Sunday, March 15, 2015

Graphic Nonfiction

This week, we venture into new territory: the idea that nonfiction, particularly two famous treatises on natural science and psychology, could potentially be adapted as graphical narratives.

The first is Darwin's On the Origin of Species, adapted by Keller and Fuller. Here, we're on somewhat more familiar ground; indeed, natural history is the one genre of nonfiction which has almost always been heavily illustrated to begin with. Whether by Darwin himself, or other noted naturalists such as Charles Maplestone, John Muir, or Charles Dixon -- or by relative unknowns like John Smith, the field-sketchbook has been an essential part of studying nature in all its forms. Indeed, without illustrations, the value of almost any text of this kind would be greatly reduced.

At the other end of the spectrum, Tara Seibel's version of Freud's 1889 classic On the Interpretation of Dreams brings a visual element to a text that, in many ways, would seem to defeat any endeavor to transpose it into graphical form, unless it be that of a series of talk bubbles coming out of Freud's head! Seibel manages, though, to augment as well as simply illustrate Freud's arguments, bringing a new sort of vision to his iconic work.

Taken together, these two adaptations widen the range of the 'graphic' well beyond the novel -- but do they work? And how do they contrast with the balance of the books, almost all the other contents of which are based on fiction or poetry?

16 comments:

  1. The two books that have changed science forever are On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, and On the Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud. Both of these books challenged the human eye, stating findings that we cannot physically see.

    With Darwin, we cannot see an animal evolve in front of our eyes, it takes years for an animal to evolve into something else. The same goes with our dreams, we cannot physically see our dreams happen while awake. Adapting these non fiction works to a graphic novel form can help us understand what Freud and Darwin are trying to express, we are able to physically see evolution happen as we can see what our dreams can mean.

    Non fiction can be tedious and sometimes dry, but if there are bright colors and pictures that are adapted, then it won’t feel so much like a chore to read it. I think graphic novel interpretations of non fiction should happen more!

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  2. Charles Darwin changed science forever through his book “On the Origin of Species” while this book can sometimes be interesting, it can also be extremely boring to read because it is non-fiction. It is so literal that it takes away the excitement for the reader and can lead them to become unentertained and uninterested in continuing to read. Illustrations add an extra element that interests a reader. Usually, non-fiction books do not get the luxury of having illustrations to go along with the story. However, Keller and Fuller really did a good job at creating illustrations for this book. When you think about it, the story is about natural selection or survival of the fittest; it shows the evolution of species. Therefore, by putting in these illustrations it can help a reader decipher how a species may evolve. I thought this adaptation was great, I really enjoyed it and it made reading “On the Origin of Species” entertaining.
    Sigmund Freud also changed the world of phycology forever. However, I cannot say that I enjoyed the nonfiction adaptation “On the Interpretation of Dreams”. Tara Seibel’s interpretation with illustrations I thought was horrible. The pictures really did nothing to enhance the story for me. I also think that it is harder to illustrate something like a dream. When you think about, everybody dreams differently and has different patterns. Therefore, trying to create an adaptation with illustrations can be very difficult. I think that it is hit or miss for a non-fiction book to become graphic. It honestly depends on the story; because Seibel’s adaptation wasn’t good because of the type of story it was and Keller and Fuller’s adaptation was great because the story could actually be turned into something that can be illustrated.

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  3. The theory of evolution was developed by Charles Darwin and has revolutionized the world ever since. In the origin of species he has his documentation proving evolution, he uses species that are alive and fossils to prove his theory. The illustration of the origin of species showed many examples of how evolution occurs and survival of the fittest. It also shows what organism have to do in order for their offspring to continue living. I found this interpretation of the book very appealing, the subject of evolution has many critics and I find the illustrations from the book easy to understand. If someone were to teach evolution to someone else they would just have to show this story, it explains it all.

    Bryant Ayala

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  4. Charles Darwin's theory of evolution has impacted the world tremendously. Without his books and findings we wouldn't know today where animals and humans came from (although some don't believe in his theory). I think the adaptation and illustrations done by Keller and Fuller are beautiful and well done. I love all of the colors they use and the sketch-like images. I can tell they used different mediums for this; watercolor, pencil, ink. The drawings make the text easier to read. I also like the little notes next to the images, they remind me of drawings and notes in a journal which best fits the text.
    I would have thought a Sigmund Freud adaptation would be trippy and confusing but the illustrations done by Seibel are everything but that. They are simple and organized. I kind of wished there was more to look at rather than just the text but I can see why the artist went in the direction she did with it. How would you adapt Freud's text? It's mostly findings and results. I understand why it's in black and white, it makes me think of an actual journal. I do like that Seibel uses real images of things like the stopwatch and faces on the third page in. Her illustrations are remind me of doodles so I guess that fits with the text (a Freud journal).

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  5. It was very interesting to see these two books, The Origin of Species and The Interpretation of Dreams, brought to life with illustrations. I have always been a fan of science, and I have taken my fair share of biology and psychology classes as a student. I have studied both of these books in my academic career. I do favor The Origin of Species however because I have always loved biology and figuring out how things work or came to be. I find Darwin's theories of evolution and survival of the fittest to be true and love studying these theories. I loved seeing Darwin's ideas and research come to life through the illustrations in this adaptation. I am definitely a visual and hands on learner, and these illustration definitely went well with the text. I liked how the pictures were sketches brought to life and that they were somewhat realistic as opposed to cartoons. I think it was important to make the illustrations realistic because the text is talking about such "realistic" stuff, such as scientific research. I would definitely want to see the rest of this adaptation and be able to restudy Darwin's theories while being able to see them.

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  6. Robert Conway

    The last graphic adaptation one would exspect to see is "On the Origin of Species" by Charles Darwin. The adaptation itself seems of a cross between a narrative and a high school science book. The actual pictures are very vivid and well done, and very much like the actual forms or perceived form of the species mentioned. This shows how the illustrator did immence research into this before making the adaptation, which shows great comitment.

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  7. Between the two, I think the addition of illustrations best fit The Origin of Species. It mostly talks about animals and scenery, and gives great descriptions on these that the drawings go along with it. When reading it without the pictures, most people would create their own in their minds, so adding the illustrations only makes it better. I assume that Darwin drew his own pictures in a notebook, mostly like the sketches found in the adaptation. This makes makes reading it even more entertaining. The Interpretation of Dreams has the opposite effect. When reading it, most people would not imagine any pictures to go along with it. There are no specific descriptions of an object. Its discussing a theory, not something physical. The illustrations here were just unnecessary. They didn't add anything to the adaptation that would make it more entertaining or understanding. It was still just a lot of writing that is hard to make sense, but now with the addition of random squiggly lines and drawings of Freud and random people.

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  8. As previous commenters have stated, I myself did not expect to see this particular nonfiction to be in such a book as the Graphic Canon. However, opening up to this specific story was very interesting. Keller did a great job interpreting the text that some may find confusing, into what can be easily understood by many. The imagery goes hand in hand with the factual information Darwin once portrayed. I especially like the color scheme, as well as the brush strokes. I also liked how Keller showed some of the animals with their skeletons next to them such as on page 242. Also, I appreciated the illustration, found on pg 254-255, of what I perceive to be a tree of life that shows the different domains of living organisms.

    Marissa DeRoy

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  9. Nonfiction is not a typical genre I like to read about. I find it all to be very boring and sometimes monotone, like I'm sitting in a class with a professor that goes on and on about nonsense. Due to the fact that my major requires a lot of science and psychology, I am aware of both Charles Darwin and Freud's works. Like many people have stated before I can not see why Russ Kick would exactly choose both of these pieces to be adapted into the graphic canon, but I do favor Darwin's piece adapted by Keller and Fuller a lot more. “On the Origin of Species” has a lot more flare and abstract to its drawings. The colors and clear visual realism actually hooks a reader in and regardless of the words on the page, we get a sense of Darwin's envision and theory without having to read into it. The only thing is I could this graphic story in the graphic canon to be very boring, science can not be made into some story book with huge lines of information, it almost sounds like we are trying to make a long road trip with our parents fun, its just not fun. However I found, Freud's piece adapted by Tara Seibel to be very boring. This rendition included boring black and white photos, along with boring long notecard typewriter text. For a graphic novel, I almost felt it included too much text and it took away from the illustrations. Due to the fact that I know Freud so well, I could envision his theories with lots of color and abstractness, which none of this was portrayed in Tara Seibel's rendition. Dreams are supposed to be unordinary and out there (which is also how I envisioned Freud to be), and I found this adaptation nothing short of monotonous, dull, and lifeless. Maybe both Charle's Darwin and Freud's theories should stick to their genres and out of the graphic canon world.

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  10. I can understand that The Graphic Canon is reinventing the literary canon into a new structure based upon illustrations of the canon; however, the inclusion of scientific theories do not fit into the books. Placing the scientific adaptations alongside the works of Austin, Shakespeare, and many others makes them stick out like a sore thumb. Yes, the adaptation of “On the Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin was beautifully adapted. And yes, due to the colorful depictions of the animals and their habitats, the piece would seem to belong within the pages of the graphic canon. Although the piece seems ideal, the purpose of such information was not intended to be seen as a literary piece. Both pieces, “On the Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin and “On the Interpretation of Dreams” by Sigmund Freud belong within a textbook. They belong in a different category of the canon. Some scientific theories have been controversial like the Big Bang Theory because of contradictory beliefs from religion, but this theory isn’t adapted. Why? The foundation of each theory is not entirely open to adaptations. The information is based upon research, experiments, and facts. To adapt any of it would alter the projected conclusion. These are unlike literary works because the literary canon can be read, interpreted, and visualized from different points of views. Theses theories, in my opinion, should not be optional. They direct students towards a better understating of nature, human psyche, and the evolution of science. Literary pieces are works which are written to expand the imagination, to tell stories, and to offer an escape from reality.

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  11. First off, both these readings wouldn't be something I would read on my own so I found it really hard to follow because I was just simply not interested. Although, as far as the layout goes, it was really easy to know what to read next and the photo quality in the adaptation of "On the Origin of Species" was really nicely drawn and you can tell the artist put a lot of time in the work to make sure it was nice looking but also follows the storyline. - Brandon Men

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  12. As someone who has been a nursing major and studies biology all the time, I of course was instantly excited to see how Russ Kick would find a way to bring the science of the Origin of Species to life through artwork. Not many would be a fan of this selection, as this is a graphic canon on mostly all english literature pieces, but I found this particular adaptation fascinating. Keller and Fuller featured the different species and how they've evolved over time throughout the adaptation and I thought that was really cool to see and also gave you a better understanding of the exact ways in which they had changed. The facts that are sometimes hard to understand were better portrayed through the art work, making it an easy and fun read. I think the colors were perfect for the time periods, as they described times nearly 55 million years ago. The colors and artwork reminded me of Jurassic Park with all the deep and dark shades of forest greens and browns. I think they really created a brilliant adaptation that gives readers a better understanding on the science side of literature.

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  13. Because I am a Biology major, I found the Origin of Species adaptation to be quite interesting. I was curious to see how it would be adapted graphically and what text would be used. I loved the illustrations in this work. They are very realistic and exemplify the relationships between each organism as time has passed, which allows a person who doesn't have much love for science to get a basic understanding of what occurs throughout evolution of a species. The wording was not the best and difficult to understand at times; some sentences went on a bit too long. However, the artwork definitely helped. The artwork was very colorful which I liked too. I thought this piece did work. It was enjoyable to read and it is informative. I don't think that The Interpretation of Dreams worked as well. It was boring to read and did not capture my attention at all. I guess it depends on how a nonfiction work is adapted graphically to see if it really works or not.

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  14. Corey Carvalho

    Keller and Fuller's adaptation was phenomenal. I wrote my second paper on it because of how impressed I was. The illustrations are extremely lifelike. Reading through this adaptation had me feeling as if I were watching a documentary on Animal Planet or the History Channel. One point outlined in my paper that I still feel strongly about is the fact that the unimportant features of each illustration were roughly drawn, whereas the important features of each illustration were drawn very clearly.

    The frames were arranged in a logical and easy to follow order, which makes sense for a non-fiction scientific piece. While I feel as if the illustrations were fantastic enough to provide the reader with enough information on the topic, the additional words and diagrams were helpful, although not needed. All in all I thoroughly enjoyed this adaptation, and I wish to see more like this one.

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  15. These two books are like none other. Have are challenging all of the findings that have not yet been seen and without such technologies such as the internet. These books allow us to do what was thought to be impossible which is to see evolution. The adaptation in the graphic novel helps to understand what exactly it is Darwin and Freud have been trying to show the world. Graphic interpretations could go along way in the world and could possibly help change the way man sees the world.

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  16. “On the Origin of Species” and “The Interpretation of Dreams” each has elements that make them both similar and different when compared to the rest of the works in Kick’s canon, which are fiction or poetry. Fiction and poetry are both open to interpretation, which is part of what gives them their graphical adaptability. Interpretation is the unifying idea of “The Interpretation of Dreams” which would seem to make it easier to adapt graphically. I do not believe this to be the case because “The Interpretation of Dreams” deals with an abstract idea that cannot be seen and is not tangible. Because of this, I do not believe that the graphical adaptation of “The Interpretation of Dreams” works.

    “On the Origins of Species” on the other hand is science and is not open to interpretation. This is different than the works of fiction and non-fiction contained in Kick’s graphic canon. However, Darwin’s theory of evolution was formed by observing things that are tangible and drawing them. For this reason, “On the Origins of Species” works very well as a graphic adaptation. It allows the theory of evolution to be displayed as a series of events and uses illustrations to provide specific examples of how a particular species evolves over time. This progression can be displayed through images, which make it much easier for the reader to understand. Helping the reader to understand a particular work of literature, whether fiction or non-fiction, is what makes a graphical adaptation effective.

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