Though matters of style are a frequent source of public interest, anxiety, and investment, style is often pushed to the margins of composition theory and pedagogy, weighed down by the baggage of historical movements in composition studies. “Style Made Visible: Reanimating Composition Studies Through Comics” investigates three approaches to style—as grammar, voice, and generic performance—in order to reconceive of style in our theory and practice. To remediate and illuminate the issues at hand, I use comics as a site of research, drawing on comics scholarship, graphic narratives, and published author interviews. In each chapter, I employ a single approach to style as a lens, pursue parallels between comics and composition, and finally apply my findings to the classroom, advocating for a pedagogy of style that relies on a foundation of awareness, control, and selection. Overall, my project seeks to advance a pluralized theory of style that invites us to recognize the role(s) of text, composer, and discourse community each in turn and holistically.
My first chapter establishes an introduction for my project, noting the recent renaissance of style in composition studies, justifying comics as a site of research, and outlining the research questions and stakes of the project. Chapter 2 investigates local style, noting a disparity between the positions of grammar in comics and composition: Whereas comics creators celebrate the tools of their craft, sentence-based writing pedagogies are neglected as a product of current-traditional rhetoric. Using case studies from Mazzucchelli’s Asterios Polyp and Small’s Stitches, I demonstrate how writers can employ local style to move beyond an “ethos of error” and open up new rhetorical possibilities. Chapter 3 explores style as voice, arguing that though voice is valued by independent communities of composers, compositionists have cast it aside along with the expressivist movement. Examining in particular Bechdel’s Fun Home and Forney’s Marbles, this chapter demonstrates how we can refocus our attention on the embodied, situated, and “authentic selves” of a composer to facilitate her own investments in writing projects and practices. Chapter 4 identifies a parallel problem of genre and form within comics and composition: whereas in the public imagination, superhero comics are publicly considered “comic book style,” a vague notion of “the essay” stands in for academic style and for “good writing” more broadly. This chapter thus takes up style as generic performance, drawing heavily on Carolyn Miller’s theory of genre as social action and examining a case study of DeConnick and De Landro’s serialized Bitch Planet in order to consider the role of discourse community in ethical composing. In doing so, I challenge and expand both “the essay” and our contemporary genre-based approach pedagogies. Finally, my project concludes by applying each lens (grammar, voice, and generic performance) in turn to a single case study (Satrapi’s Persepolis), finding meaningful overlap in this tri-fold framework. I argue, ultimately, that a pluralized approach to style can reanimate not only our classrooms, but also the history and future of composition studies