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Graphic Medicine in the Academy

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1 Graphic Medicine in the Academy
Susan Squier Bethany Doane Derek Lee Joshua Leone Penn State University

2 Graphic Medicine graduate seminar
Six Ph.D. candidates in English literature, specializing in fields ranging from Medieval and Modern literature to Rhetoric. One MA candidate in English literature. One MA candidate in Comparative Literature who was also doing a pre-med undergraduate post-baccalaureate degree. One Ph.D. candidate in Art Education, focusing on Art Therapy with special needs individuals.

3 Rationale Why teach comics in the academy?
To catalyze engaged scholarly work. To transcend disciplinary barriers. To prepare students to be “critical discerning humane participants in the future delivery of healthcare.” –Erin Gentry Lamb, April 6, 2014. How to sell comics to department administrators? In two words: digital humanities Oh, and students love learning about comics.

4 Syllabus: comics Some of the comics we read Sarah Leavitt, Tangles
Brian Fies, Mom’s Cancer Lynda Barry, excerpts from One Hundred Demons David Small, Stitches Ellen Forney, Marbles Marjane Satrapi, Embroideries Joyce Farmer, Special Exits

5 Syllabus: graphic medicine and comics theory
Charles Hatfield, Alternative Comics: An Emerging Literature, 2005. Green and Myers, “Graphic Medicine: The Use of Comics in Medical Education and Patient Care,” BMJ 13 March 2010. Daniel Worden, “The Shameful Art: McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Comics, and the Politics of Affect” Ian Williams, “Graphic medicine: comics as medical narrative” Medical Humanities (2012) Kai Mikkonen, “Presenting Minds in Graphic Narratives” (2008)

6 Visitors Ian Williams and MK Czerwiec
Webmasters of Ian Williams is the author most recently of Bad Doctor, and Czerwiec, whose comic “Harry” will appear in the Graphic Medicine special issue of Configurations: Journal of Literature, Science, and the Arts, is at work on her first graphic novel, Taking Turns: A Careography. Williams and Czerwiec visited for one three hour seminar. They talked with the students about their own work creating and teaching comics and responding to studio work.

7 Visitors Joyce Farmer, one of the original feminist cartoonists of the 1960s. An underground cartoonist from Laguna Beach, California, Farmer is the author of Tits n’ Clits Comix, Pandora’s Box, Abortion Eve, and most recently Special Exits.

8 Studio time—the middle hour

9 We all made comics—even me.
This comic is about the death of my mom on November 4, 2013, and six months to the day later, the death of my dog Evie. Graphic medicine gave me a very powerful way to address the impact of death and dying.

10 Bethany Doane, “Pushing Back”
One of my scholarly interests is in the politics of reproduction, particularly surrounding women’s bodies and their choices in birth. My paper project for our class considered how the comics medium might serve as a site for birth activism. I put comics in conversation with the work of Julia Kristeva and Judith Butler to talk about the way that comics could provide a space for cultural conversation about birth and for giving a voice to women in representing their birth stories. My comic—which grew in scale, the more I worked on it—was a case of “practicing what I preached.” I created a comic to tell my own home-birth story and to explain some of the difficulties and complications I faced in making this “controversial” choice here in Maryland. If you know anything about the politics of home birth, you might know that, legally, things are complicated for both midwives and mothers who choose to have their babies at home. The medical system was pretty hostile toward my choice, and toward my midwife, which my comic explains in more detail. This image is an early sketch from the “climax” of my story, when the hospital sent the police and the fire department to my house just a few hours after my baby was born. I went in for non-emergency stitches because my midwife didn’t carry anesthetics, but the nurses seemed to think I was criminally irresponsible for having my baby at home. My comic explains more about the hostility toward midwives and home birth.

11 Derek Lee, “The Adventures of Superdad”
Graphic medicine has changed both my overall approach and mentality about literary study. When I made the decision to go back for my English PhD, I initially thought I had to leave behind much of what I loved – like comics, science, weird fiction – to study what everyone else what studying (i.e. the canon). What graphic medicine has taught me more than anything is that you can still study what you’re passionate about; it’s an emerging field that provides a lot of space to move academically, but it also taps into a deep comics tradition, literary history, and scientific knowledge. It has been very liberating to draw from all these various fields of knowledge that I’m personally invested in. One of my main interest areas is the relationship between science and what I call “pseudoscience,” the tension between realism and fantastical modes of knowledge. My comic The Adventures of Superdad is reflection of this interest. My wife and I had twin girls sixteen months ago. Before you become a dad you often have grand conceptions about the amazing father you’re going to be, but so much of that goes out the window when your children finally arrive. This is doubly true when you’re expecting one baby and you end up with two. This comic is about the fantasies and realities of fatherhood. I used a full splash page here to show the kind of father figure I once imagined myself as – a larger-than-life figure that was infinitely patient and wise. In the corner I’m teaching my kids astronomy and in the middle I’m showing them how to ride a bike. As anyone else who has children knows, though, being a parent is a very humbling process where you don’t teach your kids as much as they teach you. You have to create a new persona for yourself, and it’s not at all the one you thought it was going to be.

12 Joshua Leone “Psychological injuries are invisible”
[first 6 panels]Graphic medicine provides explicit medical education about particular injuries or illnesses when text and images combine to create a comic panel or page. I’m particularly interested in the psychological wounds that result from combat related trauma and graphic medicine’s ability to promote healing for veterans. I wrestled with how to depict this for myself and for others, and I chose to combine the actual symptoms of a psychological injury with comics thought bubbles to show how the stress, anxiety, and intrusive thoughts literally inhabit and persist in the thoughts of my character. [Last 3 Panels] The medical education that graphic medicine provides can be useful for healing and for prevention of psychological injuries by fostering resilience. I included some of the ways in which my character learned to heal from the psychological wounds he experienced. He mentions physical therapy for recovering from the physical injuries, cognitive behavioral therapy for psychological injuries, and the role of family relationships for restoring emotional health. These illustrations also correspond to habits that foster resilience. Physical fitness; positive thinking, meditation, and goal setting; healthy familial relationships between loved ones—these not only represent avenues for recovery, but also cultivate the types of behaviors for prevention as well.


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