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The shift from lecturing about medieval literature to teaching an online course in comic novels was drastic, but CU Professor William Kuskin felt it was worthwhile.
The professor, who has written on literature ranging from the Renaissance to graphic novels, never lost sight of comic books’ significance since it became his childhood hobby.
“I realized that comic books still had great stories, and from there I developed a college Maymester class and from there it’s kind of taken off,” Kuskin said.
Kuskin, who prefers comic books over other types of literature, said comic books allow you to connect to the power of books while allowing you to experience it in a visual way. He also said it is much quicker to analyze comic books than medieval novels.
“When I teach Geoffrey Chaucer, he’s so smart that he’s always ten steps ahead of you and he leaves bread crumbs for you,” Kuskin said of the father of English literature.
Kuskin mentioned that authors ask deep questions through their books, and with some authors such as Chaucer, it might take five weeks of explanation and history to get to those deep questions. With comic books it can take less than five minutes, he said, to get to the same level of depth.
He teaches one close reading on “Dumped,” Ultimate Spider-Man #78 by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley, which features Mary-Jane Watson going on a date. He also teaches “Master Race” by Bernard Krigstein, which illustrates Holocaust survival and revenge.
CU asked him to teach the courses online, and Kuskin was elated to explore something new in his career.
“The thing that I find exciting about it, and the thing that I find extremely risky, is that massive open online courses are truly democratic forms,” he said.
Kuskin remarked that the massive open online course is free through the online site Coursera, and that there’s nothing stopping students from signing up and taking a course or skipping class and coming back after a couple weeks.
Teaching online requires him to make a number of videos, Powerpoint lectures with voiceovers and a comic book that goes along with it. His day is comprised of recording lectures to get them to a good quality, editing them, grading and answering emails.
In lectures, students ask him questions and he can do the same, Kuskin said. “But Coursera is a one way street, so my lecture needs to be written smoothly, they can’t rely on my bubbly personality as a professor.”
Even though he has enjoyed teaching the online course, the amount of time he puts into it and the new lectures he wants to teach make have him looking forward to returning to regular coursework at CU. He intends to teach existing courses such as Introduction to literature, a class on Chaucer and possibly a medieval class since he has taken a break from it for so long.
“I’m dying to teach intro to lit again because it puts me in contact with beginners, freshman, because they’re the heart and soul of the school I think because the questions they ask are so fresh,” he said.
He also has a new idea for a class, and wants to teach about motorcycle travel literature like “One Mans Caravan,” written in 1932 about a man who rides across the country on an old motorcycle.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Danielle Meltz at Danielle.firstname.lastname@example.org.