Brooke Notes (Barry)

Barry, Lynda. Syllabus: Notes from An Accidental Professor


Barry, Lynda. Syllabus: Notes from An Accidental Professor. Drawn & Quarterly, 2015, pp. 1-100.


In her collection of syllabi and teaching notes, Lynda Barry makes a bold argument for bringing drawing back to college classroom. Barry questions the reasons why adults lose their passion for drawing, and evaluates the reasons why adults feel hesitant to draw when asked. She encourages her students to enjoy the experience of drawing, and links these “childlike” actions with more complex concepts of art, science, and composition.

Through her teaching experience, Barry learns more about the relationship of art, of drawing, to the unconscious mind. She threads one particular question through the length of her book: “If the thing we call ‘the arts’ has a biological function, what is it?” (Barry 34). Barry also discusses the intersections of art and writing, and explores what it means to be a “good” writer or artist.

Barry explores the concept of art as negotiating thought, and asks her students to draw while listening to a story in order to activate the part of the unconscious mind that would otherwise go unrecognized. The composition notebook her class keeps functions as a catalogue of daily activity, and she continuously asks her students to draw or record events so that they learn to listen and take part in the otherwise mundane everyday world. Interesting things occur every day, according to Barry, and one must only open her eyes and ears to experience them. Barry’s collection of cartoon syllabi and notes provide thought-provoking questions about the nature of drawing, about art and the reasons for its existence, and questions about the nature of learning.


1) Arts, 2) Unconscious, 3) Writing, 4) Biology, 5) Mind, 6) Drawing, 7) Thought


Brunetti, Ivan. Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice. Yale University Press, 2011.

McGilchrist, Iain. The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and The Making of The Western World. Yale University Press, 2012.


“There is something common to everything we call ‘the arts.’ What is ‘it’? . . . This ancient ‘it’ is something I call ‘an image.’ By image I don’t mean a visual representation. I mean something that is more lake a ghost than a picture; somehow alive, has no fixed meaning and is contained and transported by something that is not alive- a book, a song, a painting—anything we call an ‘art form.’ Images are also contained by certain objects . . . How was it put there? Why do we have an innate ability to have a sustained and interactive relationship with an object/image well before we are able to speak? What kind of interaction is taking place?” (Barry 15)

  (Barry 49)

 (Barry 92)


How could Barry’s questions and insights apply to the workplace? How could they apply to the first-year writing classroom?

Do those who draw and doodle during class better retain the information they hear? [LW]