A Look Over the Wall: Using the Graphic Novel druben! to Teach Linguistic, Literary, Cultural, and Visual Skills

A Look Over the Wall: Using the Graphic Novel druben! to Teach Linguistic, Literary, Cultural, and Visual Skills by Julia Ludewig

This article discusses the potential and challenges of teaching a second‐semester German class with Simon Schwartz’s graphic novel drüben! (2009) alongside a traditional textbook. While the class explored linguistic, literary, and cultural‐historical aspects of drüben!, a GDR‐themed family memoir, the focus here is on those pedagogical interventions which dealt with the training of visual literacy. The article outlines how instructors can use the novel to not only familiarize students with the depicted cultural artifacts and practices, but also to introduce them to the visual language of comic books and culture‐specific traditions of visual representation more generally. Sample lesson units and exercises are provided along with reflections on what worked and on ways to overcome the shortcomings that were encountered. One such shortcoming was the gap between students’ passive and active language capabilities, which one could bridge by providing (comic book) specific Redemittel. Even though adding or focusing on visual literacy requires substantial effort on both the students’ and the instructor’s side, comics and graphic novels offer a holistic and not least motivating way of training language, cultural, and visual skills.

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