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Course Information

Instructor Info:Michele Hardesty
Office Extension x5490
TA Info:Fiona Stewart-Taylor
Term: 2013F
Meeting Info: Tuesday Thursday
10:30 AM - 11:50 AM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) 102
10:30 AM - 11:50 AM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) 102

In this introductory-level course we will explore the genealogies of underground, alternative, and radical comics in the United States, focusing on how unconventional comics relate to ideas about popular culture, underground cultures, and politics of race, gender, sexuality, and class. Course readings will include comics, critical and theoretical readings, and histories; we will make extensive use of the Underground and Independent Comics Database. In addition to exploring this subject matter, the course will also focus significant attention on critical reading and writing. Students will complete weekly reading responses; write two short papers; and propose, write, and revise an 8-10 page research essay.


TRIGGER WARNING: Some of the assigned material this semester involves explicit depictions of violence, including sexual violence and incest. I will give students warnings about these assigned readings, but there may be times when such triggering material enters into class discussions and presentations without adequate warning. In both cases, any student is welcome to step out of the room to take a break, or leave class for the day if needed. However, our database of comics presents a larger minefield of triggers. If you are concerned about your ability to navigate this course material, please come speak to me or the T.A. early in the semester.

Course Objectives:
  • Gain basic knowledge of unconventional, non-mainstream comics in the U.S. from the late 1960s through the present decade.
  • Develop skills of critical analysis and argumentative writing.
  • Learn specific tools and terminology for formal comics analysis.
  • Understand the cultural contexts for the production and consumption of unconventional comics in the U.S.
  •  Understand how unconventional comics both reinforce and subvert dominant representations of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and class.
  • Gain skills to do primary and secondary source research on comics and alternative press periodicals, and to complete an independent research project.

This course gives you the opportunity to work on three cumulative skills: Writing and Research, Independent Work, and Multiple Cultural Perspectives.

Evaluation Criteria:

The short version: receiving an evaluation in this course requires, at the bare minimum, 1) activate participation and no more than 4 absences; 2) regular weekly forum participation; 3) submission of 3 essays; 4) a final presentation, the character of which will be decided by the class; and 5) a midterm and final eval, posted to The Hub. I will not write evaluations for students who do not meet these requirements.

Now the long version. Please read these criteria carefully now, and refer to them throughout the semester.

Participation, Preparation, and Attendance: Much of our discussion will be fueled by your questions and observations about the readings and viewings. You will often be doing work in small groups, and I will frequently ask groups of students to present their ideas and/or facilitate discussion. For this course to function successfully, then, it will be crucial for you to keep up with readings and to attend class regularly. More than two absences will be noted unhappily in your evaluation. If you miss more than four class meetings (with exceptions made for truly extraordinary circumstances) you will not receive an evaluation for the course. I suggest you save your absences for illness, religious observance, and family emergencies. Three tardy arrivals (more than 5 minutes late) will count as an absence. If you know you are going to miss a class, get in touch with me as soon as possible. If you have already missed a class, it is your responsibility to find out what you missed. Please note: You should expect to spent approximately 6-8 hours each week on activities outside of class: readings, screenings, notetaking, weekly assignments, research, and writing.

Readings and Electronic Devices: Much of the reading this semester will be digital: we will make extensive use of the full-text Underground and Independent Comics Database, to which Hampshire subscribes, and most of the secondary readings will be in PDF form. Additionally, our writing textbook, Understanding Rhetoric, is available in a much-cheaper eBook format. For these reasons, you are very welcome to use a laptop or color tablet both in and out of class. (Note: smartphones are not big enough to use, and black-and-white tablets won't work with comics.) If you do not have access to such a device, please let me know via the questionnaire below; I will help you find a device to use for the term. Note: printing course materials and bringing them to class is possible, but more expensive. Limitations on digital devices in class:  while you may use devices for readings and for completing in-class assignments, you may not use class time for social networking, email, messaging, or non-class-related browsing. The first time I find you engaged in such activities, I will give you a warning; the second time I will ask you to leave class and will mark you absent. Also, unless it is part of an assigned task, please resist the urge to look up things mentioned in class online; keep a list and look them up after class. Phones: turn your phone to silent (NOT to vibrate) and put it away before you arrive in class.

Weekly forums: Each week, either on Tuesday OR Thursday, there will be a discussion forum posted on Moodle. This forum is a place for you to reflect on your reading, quote key passages, share your insights, and pose questions for class discussion; your posts also show me you are doing the readings and help me understand where you are struggling and where you are excelling. The forum also informs what we do in class itself. Please submit each week and also respond to the post of a classmate by no later than 12:01am on the posted date. Posts do not have a set length, though they should be roughly 250-300 words long. These are not freewriting exercises; your posts should be thoughtful and should be proofread before they are submitted. There are 11 weekly forums; please post to at least 7 forums over the course of the semester. Further missed posts will be noted unhappily in the evaluation, and excessive missed posts are grounds for a No Evaluation.

Essays: You will complete three formal essays in this course: a 2-3 page close reading, a 4-5 page midterm essay, and an 8-10 page independent research project for which you will choose both the critical approach and the comics sources. Details about these papers will be posted on Moodle. You will also give a presentation on your research in the end of the course, though the form that presentation will take will be decided by the class as a whole. Due dates: I expect you to turn in paper assignments on time. If you are concerned that you will not be able to make a due date, contact me in advance, and we will negotiate an extension. I will not grant extensions after a due date has passed, and late work will be noted unhappily in your evaluation. I expect you to submit assignments even when you have missed class.

Self-Evaluations: You are required to write a midterm and a final self-evaluation of your work in the course. These self-evals should be posted to The Hub. In general, I ask that your self-evals answer these questions: What were your goals/priorities for yourself coming into this course, and how do they relate to your larger educational goals? How have you worked toward these goals? In what ways have you struggled to make progress, and why? In what ways have your goals for yourself changed or transformed over the course of the class?
A NOTE ON INCOMPLETES: It is my policy NOT to offer students "incompletes" at the end of the semester, except in the case of  extraordinary circumstances beyond a student's control. All work for this course must be completed by December 13. Under no conditions am I obligated to negotiate an incomplete with a student. In those very rare cases when a student with a solid record of progress cannot meet the final deadline due to sudden hospitalization, severe illness, or a family emergency, I may decide to negotitate a new deadline with the student. In accordance with Hampshire policy, I will record the negotiated deadline by the Course Completion Deadline (Dec. 17), at which time I will give the student an INC ("incomplete"). That new deadline cannot exceed the first day of the Spring semester. I have one month from that new deadline to evaluate and record the student's submitted work. If a student does not meet the new deadline, the INC will automatically convert to a NO EVAL.

Additional Info:


Most of our readings will be available online or in PDF form. However, there are a few textbooks that you should purchase at the Hampshire College Bookstore. (If you buy them elsewhere than the bookstore, make sure to get the correct edition—the ISBN numbers are below.)

Ahrens, Lois, ed. The Real Cost of Prisons Comix. New York: PM Press, 2008. ISBN-13: 978-1604860344 (Not yet at bookstore)

Barry, Lynda. One! Hundred! Demons! Sasquatch Books, 2005. ISBN-13: 978-1570614590 (Not yet at bookstore)

Tomine, Adrian. 32 Stories: The Complete Optic Nerve Mini-comics. Special Edition Box Set. Montreal: Drawn & Quarterly, 2009. ISBN: 9781897299760

Losh, Elizabeth, Jonathan Alexander, Kevin Cannon, and Zander Cannon. Understanding Rhetoric: A Graphic Guide to Writing. New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2014. ISBN-13: 978-0-312-64096-5

Note: You can buy either the paper version or an access card for the eBook version of Understanding Rhetoric at the Hampshire Bookstore. I recommend the eBook, which costs about half what the paper version costs.

Recommended: Hacker, Diana and Nancy Sommers. A Writer's Reference. 7th ed. New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2011.

Note: I have ordered a few copies of this very useful book. This is a reference book with information on word usage, standard English grammar/mechanics, and scholarly citation in Chicago, MLA, and APA styles. It is a useful book to have throughout your college career, and I want to make sure you know about it. You can find used copies online, and there is a copy in the Reference section of our library:



Writing Center: I encourage you to take advantage of the faculty in the Writing Center (Deb Gorlin: or x5531; Ellie Siegel,, Will Ryan,, offices located in Greenwich) for help with writing and revising your essays.

Library: I urge you to meet with and send research questions to Cultural Studies and Humanities librarian Bonnie Vigeland (x5649;, Arts librarian Rachel Beckwith (x5443;, and/or Digital Pedgogy and CSI librarian Alana Kumbier ( For general help with assignments and research, stop by the PARC (Peer Academic Resource Center at the circulation desk in the library Mon-Wed 2-8pm, Thurs 12-8pm, or Fri 12-6pm, or email them at

Disability Services: If you have a disability that might affect your ability to meet the expectations of this course, please contact Joel Dansky, Disabilities Services Coordinator, at x5423 or, or stop by his office at CASA. Registering with Disability Services allows me to make specific accommodations for you in class; without registration, I cannot make accommodations.

Academic Honesty: Here is the official statement from taskforce on plagiarism at Hampshire: "All Hampshire College students and faculty, whether at Hampshire or at other institutions, are bound by the ethics of academic integrity. [The entire description and college policy can be found in Non Satis Non Scire ( under Academic Policies/Ethics of Scholarship.] Plagiarism is the representation of someone else’s work as one’s own. Both deliberate and inadvertent misrepresentations of another’s work as your own are considered plagiarism and are serious breaches of academic honesty and integrity. All sources used or consulted in the process of writing papers and examinations, or preparing oral presentations, course assignments, artistic productions, and so on, must be cited. Sources include material from books, journals, or any other printed source; the work of other students, faculty, or staff; information from the Internet; software programs and other electronic material; designs and ideas.

"All cases of suspected plagiarism or academic dishonesty will be referred to the Dean of Advising who will review documentation and meet with student and faculty member. Individual faculty, in consultation with the Dean of Advising, will decide the most appropriate consequence in the context of the class. This can range from revising and resubmitting an assignment to failing the course. Beyond the consequence in the course, CASA considers first offenses as opportunities for education and official warning. Multiple or egregious offenses will have more serious consequences. Suspected instances of other breaches of the ethics of academic integrity, such as the falsification of data, will be treated with the same seriousness as plagiarism and will follow the same process."