Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Gwen Athene Tarbox


Sequential narratives such as comics, graphic novels and Manga (Japanese-style comics) have long been popular in youth culture. Recent attention has shifted to the potential of utilizing these alternative texts in the secondary classroom, yet very little information for English teachers exists regarding how to engage students in close, careful, and culturally informed analysis of these works. While there is a long tradition of thoughtful analytical teaching about literary texts, when it comes to the study of various media with strong image content, language arts teachers often may not know how to proceed. Indeed, preconceptions about the legitimacy of comics and graphic novels as "real" literature, may be a barrier for many language arts teachers who are anxious about the inclusion of these alternative texts in their own classrooms. Recognizing both teacher apprehension regarding these texts, along with the needs of a highly visual and multimodal generation of learners, this dissertation will consider the theory and applications of multimodal learning and critical literacy in the English classroom as they relate to the teaching of three graphic novels: American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, and Blankets by Craig Thompson. Written using a first-person, autoethnographic approach, this dissertation hopes to offer suggestions for expanding educator's ideas regarding the literary canon and to situate the use of graphic novels within the framework of respected and established Best Practice teaching principles. This dissertation will also draw upon teacher and student narratives regarding the graphic novel in order to consider the "story" of how these new literacies can become powerful allies in the quest to bring meaning, relevance, and critical awareness into the English classroom.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access