Comics strip by Peter Wilkins

A graphic education

By Melissa Nilan, Marketing and Communications

You’ve probably heard of journaling, the act of regularly writing about your day or thoughts as both a form of writing practice and therapeutic activity. But have you ever heard of comic-ing?

Okay, admittedly, that’s a made-up word, but the idea is the same: Drawing comics on a daily basis to express your thoughts and experiences.

Peter Wilkins, Research and Innovation Office Coordinator at Douglas, began doing this as a way to prepare for teaching an English literature class on Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, a comic book about the Iranian Revolution. Teaching comics as literature was new to him, and something that required a bit of thought.

It opened up a whole new realm of literary possibilities.

“Comics are a challenge to teach. They are simple to read, but hard to explain. I couldn’t talk about them the same way I talked about a novel, because they aren’t just literature, they are also art. They are an artistic response,” says Peter. “I began thinking, ‘What can you get across with drawing that you can’t with words? Is it possible to express complex social and political concepts through this format?’”

The research and development of academic comics is a new field, but one that is growing quickly. Peter teamed up with other Douglas English instructors Brenna Clarke Gray and David N. Wright to create a blog where they could engage in conversation about graphic literature. He also teamed up with colleagues from the UK to develop a comic book on dementia care: Parables of care: Creative responses to dementia care, as told by carers was published last fall. The book tells anecdotes from caregivers of individuals with dementia and the creative tactics they use to navigate the challenges of the condition.

“By using the comic format, we can emphasize certain moments and behaviours. This creative format is great for showcasing the creativity of the caregivers. It’s also intentionally disjointed, so that the reader gets a sense of the dementia interpretation of reality,” says Peter.

In the wake of the positive reception the book has received, Peter hopes to do another one that is more Douglas (and Canadian) –centric.

In the meantime, he’s working to spread his appreciation of the comic format in the academic world through teaching comic workshops for instructors, attending academic comic conferences, encouraging students to use comics for note-taking, and even by publishing some of his own comics.

Peter Wilkins comic portrait

Comic self-portrait by Peter Wilkins



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