FREN 334Comics—Seriously!
La Bande dessinée francophone

FALL 2016
TR 2:00-3:15
ICC 120

Office hours: ICC 427 or Reynolds 145
by appointment only

A significant amount of information pertaining to this course is sent via e-mail to your <> address: please check your mailbox regularly.

It may be modified over the course of the semester. Always refer to the latest on-line version.

> Last updated on Sept. 1, 2015<



   Every year, bandes dessinées outsell all other kinds of books on the French-language market. Public and school libraries stock a large selection, and so do the most serious bookstores—as well as supermarkets and newstands. France has a national museum for bandes dessinées (the CNBDI in Angoulême), whose first director wrote a doctoral dissertation analyzing the "ninth art" as an original and complex system of communication and expression. Successful Bédéistes in France are as famous as rock stars and leading movie actors, and an anticipated new album may have a first printing of over a million issues (several milllions in the case of Astérix).
   Yet bandes dessinées are not just a sociological and economic phenomenon: they also enjoy a remarkable presence in the culture at large through citation, allusion, references and pastiche, while quotes from Tintin, Astérix, Iznogoud, Lucky Luke and many others have become idiomatic phrases in the French language. In other words, one cannot pretend to seriously understand the culture of contemporary France without a significant engagement with bandes dessinées.
   Moreover, BD, because of its visual-textual nature, is a particularly valuable tool for language learning. However, the medium's potential remains largely untapped without a systematic approach to both form and content, which we will strive to develop in this class.
   This course offers a comprehensive introduction to the vast universe of French language bandes dessinées, with a particular focus on France and Belgium—the most active production centers—, but also considering Québec and West Africa.


   Chaque année, les bandes dessinées représentent les plus forts chiffres de vente de livre en France. Les bibliothèques municipales and scolaires en proposent une large gamme, ainsi d'ailleurs que les meilleures librairies—mais aussi les supermarchés et les maisons de la presse. La France a un musée national des bandes dessinées (le CNBDI à Angoulême), dont le premier directeur a publié une thèse présentant le « Neuvième Art » sous la forme d'un système de communication et d'expression original et complexe. En France, les bédéistes les plus en vue jouissent d'un véritable statut de star, et leurs albums, toujours très attendus, atteignent souvent des tirages dépassant le million d'exemplaires (plusieurs milllions pour Astérix).
   Pourtant, la bandes dessinée n'est pas qu'un phémonène sociologique et économique, car elle impose sa présence dans l'aire culturelle au sens large, à travers les citations, les allusions, les références et le pastiche, tandis que des expressions tirées de Tintin, Astérix, Iznogoud, ou Lucky Luke sont devenues proverbiales. Autrement dit, on ne saurait prétendre connaître à fond la culture française contemporaine sans de solides notions sur la bandes dessinée.
   De plus, la BD, grâce à sa double nature à la fois visuelle et lingusitique/textuelle, représente un outil particulièrement précieux pour l'apprentissage de la langue. Encore faut-il l'approcher de manière raisonnée, tant sur le plan du contenu que sur celui de la forme.
   Ce cours propose une introduction détaillée au vaste univers de la bande dessinée francophone, principalement centrée sur la France et la Belgique—les deux principaux centres de production—mais qui tiendra compté également de la création au Québec et en Afrique occidentale.


Course features

  In this course, students are expected to
• Develop a good general understanding of Bandes dessinées (i.e., comics, graphic novels) as a medium of creative expression with unique characteristics;
• Develop a good understanding of Bandes dessinées as a cultural, social and economic phenomenon in Western Europe, notably in France;
• Refine their analytical skills towards expert reading of complex texts (both linguistic and pictorial);
• Learn to work independently with authentic, original documents.

Course objectives

In this course, students will
• Learn about various aspects of Bandes dessinées as a medium;
• read and analyze a variety Bandes dessinées, investigating both content and form;
• Acquire analytical and critical strategies towards the study of various types of textual and pictorial documents;
• Develop their capacity for reading, understanding and analyzing complex texts in French;
• Improve their capacity for understanding cultural and social systems radically different from their own;
• Improve their formal and informal oral expression capabilities in French.

  By the end of the semester, all students will have
• been acquainted with all major types of French-language bande dessinée;
acquired a palette of critical strategies allowing them to analyze bandes dessinées and other similar creative works (texts, images, film);
read and analyzed full-length bande dessinée in all major genres: humor, realistic, historical, social commentary
• prepared and delivered a formal presentation in French on a particular bande dessinée.


• Presence, Preparedness and Participation in class discussions, including quizzes: 30%.
• Formal exposé of individual research/analysis: 20%
Brief oral class presentations: 20%
• I
ndividual research/analysis paper: 30%

     Every student is expected to be present for every class. If an absence is anticipated for any reason, the instructor must be notified beforehand by e-mail or by phone (ext. 5852). In any case, students are responsible for finding out what was done or assigned while they were absent, and for turning in assignments on time.
     Every student is also expected to be prepared for every class,
that is, having something definite to say about the assigned materials (based on research and/or reflection), and/or questions to ask the intructor, and/or
issues to raise in class for discussion. Students are mostly responsible for conducting the readings and analyses.
     Finally, every student is expected to participate in every class, that is, speak up in response to prompts by the instructor or to other students' comments, and volunteer comments without being prompted
(see also the "Total Commitment Policy"). Manifest lack of adequate preparation will result in a reduction of the portion of the final grade allotted to "Presence, Preparedness and Participation."

Teaching methodology

  This course follows a variant of the "flipped classroom" format, which means that class time is devoted to activities in which students take a central role, with the teacher as moderator. In addition to the necessary expository presentations by the instructor, the main activity mode is that of Collective analysis and discussion of documents assigned as homework. Another main activity is short student oral class presentations (Interventions) on a particular document.

   Attendance is compulsory and will be recorded; preparedness and participation count for 30% of the grade. In class, some of the work will be conducted in small groups; you will also have to prepare short individual analyses at home, from which you may have to deliver brief in-class presentations. These will not be graded as such, but your involvement will influence your participation grade.
Students are strongly advised to take notes . Taking notes efficiently is part of your work in this class (and, more generally, in college), as your instructor an class discussions will provide original insights not easily available from any textbook or other source. If you are unsure about note-taking strategies, consult with the Writing Center. (

Attendance and Punctuality
   Every student is expected to be present for every class and arrive on time (repeated tardiness will be penalized). If an absence is anticipated, the instructor must be notified beforehand by e-mail or by phone (ext. 5852).
  An absence may be "excused" if it was caused by an unforeseen event or accident that made it impossible or extremely difficult for a student to attend class, and which can be documented. If you feel sick enough to miss class, then you should also seek medical attention and obtain a certificate from the health care provider who treated you. If you suffer from a chronic mental or physical condition that occasionally flares up to the point of incapacitating you, you need to be registered with the University health services in order to be granted accommodations.
   A student who was absent (justifiably or not) remains responsible for finding out what was done or assigned during the missed class(es), and for turning in assignments on time. Unjustified absences will result in a reduction of the portion of the final grade allotted to "Presence, Preparedness and Participation."

   A deadline indicates the absolute last day and time when assignments should be turned in. The cut-off time is the end of class on the day of the deadline, whether you bring in a hard copy of your paper or e-mail it. It is not advisable to start working on an assignment on the day it is due. Give yourself enough time to allow for unforeseen delays or problems (printer running out of ink, e-mail bugs, network access down, etc), which cannot be used as excuses for not meeting a deadline. Acceptable excuses are acts of God, system-wide server outages and documented medical emergencies.

Honor System
  All aspects of this class fall under Georgetown University's honor system. If you are not thoroughly familiar with its provisions, please review them at A point of particular concern is using source material appropriately and avoding plagiarism : "Plagiarism, in any of its forms, and whether intentional or unintentional, violates standards of academic integrity. Plagiarism is the act of passing off as one’s own the ideas or writings of another (…). While different academic disciplines have different modes for attributing credit, all recognize and value the contributions of individuals to the general corpus of knowledge and expertise. Students are responsible for educating themselves as to the proper mode of attributing credit in any course or field. (…)" Note that plagiarism can be said to have occurred without any affirmative showing that a student’s use of another’s work was intentional.

   For greater authenticity, we will only use materials originally produced for a French speaking public: Only purely administrative matters (such as this syllabus) will be handled in English. In all other circumstances, including discussion and critique of your work in class or during office hours, French will be used exclusively orally and in writing, by you and by the instructor. You will never be asked (with rare, very precise exceptions) to translate anything, nor are you expected to use translation ever as a means to accomplish your work in this class. NO BILINGUAL DICTIONARIES ARE ALLOWED IN CLASS. Use of a monolingual dictionary is strongly encouraged, however.

Attitude and Behavior
  This is a class held in a university classroom. It is not a meeting of a book club at a local library branch; it is not a game in a stadium or a workout at the gym; it is not a get together at someone's home or a pajama party in your dorm room; it is not a luau at the beach. Please dress and behave accordingly!
- No eating or snacking during class (drinking is OK).
- Cell phones, smartphones and other mobile communication devices must be turned off and stored away in a pocket or a bag (except for emergency situations, with prior notification to the instructor).
- No wearing of gym shorts, flip flops, exercise/sport gear, pajamas, lounge wear, grass skirts, etc.
- No chit-chat unrelated to class matters… unles perhaps it is in French!
- Use of computers is class is strictly limited to working on relevant tasks. Anyone caught using a computer in class for anything else (checking e-mail, Facebook status, stock prices, playing games) will be issued a warning the first time, and, the second time, banned from using a computer in class altogether for the rest of the term.




I. What are bandes dessinées? Sessions 1-8 (Sept. 6 - 29)
A point of departure: three "canonical" pages from Tintin Session 1 (Sept. 6)

Historical Overview Sessions 2-3 (Sept. 8-13)
A) "Early comics" from prehistoric cave drawings to eighteenth-century satirical engravings;
B) The invention of bandes dessinées as histoires en estampes in the 19th century;
C) Bandes dessinées come of age in the 1930s: Tintin and Hergé's ligne claire
D) A golden era between innovation and classicism: the 50s, 60s and 70s.
E) The mass market and the niche, from the 80s to the present.


Medium and Genre(s) Sessions 5-8 (Sept. 20-29)
A) Defining bandes dessinées (not an easy task): a lowest common denominator approach;
B) Eisner's "Sequential art" — "Graphic literature" — Groensteen's "Iconic solidarity";
C) The text/image nexus. BDs without words—and without images; La Bande pas dessinée; Comès, Silence; Larcenet, Le Rapport Broddeck
D) Bande dessinée and its "cousins": roman photo, illustrated books, airline safety cards…;
E) "Marginal" cases: Outcault's The Yellow Kid; Thévenin & Pellos, Futuropolis; Dancette & Calvo, La Bête est morte; Loustal & Coatalem, 20000 Dinars …;
F) A typology of bandes dessinées in our current understanding: l'album, le strip, le comic book, le manga, le roman graphique.

II. Reading and analyzing a bande dessinée - Sessions 9-12 (Oct. 4 -13)
A) Layout: case, bande, planche, album.
B) The graphical dimension: how to do things with lines.
C) The pictorial dimension: various types of representation.
D) Text(s).
E) Between the panels, within the gutters.
F) Color, shading and other .

III. Thematic strands Sessions 13-24 (Oct. 18-Nov. 29)
A) Language: dialogue, narration and expression.
B) Communication: non-linguistic and linguistic.
C) Narrative theory: how a story is told, with (and without) pictures, with (and without) words.
D) Content: history (Ferrandez' Carnets d'Orient, Tardi's La Guerre des tranchées, Martin's Alix), sociology (Tito's Tendre Banlieue, Baru's L'Autoroute du Soleil, La Famille Legroin), politics (Blain et Lanzac's Quai d'Orsay, Boudjellal & Madame la Présidente), daily life in Africa (Abouet et Oubrerie's Aya de Yopougon), daily life in a French grade school (Tome et Janry's Le Petit Spirou) are among dozens of content areas expressed through BD.
E) Humor: what makes French-language readers laugh? Why do they find Gaston (Aggripine/ Achille Talon/Léonard) funny? What does it tell us about cultural expectations and structures?
F) Adaptation and literature: numerous bandes dessinées are adapted from literary works, or get adapted into film. This provides an excellent opportunity to study how creative material migrates through genres and media: Le Renard et les raisins, Madamde Bovary, Le Horla.
G) Non-narrative comics, non-narrative elements in comics: Michel Vaillant;Gai-Luron;Rubriques-à-brac;

H) Deconstructing the canonical model: Fred, Philémon; Druillet, Lone Sloane;


IV. Student presentations (Exposés) Sessions 25-26 (Dec. 1 -6)




Textbook / Reference / Analysis and criticism

Textbook—Purchase st bookstore

Peeters, Benoît. Lire la bande dessinée. [1991] Paris, Flammarion, 2010.

Available at Lauinger library

Baron-Carvais, Annie. La Bande dessinée. 5e éd. ref. Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, coll. « Que sais-je ? » no 2212, 2007.PN6710 .B25 2007

Groensteen, Thierry. Système de la bande dessinée. Paris, Presses universitaires de France, coll. « Formes sémiotiques.», 1999. PN6714 .G76 1999

Masson, Pierre . Lire la bande dessinée. Lyon, Presses universitaires de Lyon, 1985. PN6710 .M377 1985

Miller, Ann. Reading bande dessinée: critical approaches to French-language comic strips. Bristol, UK ; Chicago, IL. Intellect Ltd, 2007. INTERNET PN6710 .M55 2007eb

Qu'est-ce que la bande dessinée aujourd'hui ? Responsable éditorial, Vincent Bernière ; direction artistique, Aurore Jannin ; secrétaire de rédaction, Sabine Moinet. Boulogne : BeauxArts éditions, 2008.PN6710 .Q48 2008

Vessels, Joel E. Drawing France : French comics and the Republic. Jackson, University Press of Mississippi, 2010. INTERNET PN6710 .V47 2010

La Bédéthèque/BD Gest. An encyclopedic online database providing (almost) exhaustive information on French-language BD.

Available through BlackBoard

Thierry Groensteen, « De l’art séquentiel à l’art ludique », Textimage, Varia 3, 2013. (PDF, 13 p.)
Thierry Groensteen, « Précisions sur l'art du tressage », (en ligne) (PDF, 9 p.)

Primary sources

Purchase at bookstore(or from on-line vendor)

Goscinny, René et Albert Uderzo. Les Aventures d'Astérix le Gaulois : Le Domaine des Dieux. [1971] Paris, Dargaud, 2014.

Hergé [Georges Rémi]. Les Aventures de Tintin : L'Affaire Tournesol. [1956] Tournai, Casterman, 1993.

Fred [Fred Othon Aristidès]. Philémon. Simbabbad de Batbad. [1974] Paris, Dargaud, 1994.

Tardi, Jacques. 1914-1918. C'était la guerre des tranchées. Tournai, Casterman, 1994.

Tome et Janry [d'après André Franquin]. Spirou et Fantasio - Le Rayon noir. Marcinelle, Dupuis, 1993.

Available at Lauinger library (non-exhaustive list)

Abouet, Marguerite et Clément Oubrerie. Aya de Yopougon. Paris, Gallimard, coll. « Bayou », 2005-2006. PN6790.C78 A263 2005 vol. 1-6

Christin, Pierre et André Juillard. Léna et les trois femmes. Paris, Dargaud, 2009.Quarto PN6747.C52 L46 2009

Edimo [Christophe N'galle] et Simon-Pierre Mbumbo. Malamine : un africain à Paris. Vallauris : Enfants rouges, 2009. PN6747.E35 M35 2009

Ferrandez, Jacques. Carnets d'Orient. Complete series at Quarto PN6747.F477 D38 2007

Hergé [Georges Rémi]. Les Aventures de Tintin.Complete series at PN6790.B43

Hermann. Jeremiah. [11] Delta. Marcinelle-Charleroi, Dupuis, 1992. PN6790.B43 H86 1992

Jacobs, Edgar-P[Pierre]. Les Aventures de Blake et Mortimer [6] La Marque jaune. Bruxelles, Éditions Blake et Mortimer, 1987.
Quarto PN6790.B43 J337 1987

Le Gall, Frank. Les Aventures de Théodore Poussin. [7] La Vallée des roses. Marcinelle-Charleroi, Dupuis, 1993. PN6790.B43 L44 1993.

Martin, Jacques. Alix l'intrépide. Tournai, Casterman, 1973. PN6790.B43 M3

Peeters, Benoît, et François Schuiten. Les Cités obscures. Les Murailles de Samaris. Tournai, Casterman, 1988. PN6790.B43 S34 1988

Peyo. Johan et Pirlouit [10]. La Guerre des 7 fontaines. [1975] Marcelline-Charleroi, Dupuis, 1991. PN6790.B43 P48 1991