Robert Sparling is a senior at Marywood University, majoring in English with a minor in History. For those who do not know him by name, you might recognize him as the guy in a brown cowboy hat that never stops talking in class. He has been a reader of comic books since somewhere near the age of six when his mother gave him her old collection of Superman and Batman comics. After he graduated from high school, he came to Marywood University, receiving a Presidential Scholarship for high academics. At college he has participated in various volunteer activities including reading programs and platelet donation at the American Red Cross,as well as working as a tutor for the Academic Excellence Center and working at the Marywood library. Robert is also a member of Lamda Iota Tau, the English Honor Society. Throughout his college career, his love of comic books has only grown; Robert writes a weekly review column about comics at FanboyPlanet.com and has used comics books more than once in his academic writings. When it came time to write an Honors Thesis, no other topic crossed his mind other than to write about the literary medium he loves, and he hopes that examining comics-as-literature will provide better standing for making the academic argument for canonical inclusion of comic books in the education systems of America. He would like to thank his parents, David and Sharon, for never limiting his voracious appetite for learning, his twin sister Becky for providing academic competition that reduced his tendency toward laziness, and Dr. Deborah Brassard for being the greatest editorial collaborator he has ever had and for being rather open to the idea of making and intellectual argument for the value of comic books. Also, thanks are to be given to all the members of the English department, who have been great supporters of Rob and his time spent here at Marywood.
Director: Deborah Brassard
Reader: Dennis Corrigan
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Fiction has always held a unique sway over humanity. Look back at the ancient tribes of man and their cultures, and more often than not you will find a storyteller: a tale weaver telling stories to children, concocting adventures about brave heroes and giant monsters or regaling the community with myths of gods and their dalliances. Go back further, before mankind had even developed language, and you will still find stories of great hunts, hard travels and harsh winters painted on cave walls and signed with a hand print. After finding food and a warm place to sleep, man’s next step is to grab a coal from the fire and draw on walls. Humanity, it seems, has an inborn need to tell stories.
As mankind has progressed, our fictions have taken on a myriad of forms: paintings, sculptures, novels, poems, plays, television dramas, sitcoms and films, all of which are methods of conveyance for their creators’ thoughts, emotions and desires. The fictions of our modern era are as rich and complex as the myths of Greece and the oral traditions of Africa, and yet this era seems to draw precise and limiting distinctions between what distinguishes a valuable creation from a valueless one. Art with a capital “A” is considered by the artistic community to be capable of conveying deep and universal meaning to the audience. A hierarchy of merit is established wherein Art is placed far above what might be termed low or popular “art,” all other mediums of expression. For instance, television shows do not typically appear on the syllabi of college literature courses. Plays written by Arthur Miller, Oscar Wilde, or Edward Albee appear on these syllabi regularly, and the Bard is no stranger to the classroom, but a television script for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” showing up in an American Literature survey would seem utterly ridiculous by collegiate standards. Both the play and the television script are written works meant to be viewed by an audience, but one is an acceptable example of “literature” while the other is merely pop-culture.
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