, journals posted
on Harvey).

Students must sign a statement provided by the instructor that indicates that they understand the
concept and the consequences of plagiarism.

Tentative Broad Class Schedule

I reserve the right to alter this document in any way to meet the evolving demands of the course. I will
inform you of any changes, and the most updated copy of this syllabus can always be found on Harvey.
The schedule, and the details given in the schedule, will change in response to the specific needs of our
class. For this reason, the course schedule is kept as a separate document and is updated monthly.
Changes are also noted by announcements on Harvey. Please pay attention to updates given in class and
posted on Harvey.

Week 1: Introduction to the Course (1/8-1/10)

1. Discussion of syllabus, class requirements, general overview

2. Introduction to comic studies, the graphic memoir, and autobiographical studies

Week 2: Memory, Guilt, and Parenthood (1/15-1/17)

1. Persepolis 1: The Story of a Childhood, Marjane Satrapi (2000)

2. Persepolis 1: The Story of a Childhood

Week 3: Immigration and Displacement (1/22-1/24)

3. Persepolis 1: The Story of a Childhood, Marjane Satrapi (2000)

4. Persepolis 1: The Story of a Childhood

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Week 4: Disability, Creativity and Identity (1/29-1/31)

1. Stitches: A Memoir, David Small (2009)

2. Stitches: A Memoir

Week 5: Disability, Creativity and Identity (2/5-2/7)

1. Stitches: A Memoir, David Small (2009)

2. Stitches: A Memoir

Week 6: Family, Womanhood and Identity (2/12-2/14)

1. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, Alison Bechdel (2006)

2. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

ESSAY 1 DUE 2/14 by 11:59PM on Harvey

Week 7: Family, Womanhood and Identity (2/19-2/21)

1. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, Alison Bechdel (2006)

2. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

Week 8: Masculinity, Religion, and Identity (2/26-2/28)

1. Blankets, Craig Thompson (2003)

2. Blankets

Week 9: Masculinity, Religion, and Identity (3/5-3/7)

1. Blankets, Craig Thompson (2003)

2. Blankets


ESSAY 2 DUE 3/14 by 11:59PM on Harvey

Week 11: Spring Break (3/18-4/22)

Week 12: Generational Strife and Family Relationships (3/26-3/28)

1. Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir, Roz Chast (2014).

2. Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir

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Week 13: Generational Strife and Family Relationships (4/2-4/4)

3. Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir, Roz Chast (2014).

4. Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir

Week 14 and 15: Oral Presentations

ESSAY 3 DUE 4/18 by 11:59PM on Harvey

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