About the Authors

Ryan Prendergast
Associate Professor of Spanish
Joe Easterly
Digital Scholarship Librarian
Kristen Totleben
Modern Languages and Cultures Librarian

About the Tool and Class

TitleTeaching Literary Interpretation via Comic Strip Creation with Comic Life
ToolComic Life (http://plasq.com/apps/comiclife/macwin/)
Tool descriptionComic Life is an easy-to-use application for creating comic-themed media, ranging from brief comic strips to full-length graphic novels. It is available for macOS, Windows, iOS, and Android. These different platforms share a common file format, which makes it easy for a student to begin work on a Windows machine in the computing lab, and continue back home on their Mac laptop (free 30-day full-featured trial), or take advantage of their iPhone’s camera or drawing capabilities on a tablet.
It includes a plethora of typefaces, color themes, and ready-made templates, which can be easily customized. Comics can be exported as PDFs, which allows even further customization via Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator.
Class/ Target LevelIntermediate/advanced level undergraduate
Course TitleSpanish (SP) 215 Don Quixote: The Book, the Myth, the Image
Background Information About the Class
This class involves a close reading of Don Quixote in English translation. Additionally, students examine film adaptations, paintings, and illustrations with the text as an anchor in the course. There is a particular focus on the ways the novel and/or protagonist have been adapted, adopted, interpreted, and incorporated by various critical and popular traditions inside and outside of the seventeenth century to the present.
Lesson Time75-minute workshop
Number of Students14
Learning ObjectivesStudents will construct comic strip interpretations of Don Quixote in order to analyze the novel in a contemporary context.

Lesson Plan


Ahead of class time, students were given the assignment:

The purpose of this assignment is to conceptualize an episode/adventure of Don Quixote in a contemporary (twenty-first century) context AND in comic strip form. It is essential that what you create remain faithful to the underlying structure of the types of episodes we have seen throughout the novel.

The project requires you to use Comic Life for the execution of the project. The end-product should be a 6-panel strip with a title. You should include both images (and they can be simple) and dialogue. Each pair will have to produce a critical analysis of their strip to demonstrate how it parallels and adapts aspects from the novel and to show what theme/problem you are trying to represent.

Students settled into the computer classroom (5 mins.)

Librarians introduced Comic Life, giving a brief tour of the user interface, and then highlighted essential aspects necessary for successfully completing the assignment. This includes:

  • locating templates in Comic Life
  • working with images in Comic Life, applying comic book / pop-art filters to images
  • adding and editing text, including pop-out text ornaments (e.g., “Wham!”)
  • using the library classroom (where the software was installed) when free from other class sessions. Comic Life is also available as a free 30-day trial, and can be used as a trial version to continue work after the library workshop has concluded.
  • using hand-drawn ornaments, photos of oneself & classmates, or pictures from the internet. (15 mins.)


Students spent the remainder of class time working in groups of two, planning and creating their comic strips. Librarians worked with groups to answer questions and help brainstorm ideas. (50 minutes)


Students worked on their assignment up to the end of class time. Librarians asked the class at large how the workshop went and if they have any questions moving forward, inviting them to make an appointment if needed.


Librarians moved continuously among the student groups during class time, offering help when needed or requested. The professor reviewed and graded assignments created during this workshop. The final grade was based on a combination of the visual comic, the critical write-up/analysis that accompanied it, and the two-minute presentations each pair gave in class. Criteria for evaluation included:

  1. Following provided instructions/parameters
  2. The logical and creative connections and “translations” from the 17th-century text to the 21st-century context of the comic.
  3. The style, critical language, and clarity of prose in the written analysis.
  4. Each student’s self-evaluation/self-assigned grade as well as the grade/evaluation of their project partner’s work based on availability/responsiveness, contributions in the form of ideas and practical/hands-on work outside of class time, sharing of workload.
  5. Creativity and humor


Students with difficulty operating computers can work with librarians to complete their comics in Comic Life. Additional time can be provided outside of class time.


Reflection from instructor

This project was well-received by the students, but more importantly allowed the students to actively and creatively engage with the themes of adaptation and interpretation of the novel. Since these themes, along with attention to illustrations of the Quixote from across the centuries, form a kind of backbone for the course, the comic strip project encouraged students to think both critically and creatively. Because they were working in pairs, they had to fairly divide the tasks and check their partner’s work.  Pairs were also asked to deliver five minute presentations to the class so that all the students could share in the excellent work completed by their classmates and hear about their differing creative and critical thought processes. This is a project that will definitely be repeated when the class is taught again.

Preparation time/materials

Preparation included two meetings between the librarians and the professor, and approximately 60 minutes exploring Comic Life to identify which features would be most essential for student success.

Benefits and challenges of the tool

Comic Life is very easy to use, and its extensive library of typefaces, templates, and visual effects make it a very powerful tool without being intimidating.

Ease of use/Ranking

Advanced beginner to Advanced

Reflection from students

Students reported that they enjoyed working on the project.

Assignment Handout

Don Quixote: The Book, The Myth, The Image
Digital Project 1—DQ memes
Spring 2019

Before the taller (workshop): the professor will provide a selection of images/illustrations to consider for the project. Each student should begin to brainstorm, meme possibilities before the Feb. 20 session.

The goal is to create a meme that demonstrates a humorous, yet still critical, approach to the image and the novel.

During the taller (workshop): students will work individually to create their memes via Adobe Spark. Kristen Totleben and Joe Easterly will be available for consultation and advice.

After the taller (workshop): upload the memes to a Google Drive folder. Write a brief (250-300 word) reflection on the thought process for creating the meme and how it connects to your interpretation/reading of the novel/episode. Upload image before class on Monday, Feb 25. Bring copy of the brief writeup to class on the 25th to hand in.

The session will take place during class time on Wednesday, February 20 in Rush Rhees Room 123. Attendance will be taken.