From the category archives:

Popular Culture

Progressive Theology: Highest Frontier

by Dr Davis on April 15, 2016

Andrew Lang, ORU
A Door into Progressive Theology: Creative and Destructive Expressions of Faith in Joan Slonczewski’s The Highest Frontier

Slonczewski =
Evolutionary biologist, Quaker, feminist, hard science fiction author

2-time Campbell Award Winner
A Door Into Ocean 1987
Advanced race on water world. Moon around alien planet. Genetically engineered planet and themselves, so all female.
The Highest Frontier 2012
I reviewed and she prompted me with questions.

What it’s really about?
On her blog:
“argues the cold equations:
No energy source on Earth, even wind or solar, will save our planet. In the long run, no power source is sustainable…
Democracy as we know it is finished… We’ll be tossing a coin—perhaps the only thing left a coin is good for. … we send our children to die. … planet that’s dying is their future. …“The Cold Equations,” with a twist—spaceship Earth is in the hands of [a] girl.”

She challenged us to reverse the roles… a female pilot and a male stowaway.

Not much talk about religion aspects.
That is the question she asked me to look at when she asked me to review it.
The religion is very stereotypic.
Centrist: politically conservative, literalists… First Firmament Church
p. 16 “Your last day on Earth, before heading up to college at the firmament.” Firmament, the Centrist word for hollow…”
“A Church with its spire pointed down… Leviticus 18:23” p. 52 (which means not to have sex with a beast. “It is confusion.”)

“science deniers are appropriating more—they are starting to deny physics as well as biology.”

A door into author’s faith?
Sees herself for force for religious good.

Jenny talks to Father Clare. How can you stand to be a Christian? I can’t not be a Christian. (author fits in with scientists, until they realize she is a Christian)
But look at all people do in the name of Christ….Leading our planet to death.
“that’s what most preaching is… WE preserve the word of God by scribbling prayers over something infinitely more valuable. It’s up to you to find the original. P. 205-206

Notes from ORU 2015


Ender’s Game: Love, Goodness

by Dr Davis on March 21, 2016

Speaker: Brent Gibson, U of Mary Hardin-Baylor (since 1999)
“Goodness, Innocence, and Love in Ender’s Game”

best authors know each story has a message of its own.
Some authors want to tell and interpret their story.
Problem when interpreter is not as strong as storytelling.
Places in text where author loses control of the text = misspeaking

Card’s interpretation problematic.
Ender Wiggin as a good person who loves his enemies.
Ender = Christ-figure
BUT Ender is not good, not innocent, and does not love his enemies. Plus, he doesn’t have to save the world.
Disparity between what said about Ender and what Ender does.

Barbara Johnson critiques Billy Budd “discrepancy btw character and action”

Love = feeling? Totally disconnected from actions.

Far from Aristotle’s definition and of Christian love.

Mt. 5:44 Jesus says “love your enemies.” Giving life for enemies is highest form of love.

Empathy followed by destruction.

Is he innocent?
To be innocent is to not know.
Ender does know.
Ender doesn’t know that he is committing genocide.
Ender did know that he was being called to commit genocide. Kill or be killed, said the generals.
“The real decision is inevitable. If one of us has to be destroyed, …”
Ender’s response makes clear he is committed. “As for me, I am in favor of surviving.”

What kind of person is Ender?
How do you read all the descriptions of Ender as good?

Goodness = virtue (Aristotle)? Ender doesn’t meet this.
Goodness related to intention? Ender doesn’t meet this.

Ender’s actions Nietschian

Notes from CCTE 2016: Literature 5 Biblical Themes


CFP: Lois McMaster Bujold’s Works

by Dr Davis on December 3, 2015

[UPDATE] CFP: Biology and Manners: The Worlds of Lois McMaster Bujold. Abstracts due 8 Jan 2016.
full name / name of organization:
Dr. Una McCormack and Dr. Regina Yung Lee
contact email:;
Call for Papers:

Potential contributors are invited to submit an abstract for a chapter for inclusion in a forthcoming edited volume on the works of Lois McMaster Bujold.

This volume, arising from an inter-disciplinary conference held in Cambridge in August 2014, will explore the works of Hugo and Nebula Award winning writer Lois McMaster Bujold, encompassing both her science fiction and her fantasy novels.

Abstracts are particularly welcome that address issues related to any of the following theoretical perspectives or themes related to the works of Lois McMaster Bujold:

• Disability studies in the Vorkosigan or Chalion series
• Analyses addressing Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, especially in comparison with Barrayar
• The Sharing Knife as an example of North American future studies
• American Literature or Critical Race Studies analyses of the Sharing Knife tetralogy
• Subjectivity and multiplicity through possession (e.g. The Hallowed Hunt, “Penric’s Demon,” etc.)
• Racial politics in the Sharing Knife tetralogy
• Masculinity and race in Chalion
• Reproductive politics in the Vorkosigan series
• Inter-series comparative papers
• Readings that draw connections to Dorothy L. Sayers, the Brontës, and Georgette Heyer

Please submit 500-word abstracts for essays of a projected length of 5000 words by 8 Jan 2016. Abstracts should be submitted to the editors, Dr Una McCormack and Dr Regina Yung Lee.

Emails should be entitled Biology and Manners: Abstract, and should contain the following information:
a) Author, affiliation, title of abstract, body of abstract
b) A cv of no more than 2 pages.

Dr Una McCormack
Department of English, Communication, Film and Media, Anglia Ruskin University, UK

Dr Regina Yung Lee
Department of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies, University of Washington


CFP: Teaching Graphic Novels?

by Dr Davis on December 2, 2015

Teaching Graphic Novels in English and Literature Courses
full name / name of organization:
Dr. Alissa Burger
contact email:
In the last couple of decades, comics and graphic novels have made their way into a wide variety of classrooms, from science to the humanities. As Robert G. Weiner and Carrye Kay Syma argue in ‘Graphic Novels and Comics in the Classroom: Essays on the Educational Power of Sequential Art,’ “It is no longer a question of whether sequential art should be used in educational settings, but rather how to use it and for what purpose” (1).

This collection aims to highlight the diverse ways comics and graphic novels are used in English and literature classrooms, whether to develop critical thinking or writing skills, paired with a more traditional text, or as literature in their own right. From fictional stories to non-fiction works such as biography/memoir, history, or critical textbooks (such as Elizabeth Losh, Jonathan Alexander, Kevin Cannon, and Xander Cannon’s ‘Understanding Rhetoric: A Graphic Guide to Writing’), graphic narratives provide students a new way to look at the course material and the world around them. Graphic novels have been widely and successfully incorporated into composition and creative writing classes, introductory literature surveys, and upper-level literature seminars, and present unique opportunities for engaging students’ multiple literacies and critical thinking skills, as well as providing a way to connect to the terminology and theoretical framework of the larger disciplines of rhetoric, writing, and literature.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to, using graphic narratives:
• To develop students’ visual literacy and critical thinking skills
• As a starting point for critical or creative writing and reflection
• Paired with a more traditional text to present a familiar/classic story in a new format, such as Classical Comics’ Shakespeare series or Fiona Macdonald and Penko Gelev’s graphic novel adaptation of Homer’s ‘The Odyssey’
• As key standalone texts for the application of literary terminology and analysis
• To engage with varying perspectives of race, nationality, class, gender, or sexual orientation

Proposals are welcome addressing the incorporation of graphic novels in any level or type of English or literature class and should focus on a specific text or set of texts, the use of these works in the class, and the benefits to student learning.

Abstracts of proposed essays (500 words) and a brief CV should be submitted as Word attachments to Dr. Alissa Burger ( by February 1, 2016.

I am particularly interested in this as I have taught using graphic novels and I am hoping to teach a graduate rhetoric course on the visual fall of 2017.


CFP: Comics and Pop Culture

by Dr Davis on November 19, 2015

Denver Comic Con’s Page 23 LitCon
full name / name of organization:
Denver Comic Con’s Page 23 LitCon
contact email:
Call for Papers, Panels, and Presentations

Page 23 LitCon
June 17-19, 2016

500-word abstracts for papers, panels, and roundtables offering a critical approach on comics and pop culture are being accepted for a scholarly conference at

DENVER, CO June 17-19, 2016

Now in its fifth year, Denver Comic Con’s Page 23 LitCon seeks abstracts from all disciplinary and theoretical perspectives related to not only comics and graphic novels, but also gaming, television and film, anime, action figure studies—any pop culture topic is welcome!

We’re especially interested in:
• Presentations examining the 75th anniversary of Wonder Woman
• Presentations and panels on Superstar Comic Creators of the 70s, 80s, and 90s, including guests of Denver Comic Con 2016
• Panels centered on pop culture pedagogy, aimed at current teachers at all levels
• Presentations and panels considering comics and culture, including representations of race, treatment of disability, women who changed the comics and pop culture industries of TV and movies, etc.

As Denver Comic Con attracts a wide range of guests, we will do our best to connect comics creators with scholarly presentations about their work. Editorial, interdisciplinary, and creative proposals are also welcome, along with traditional academic papers. Multimedia equipment will be available to all presenters, and we encourage and prefer visually engaging presentations. Page 23 LitCon has no registration fee and acceptance includes a three-day pass to Denver Comic Con.

Please email abstracts and a brief personal statement to by March 1st, 2016

From UPenn.


Ad Examination

by Dr Davis on October 28, 2015

When the FYC students have to look at the rhetorical aspects of commercials for analysis, this one has been recommended by a former student.

Even though it is in Japanese, the explanation provides information and it is a stunning display.


Top SF Movies Ever?

by Dr Davis on October 27, 2015

50 Top Science Fiction Movies according to I have seen 21.


Teaching Comics

by Dr Davis on October 26, 2015

I attended Collin College’s Trends in Teaching Composition Conference. This particular session was primarily informational, but there were hands-on activities, as the presenters had us engage with activities they use in their classrooms.

Teaching Comics Workshop
Michael Baker, Lauryn Angel, Jonathan Evans

Collin College

How to Utilize Comics in the Comp Classroom
Jonathan Evans

Evaluation, Norton’s ch. 103, English 1301 (111)
Minor writing for students with article analysis. Major for evaluation.
Students were often confused.
Then changed to minor assignment with presentation and group work.
Walked through textbook with Ppt.
Key features of evaluations
Concise presentation
2-sided sheet. One side was a comic-book page. Back side was varied levels of context.
Typically ended with a question, which helps set up criteria for evaluation.
You answered the question. Why did you pick that answer?
w/ expanded version of key features
pass out examples—varied versions

one group criticized Lois Lane, even though they thought it was good
no words was problem
Also the students were not aware of Christopher Reeves.

One of the Superman’s was supportive against suicide ideation… Superman is relevant. 1936/46? Episode where Superman stops a mentally ill man from jumping out of window.

Literacy narrative
Akkarian games with her father. “He was the one who fell.”
You have no idea. You have to read on to find out.

What is a literacy narrative?
Attempting to incorporate images into assignment sheets.
Has a friend who is artistic who created an avatar.
Do further research. Is there engagement?
Students are excited by visual images. But is

marvel_heroesLauryn Angel
Superheroes in American Culture, 232

Reading comics since age 11
Discovered would get students who had been reading since youth, expected Avenger movies, some who had never picked up comic book in lives.
One of the things I did for folks who have been reading.
Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. Ch. 2 introduces language of the comics.
Also Making Comics for final assignment
Studying Comics and Graphic Novels by Kukkonem

Activity inspired by Kukkonem.

Cut up copied of pages from comic book
Then had them organize in multiple ways, decide on the preference idea, and write a paragraph
Action Comics #1—introducing Superman

Second part of activity is Why did the story go differently if it did…
Promote the close reading of comic books, get people who have been reading it a lot out of the “just is just for fun.” Makes them pay attention.
Not just for fun.

Class Comixology account. Doesn’t let you print pages.
All of our comics are digital. Takes them out of that sensory. I paid for all the comics.

Did not use more complex panels.
Might not reflect story in traditional narrative, chronological

Read comics as literary text

superfriends Sat morn cartoonsMichael Baker
Visual Rhetoric and Comics

Super symbols—simple or complex?

McCloud calls iconography, ch. 2
Everything in a superhero costume can be read rhetorically.

Wonder Woman, Superman w an American flag, Batman dark with family lit

Let’s play a matching game (image and words)
WW = feminist icon
Superman = American hero
Batman = orphan

Superman = illegal immigrant
WW = marginalized/sexualized
Batman = mentally ill

Symbols are complicated.
In 2014 child murdered by grandparents. Then DC Entertainment allowed Superman S to appear on gravestone.

Jeffrey Baldwin, 5, starved to death by his gradnparents….

Who decides what that symbol means?
Symbol (visual iconography) abstract rep of characters
Clear link btw character identity and symbols
Even comic companies want consistency, authors/writers portray characters differently
Aud’s experience places meaning on symbol.

Problematic when characters have been through iterations.
Look at WWs costumes.
WW in white long super agent costume –right after Star Wars

WW original was patriotic motif, with eagle.
WW can copyright two w’s.
Shift in the costume cut in regard to coverage

First got pants in late 2000s. took away. got again. Took away.
Was eagle a symbol of Roosevelt’s new deal—ideology supported

At end of each comic you had WW advertising for people to buy war bonds.

90s jean jacket
flat boots

have students read 2 or more different comics and then prompt a discussion about how the diff char reps effect their view of the symbol

Comixology provides a convenient digital environment

even indiv panels can work

3 different panels from WW

issue 8, relatively early, her eyes are taped shut—she refuses to escape the blindfold because tape will pull out her eyelashes

early 60s when adopted 2Wws—
WW’s mother giving her a W. W for women everywhere. “It doesn’t look half bad.”

90s WW reading fan mail “And this one wants my old underwear”

Does this feel like the same character to you?
So what is changing?
Different artist and writer
Costume major changes
Hair changes
Body issues—unrealistically proportioned
Compare to Barbie

Confusion that women have—given mixed messages
Be feminine. Be tough.
Is she smiling? Is she laughing?
Looking for context. (She sends an envelope. Is it underwear?)

Evolution of lasso
“encapsulate men”

WonderWoman as Disney princess?
Fairy godmother, Prince Charming, WW as princess w sword.

Comics are about sales.
Creators have to suit audience.
If doesn’t sell, have to change story.

Participatory audience.

Comixology – website and app for Apple and Android
Give class one log in
Digital comics are cheaper. $3.99 per issue is most expensive. $.99 for older.
Mostly mainstream, but some indie

To find paper copies of early editions is expensive.
Sacrifice sensory…

Superheroes only?
Yes. Iconography.

Teach Icon? Black superhero, conservative. Young woman sidekick who gets pregnant.
Teach Cyborg. New series.
Marginalized characters most fascinating because when their sales fail, audience and authors will blame each other.

You buy comic books and students have access.
Hit big 3 of golden age.
Students add to Comixology.
Students would purchase to add to the collection. Wanted other people to be able to look at comics.


Biggest challenge?
Why take the class?
Visual rhetoric of a required class
Biggest obstacle—thinking it will be fun and/or knowing all about it

Taught 112 through graphic novels
Young woman threw stink about 3 comics. “garbage and pornography”
She assumed it was a blow off class.
It was a fiction class about understanding human behavior.
Provided class with list of graphic novels. 3 questions: lit? suitable for composition class? Xx?
Used McCloud for intro

Similar exercise
Make small arguments on what kind of frame (interdependent, etc) it is…
To practice what McCloud explained.

Teaching Allison Bectell this year. Discussion of writing environment. Memoir discussion.
Also discussion of Virginia Woolf.
Use McCloud’s frame of 7 (handout with visual and comic version of it)
Very effective
Feminist relationships, lesbian rel, mother-daughter, father-daughter
Graphic environment forces them to think in a different way.
Bectell –half of strip is where she is when talking about it—driving, etc

Helps that most of our students are visually oriented.

?disability services?
Had to transpose Maus with blind student.

Most I’ve had is color blind.
Everyone looked at it in gray scale.

Would have to do research for blind.

–I spent weeks describing each panel. Audio discourse. No audio version of Maus. Typed the whole dialogue and whole description.
Also did an accounting textbook which is less fun.

–actually visual learner
had sight as a child, struggle to listen to text and not have visual

anything with Braille technology?
Designed geographic maps and geology experiments with tactile.
But not a company that is publishing things like that.
Huge portion don’t read Braille.

?3-D printing, raised images? Anyone doing that?

?how do you overcome resistance?
Reinforcing, fun but not just fun

Context of history
Captain America punching Hitler
1960s XMen marginalized from Marvel pair with Civil Rights movement versus DC “I am Curious Black” Lois Lane, blackface
more an interpretation approach

tried to find ways
Aristotle’s def of rhetoric
If I am trying to persuade, how can I use images to do that?

I love superheroes. But I have been trying to use images to connect with students.

How effective if do one assignment of graphic novel and rest is normal?
I don’t try to overwhelm them with it.

Gradual introduction.
Visual and auditory learner…

Teach a lot of film… evaluation is movie review
Take a movie that is familiar, have a Prezi on Shining
Afterwards students say “Never thought about movies that way.”

Avatar version = modeling

By end of my class, they create their own.

Race issues…
Just come up.
Icon (conservative)
Reaction to new Star Wars character.
Right wing very upset that their heroes aren’t promoting the same cause.
Cpt America
Conservatives were identifying with Sons of Serpent

Intent is to be open, expressive, and inclusive –really?

Race is a continuing issue
Audience members do have a direct connection

Transgendered supervillain in Batgirl
Bunch of people tweeted at writer
Writer issued apology and said would do it right

?respective views of Nita Sarcussian (Sarcazian)
metamorphosis of Laura Croft character

Star Trek became a graphic novel—his vision of progressive

Did a presentation recently about lack of diversity (race and gender) body types, kinds of characters, variety of white male but not women…

Presentation on the online attacks on her—expose of the internet
How to be critical of what you see on internet

Ideas creeping into iconography
Icons of black Christ, female Christ


Videogame Narrative

by Dr Davis on August 29, 2015

Looks relevant:
Narrative in Videogames by Patrick Holleman on The Game Design Forum

Designing Game Narrative from HitBox Team: good graphics too
“In games, you can discover further depth from doing the scene. With interactivity, you now get to experience the story firsthand.”
“Narrative isn’t automatically a crucial component in games, as it often is in film or literature. Interactivity is the defining feature of games – and indeed, games that excel in their gameplay are most often great games.”

The difference between (video)games and narrative, which is an introduction to ludology

Games and Narrative: international research group on interactive and computer game narrative

Plot is Overrated: Game narrative is all about your characters

Narrative in Video Games Are video games an effective storytelling medium?

Narrative in Games, good introduction

NCTE on Videogames in the Classroom and Narrative

Using User Research to Improve Game Narrative
“gamers struggle to remember even their favorite game narratives (in contrast to other media), only remembering big moments or characters in isolation”

Narrative and Ludic Nexus in Computer Games, scholarly paper

Theorising Video Game Narrative, a master’s thesis

A Model of Videogame Narrative Architectures

Less useful to what I am looking for, but interesting:
Narrative, Games, and Theory on Game Studies

Narrative and Videogame Design, English course syllabus

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CFP: Digital Games and Environmental Rhetoric

by Dr Davis on August 21, 2015

Ecoplay: Digital Games and Environmental Rhetoric
full name / name of organization:
TRACE Journal / Department of English / University of Florida
contact email:
The University of Florida’s TRACE journal publishes online peer-reviewed collections in ecology, posthumanism, and media studies. Providing an interdisciplinary forum for scholars, we focus on the ethical and material impact of technology. TRACE Innovation Initiative’s second call for papers, “Ecoplay: Digital Games and Environmental Rhetoric,” focuses on digital games and asks how play contributes to ecological thought.

Building on M. Jimmie Killingsworth and Jacqueline S. Palmer’s Ecospeak: Rhetoric and Environmental Politics in America as well as Sidney I. Dobrin and Sean Morey’s Ecosee: Image, Rhetoric, Nature, this issue proposes “Ecoplay” as a rhetorical framework for investigating the intersection of gameplay and ecocriticism. Both Ecospeak and Ecosee explore how rhetorical forms encourage support and sympathy for environmental movements. Specifically, Ecospeak identifies rhetorical patterns in writing about environmental politics and argues that discourse is a fundamental part of the environmental problem. Meanwhile, Ecosee claims that image-based media plays a powerful role in shaping arguments about ecology, environment, and nature. Examining play as a catalyst for environmental discourse, Ecoplay critically considers existing and potential rhetorics of digital ecologies and evaluates how games make arguments about nature.

Games often perpetuate problematic ideologies about human-nature-technology relationships by offering a platform for environmental consumption, resource management, colonization, cultivation, etc. At the same time, game designers and players can challenge entrenched ecological narratives or promote conservation efforts through digital worlds. TRACE’s “Ecoplay” issue seeks a comprehensive way of engaging the interplay between multiple forms of ecological rhetoric in digital games and ‘plays’ with how the multi-modality of games enables rhetorical forms to interact. Thus, contributions to this issue of TRACE should explore how digital games configure our understandings of ecologies and ecological issues through their design, play, and materiality.

Paper topics may include, but are not limited to, any of the following as they relate to digital games:

-Ethics and rhetorics of play, interface, or design
?-Representations of nature, ecology, or environment
?-Wildlife or resource management
?-Ecological conservation or preservation
?-“Green” games
?-E-waste and pollution
?-Built environments, construction, and destruction
?-Agriculture, gardening, and urbanization
-?Media ecologies

Completed articles will be peer-reviewed and should be between 3000-6000 words in length. Multimedia submissions are accepted and encouraged. If you are interested in contributing to the TRACE Innovation Initiative’s second issue, please send a 500 word abstract to by Oct. 1, 2015.

From UPenn