Tracing Project

[This project is an adapted version of one designed by Mark Sample]

Due Dates
2/1: Tracing #1 Due
2/8: Tracing #2 Due
2/15: Synthesis and Reflection Paper Due

You'll need tracing paper to complete this project. Tracing paper is available at most office or art supply stores.

You will trace two different pages from Y: The Last Man for this project, one from Unmanned and one from Cycles. A "page" means a single verso or recto page. You may do a two-page spread only if that spread forms a coherent unit. A two-page spread will count as one "page."

First Tracing

Pick a compelling page from the graphic narrative and trace it. Your goal is not to create a look-alike reproduction of the original page. Rather, it is to distill the original page into a simplified line drawing. If there are caption bubbles or boxes, you should trace their outline, but please do not copy the text within.

Annotate your traced page with "gutter text"—your own text, written into the gutters and empty captions of the pages. Think of your gutter text as a rhetorical dissection of the page, in which you highlight the characteristics of the page's panels using some of the rhetorical concepts we've discussed in class. What rhetorical choices did the creators make? What are the effects of those choices?

Consider the various formal features of the drawing: color, saturation, shading, line styles, shapes and sizes, angles and placement, perspective and framing, layering and blocking. Consider the relationship between the elements on the page: the transitions between panels, the interplay between words and images, the way time and motion are conveyed. Consider overall layout of the page: the use of gutters and margins, the arrangement of panels, the flow of narrative or imagery. Tip: Photocopy your tracing onto regular paper before you begin annotating it in order to preserve your original tracing. You may need several copies, in fact, in order to have room for all of your annotations.

Second Tracing

For the second tracing select a page that feels distinctly different from the page you traced earlier. Maybe there's something about the overall layout, or the artistic style, or the tone of the page. In any case, select a page that provides tension with your first tracing. After you have traced this page, again annotate it using the terms of rhetorical theory, this time with an eye toward what makes this page different from your first selection.

Synthesis and Reflection

The synthesis and reflection is a single document in which you work through the process and product of the tracing activity. I recommend that you take notes for your synthesis and reflection as you work, instead of waiting until you've finished tracing. You will probably discover much during the actual process of tracing that you'll want to talk about for the reflection.

Your synthesis and reflection should weigh in at no more than five pages (1250 words max). You shouldn't organize this document as a typical research essay. It can be more open-ended and tentative than the usual essay in which you are expected to conclusively "prove" a claim. Think of it as a "tour" of your tracings---but a tour that goes well beyond highlighting what is "interesting" about the pages you selected or your tracings of those pages. Your synthesis and reflection can address questions such as: What did this exercise in "imitation" reveal about the rhetorical attributes of these pages? What rhetorical tactics were employed in the pages you selected? How were these tactics similar or different? How do text and image work to persuade in your selected pages? To what rhetorical ends are they used?

These are just some of the questions you can ask. You should not be trying to address all of these questions.

When providing feedback, I will be looking for the following:

  • Have you observed the constraints of the assignment?
  • Is your gutter text detailed, and does it demonstrate careful thinking about the rhetorical attributes of these pages?
  • Does your synthesis and reflection provide an accurate and carefully considered discussion of the rhetorical tactics and attributes of these pages?
  • Is your project written effectively and coherently with very few grammatical errors?
  • Were the project's various components turned in on time? (Reminder: I do not accept late work.)

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