In fall 2015, I decided to build on my students’ interest in illustration and graphic novels to help them practice close reading of a scholarly text. Reflecting the course goal to familiarize students with formalist methods of art history, I had assigned the introduction to Heinrich Wölfflin’s Principles of Art History as one of the required readings. Students were to develop and bring to class a list of key points, which we discussed before breaking into small groups of 4. Each group was then assigned the task of rewriting Wölfflin’s introduction as a graphic novel, and I was amazed by the results.
Aside from the quality of the images (everyone should be so lucky as to teach art students), they were talking with each other about the main ideas of the text and how to synthesize them into a visual format.
Because of time constraints, the students chose to upload images of their work to share via our class folder on Google Drive, and I assigned a reflection assignment for them to review and critique each others’ versions of the text. This final step was important because it provided students the opportunity to recognize and correct conceptual misunderstandings in some of their peers’ work.