by Sara

About Sara

Sara Biggs Chaney is a lecturer and Associate Coordinator of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program at Dartmouth College.


To say that comics have to do with thinking is a bit like saying piano keys have to do with music. Popular culture already advances comics, graphic novels, and editorial cartoons as heralds of knowledge and thinking. That simple drawings, in whatever form, have a special capacity to construct, organize, and convey thought is of little surprise to those familiar with cultures around the globe. Sequential art, or some derivative form of it (drawn pictures often in sequence and with captions or balloons containing speech or thought), functions as a comic strip, an illustrated story intended to teach reading, a printed visual humor strip in a newspaper, a political voting ballot, or the instructions for safely executing a water landing from an airplane or assembling a newly purchased shelf from the package. These examples illustrate the connection between cognition and the sequential drawing that we call a comic. If cognition, in this context, describes the way comics are used to organize and express the products of our perception, then comics are both an instrument and an illustration of the cognitive process. The ubiquity of these simple pictures taken seriously attests to their effectiveness as a means of telling picture stories and learning through those stories. Part of this ubiquity stems from the fact that to many, comics signify remedial literacy—juvenile ways of seeing the world as well as being in the world.