• Comics@CSUN logo by Jed McGowan

English 333

Over the past twenty years, comics studies courses have become common at colleges and universities across the United States and internationally. CSUN's popular GE course English 333: Comics and Graphic Novels, offered regularly since 2005, is part of this exciting movement, and in fact one of the earliest comics studies course in the California State University system.

Developed by Prof. Charles Hatfield, English 333 was taught in an experimental capacity annually from 2005 to 2008, after which it became a permanent part of the CSUN Catalog (the first comics studies course to do so). It is now taught by multiple instructors and in multiple sections each semester. Here is what the Catalog says about it:

Prerequisite: Completion of the lower division writing requirement. Study of comics, including comic strips, comic books, and graphic novels, from literary and cultural studies perspectives. Emphasis on both history and form, including image-text relationships. Topics may also include fan culture, particular genres of comics, and connections between comics and other forms of visual text. Critical writing required. (Available for General Education, C2 Humanities)

This description, says Prof. Hatfield, is "as wide-open as possible for an English course about comics, so that instructors can have the freedom to design and redesign the course as they think fit." He adds, "The thing to remember is that no single course can 'cover' comics. Good grief! The comics field is so wide and diverse that we couldn't hope to sum it up in one semester’s worth, or even in several years, of study. We could build an entire minor or major around comics and still be forced to leave out some aspects." For that reason, each English 333 class focuses down on particular aspects of comics, such as certain genres, styles, cultures, scenes, traditions, or research questions. The keyword, says Hatfield, is "adaptability."

In other words, the precise topics and requirements of English 333 are continually open to revision, within the broad parameters laid out in the catalog copy above. Comics, says Hatfield, "don't sit still," and neither does the course!