University encourages critical thinking with comics and zombies

SF State is offering new courses to give students a different approach to developing critical thinking skills this semester: Comics and zombies.

Nick Sousanis, an award-winning graphic novelist, is teaching two new comics courses in the humanities department, including Making Comics in Liberal Studies and Comics and Culture.

“I really like it,” said Lucre Tius, studio art major. “I chose this course because I’ve always had a deep love of comics. I think there’s very little recognition of comics as a professional industry.”

Sousanis thinks of comics as not only a visual art form but also as a way of thinking. His classes will focus on developing and presenting ideas with clarity by using comics as a way of expression rather than learning artistic techniques.

“By using drawing, it can change how you think,” Sousanis said. “We read and we make, but we make to understand what we are reading. So it’s really about making as a way of thinking. It’s very little about craft or technique.”

A comics studies minor is expected to be available by fall 2017. As of now, the new comics studies classes are upper division courses only open to juniors, seniors and graduate students.

“The nature of the minor is that each program is invited to pitch classes to it,” Sousanis said.

Sousanis hopes the comics studies minor will grow in popularity so departments can include the focus in lower division and larger classes. Sousanis said the English and history departments will both offer new comics studies courses next semester.

The history department also opened a new course called Critical Thinking, History and Zombies. The curriculum attempts to help students analyze different mediums of zombies and discuss historical contexts, such as race relations, public health and criticism of capitalism.

History professor Laura Lisy-Wagner wasn’t sure what it would be like to teach a class focused on zombies for the first time.

“Since it’s a new class, we are all learning together,” Lisy Wagner said. “But we’ve been having a lot of fun so far.”

Rachel Ruber, a history major and international student from Sydney, is one of the students taking the new course.

“I heard it was about zombies and I’ve actually never done anything about American culture before so I wanted to see history from a different perspective,” Ruber said. “I love it, it’s really fun.”

Lisy-Wagner has taught a senior level proseminar course on witch trials and is now starting a course based on her passion, the occult studies.

She hopes the history department will add more sections and allow more course instructors to choose alternative topics of their interest, so they can go in-depth with small groups.

“A lot of times authors bring you in and they hide a message below the surface of the text,” Lisy-Wagner said. “So I thought it was a great way to take something that people are interested in that scares people and look at why they are scared by it, and what does a fear of zombies say about us as a culture.”