The People’s University: A Cartoon History to begin today

WHEELING – Political cartoons have been part of the American story since Benjamin Franklin published a woodcut of a snake divided into segments with the words Join, or Die. Today, in the digital age, political cartoons still shape debates on Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media.

The People’s University at the Ohio County Public Library, A Cartoon History of the United States, will explore the power and artistry of political cartoons from the founding period through the present using interactive analysis, at 7 p.m. each Tuesday evening through Sept. 24.

Today’s class will feature cartoons from the Wheeling newspapers and an analysis of what they say about local history. Historian Hal Gorby, who has encountered many of these cartoons in his doctoral research on the Progressive Era, will be the instructor.

The Sept. 10 class will include analysis of cartoons dealing with Constitutional issues surrounding the Emancipation Proclamation, the secession crisis, women’s suffrage and the equal rights amendment, the war powers debate and free speech. Instructor Sean Duffy has a juris doctorate from the American University, has taught law and history, and was part of the team that developed the Constitutional history DVD-ROM, “Foundations of Freedom.”

The Constitution Day class Sept. 17 will focus on the privacy versus security issues related to social media and government access illuminated powerfully by current events such as the Snowden/NSA case.

The final class Sept. 24 will provide a look at graphic novels from classics like Art Speigelman’s “Maus” and “Maus II,” to modern classics like Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis.” The class will examine graphic novels as works of art, as a literary genre, and as social and political commentary.

As part of the library’s Banned Books Week observance, the class will also explore a few of the graphic novels that have been placed on such lists over the years, including Alison Bechdel’s “Fun Home” and Craig Thompson’s “Blankets.”

Instructor Jeremy Larance is West Liberty University English professor, where he has taught courses on the graphic novel. He recently helped develop the first literature major in graphic narrative, a unique four-year degree for students interested in the study and analysis of comics as literature, which will launch in fall 2013.

People’s University classes are free and open to the public. Make a reservation by calling the library at (304) 232-0244. Visit lunchwithbooks for information.