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From Ms. Grundy to Peter Parker and beyond: Historicizing, Reading, and Reinventing the Life of the Teacher in Comics

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  • SSHRC IG awarded 2019: From Ms. Grundy to Peter Parker, comics and teachers are curious bedfellows. This interdisciplinary study examines the history of the teacher in North American comics, and involves a praxis-oriented approach to researching with this hybrid form, studying the relationship between a particular history of graphic narrative and contemporary multimodality. In comics, graphic insight and sophisticated reading practices coalesce in a form indebted to the unpredictable energies of popular culture and underground art. In this diverse history, teachers and their classrooms have been represented in myriad and complex ways, with characters that range from inept and foolish, to sympathetic and heroic. Given the recent ascendancy of graphic novels in literary and educational contexts, the time appears ripe for comics research, though it is also newly necessary to question the histories, circulations, and contemporary responses to the re-occurring tropes and figures of comics art. This study begins with a two-year historical analysis, after which I will collaborate with practicing teachers to author their own comics, linking the changing figure of teachers in comics to the work of actual teachers in classrooms. Responding to calls for increased attention to multimodality across educational jurisdictions, I am thus committed to a form of grassroots response, through which teachers may actively recognize and simultaneously employ the narrative affordances of comics art. In this project, I pose the following questions: 1) How has the figure of the teacher been represented in the history of comics and graphic novels, and how have teachers represented their experiences in comics form? 2) How do teachers respond to, and where do their responses disrupt, these historical and contemporary examples? 3) Following these responses, how can teachers use the comics form to develop narratives about their teaching lives, and in doing so, reinvent how their profession is represented?

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    Research Material
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    ©️Lewkowich, David. All rights reserved other than by permission. This document embargoed to those without UAlberta CCID until 2026.
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    Lewkowich, David