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]

Glossary Term – Design

Design: “It is important to point out that thinking of composition as design shifts attention, if only momentarily, from the product to the act of production (George 18).”  Diana George also notes how the visible and material nature of writing provides a link to the modern theories of graphic design (25). The emphasis on visual construction comes to the forefront when writing on the web–colors, images, links, font, white space, etc. (26) This can certainly be applied to posters, ads, help documentation, and other forms of professional communication that call for visual design, but even in the design of objects (see video below). Design then shifts back, if only momentarily, from the act of production to the product.

Glossary Term – Image

Image: A modern understanding of this term points to a material/visual representation, which depicts something–a photograph or sign for example. Lynda Barry uses image to refer to “something which feels somehow alive, has no fixed meaning and is contained and transported by something that is not alive (15).” This definition is closer the the Latin imaginem, which may refer to a “phantom” or “ghost.” The object that performs this in Latin use is imago, referring to an insect that has reached its final form. Can we think of image as the sad person who smiles at a stranger in order to depict a state of happiness? Barry uses the example of a child’s blanket which is an image of safety. Safety has life, has no fixed meaning as we all experience it differently, and is contained in the blanket. This usage comes close to the idea of punctum

Bibliography 1/29

Boschee, J. (2016). Language, identity, and relations: We Gaze as visual-literacy and arts-based inquiry in teaching (Master’s thesis). Retrieved from

During my search through Google Scholar, I found Jana Boschee’s MA thesis that cites Lynda Barry’s Syllabus. In this multi-modal work, Boschee explores the role of identity within the creation of artful text. She also investigates and explains the purpose of We Gaze, a social fiction created by the author. In We Gaze, the author and her cohort investigate pedagogy from within narratives produced by those teaching during this project. [MAP]

Causey, A. (2017). Drawn to see: Using line drawing as an ethnographic method. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press.

Causey’s book, which I found on Google Scholar during my search for works that cite Barry’s Syllabus, discusses the value behind utilizing drawing as a way to re-see reality. Causey provides readers with a sort of “How-to” regarding mindfully seeing and interacting with the world at large through drawing. [MAP]

Groppel-Wegener, A. (2016). Writing essays by pictures: Redrawing the textbook. Journal of Pedagogic Development, 6(3), 65-69. Retrieved from

This article, which I also found through Google Scholar, discusses revisiting textbooks to decide if textbooks need to be revamped, in general. The article explores the concept of textbooks as a genre and proposes a new approach to textbooks, one that questions the design aspects. [MAP]

Shipka, J. (2005). A multimodal task-based framework for composing. College Composition and Communication, 57(2), 277-306. Retrieved from

Shipka’s piece, which I found through Halle Library’s database, explores the idea of expanding the reaches of composition studies beyond just written texts. Shipka advocates for this inclusive approach to writing and suggests the writing process should include consideration of the influence of the tools used during the process, as well as everything within the environment surrounding the writer during the writing process. [MAP]

Tolmie, J (Ed.). (2013). Drawing from life: Memory and subjectivity in comic art. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi.

While searching through the Halle Library database, I found this edited book. This book is a compilation of reviews and analyses of autobiographical comic pieces, created by various authors, which challenge the traditional notion of autobiographical. A review of Barry’s work is included in this compilation. [MAP]

Reading Question (Barry)

As I read through Syllabus, I noticed how there were many times where the pictures had to contort around the text, and vice versa.  There are other times, however, where that is not the case.  The page (pg. 88) below is a good example.  I was immediately drawn to the “Hate Cr-ay-on-!” in the top center of the page.  This statement has conformed to the contortions of both the other drawings and texts.  The painted strips on the bottom left, however, are allowed to cover up Chew-Barry.  It made me think about the negotiation of space.  How do visual rhetors negotiate space between different elements, and what do those decisions imply?

Reading Questions-Diana George 1/29

“Visual literacy and Writing classes” by Diane George

George tries to examine the place of visual literacy in the composition classrooms because she believes that “some tug of war between words and images or between writing and design can be productive as it brings into relief the multiple dimensions of all forms of communication”(14).

Diane George claims that 21 century students as those who grow up in “an aggressively visual culture” and emphasizes visual analysis in postsecondary, writing pedagogies for the last fifty years after World War II. (21). Questions that are initiated through the reading are: “Are images strategies for getting students to pay attention to detail? Do they mimic the rhetoric of verbal argument? Are they a dumping down of writing instruction making visible to nonverbal students what the verbally gifted can conceptualize”(22)?

George explains different theories regarding writing studies and their interpretation of using visuals in teaching composition: Expressionism and Social Constructionism. She believes that “Visual arguments make a claim or assertion and attempt to sway an audience by offering reasons to accept than claims” (29).

“For students who have grown up in a technology-saturated and an image-rich culture, questions of communication and composition absolutely will include the visual, not as attended the verbal but as complex communication intricately related to the world around them.”(32). Teachers who have been interested in using the visual in writing classes have generally limited their discussion of analysis because there were few ways of doing otherwise.

Using the visual in writing classes have generally limited their discussion to analysis because they were few ways of doing otherwise.

Questions: How can we incorporate the visual rhetoric in first-year compositions classes? Some possible issues are the large size of the classes and students differentiated level of writing skills. In addition, some students don’t have access to computer for creating designs.

This raises the following questions:

  • What would be the guidelines and grading criteria to assess students’ abilities while they are incorporating visuals in their writing?
  • It seems we are using visuals mostly in engaging students to write arguments then how we can adapt visuals in teaching other genres?
  • How can we incorporate more visual topics to other classes across the curriculum?



Two Video Clips: Ivan Brunetti and the Cave Allegory

Early in Syllabus, Lynda Barry makes repeated reference to Ivan Brunetti’s drawing techniques and also to his book, Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice. Here’s a brief teaser–a kind of book trailer–for that book.

We didn’t have time to discuss Sontag fully enough on Monday evening. But here’s a video clip that offers a gloss-refresher on Plato’s parable of the cave (from The Republic). The parable is fraught for its over-reliance on insider-outside status, universal subjectivity, and enlightenment rationality, among other things, and yet it provides a simple model for considering the power of visual evidence (images) on epistemology.

Stop Draw Prompt 1-23-17

Imagine someone took a picture of you at a random point during your everyday life. You are unaware in that moment that your picture will be taken, and so are not “posing” for the picture so much as you are immersed in whatever is going on.

For 3 minutes, draw what the camera would capture of you and whatever you are doing in that moment.

After the 3 minutes are up, each person can take turns describing what the random moment of themselves depicts.

Andrew’s Intro

Hello everyone. I think I know everyone in class, but as a refresher, my name is
Andrew Durand. This is my fourth semester in the Written Communication program and I have two more after this. I am working through the professional track in the program as well as the certificate for the teaching of writing. After graduation, I hope to be working as a professional in the TC field along with picking up occasional adjunct positions at whatever college I end up close to. A bit of personal information, I have four children and the two youngest recently got guinea pigs as pets. I’m not sure how I feel about this.

I have been eager to take this class and am excited to dive into visual rhetoric. My provisional definition for visual rhetoric was as follows:

The study of images, graphics, and visuals, how and why they are made, their effects, and how they circulate.

I wonder where visual rhetorics could be applied. When I develop a resume, does its visual appeal carry a rhetorical apparatus? Is this what we are referring to as visual rhetoric? I look forward to answering questions like this during the semester.


Moving Pictures

From Susan Sontag, On Photography:

Photographs furnish evidence. Something we hear about, but doubt, seems proven when we’re shown a photograph of it. In one version of its utility, the camera record incriminates. Starting with their use by the Paris police in the murderous roundup of Communards in June 1871, photographs became a useful tool of modern states in the surveillance and control of their increasingly mobile populations. In another version of its utility, the camera record justifies. A photograph passes for incontrovertible proof that a given thing happened. The picture may distort; but there is always a presumption that something exists, or did exist, which is like what’s in the picture.” (p. 3)