Monday, October 17, 2011

Aesthetics & Pedagogy

We're midway through the semester!

Overall, grades were good. And the grades had enough of a normal distribution that I must be doing something right.

Last week we finished Batman Year One; next week we begin Persepolis. In the meantime it's back to our old standby, Understanding Comics. Today we started reading Chapter 6, Show and Tell, which is about the relationship between words and pictures.

McCloud writes, "Traditional thinking has long held that truly great works of art and literature are only possible when the two are kept at arm's length. Words and pictures together are considered, at best, a diversion for the masses, at worst a product of crass commercialism."

He goes on to trace the history of words and pictures, from their mutual beginning as cave paintings, up to the 19th century when words and pictures had grown extremely far apart. Then, according to McCloud, they started to move back together. Eventually we begin to see a fusion of art and literature.

If you're going to talk about comics, you need to think about the relationship between words and pictures. The problem with this chapter is that it assumes a familiarity with at least the concept of the Western canon, of great works of art and literature, as opposed to junk with little artistic merit. Most of my students aren't really familiar with the Great Art/Disposable Trash dichotomy; they think more in terms of That's Okay/That Sucks. I'm pretty sure that not only do the references to art history go over their heads, but the whole concept that certain works of art are aesthetically valuable or historically important is foreign to them.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I wish they all loved gazing at portraits by Rembrandt. I just wish they had   some kind of aesthetic sense about something, to the point that they could articulate why they enjoyed a particular piece of art. I wish they would get excited about art and writing. But now I'm getting into Crazy English Teacher Wonderland. What was I even talking about originally?

Understanding Comics. We read the first half of Chapter 6 and discussed it, and I gave them a handout to guide them through it. Tomorrow we finish Chapter 6. Then Chapter 7 . . . man, I don't know about Chapter 7. It's mainly of interest to aspiring artists. I may skip it.


  1. I call this the "Chuck-E-Cheese" Phenomena, whereby our society creates a self fulfilling prophesy of "Garbage in, Garbage out."

    The basic idea is that for some reason our culture has this idea that kids aren't able to recognize or appreciate quality, so they are bombarded by cheap (but plentiful)junk. As a result...well, this is your blog. Maybe I shouldn't use the comment section as a soap box.

    On a related note, I'm glad you're doing this blog and fighting the good fight there sir.

  2. Can you take them on a field trip to a museum/ art gallery somewhere? Kids love field trips.