Swimming Studies: Analysis

Swimming Studies





  • Series of chapters with stories/sketches related to swimming.
  • Interspersed with drawings, photo gallery of swim suits, catalog of pool smells, various photos.


  • Moves between past experiences as competitive swimmer and present experiences swimming in pools/bodies of water around the world.
  • Big focus on small details of pool life (smells, feelings of aching muscles, articles of clothing, swimmers’ hair, light and steam as it hits pool deck and water) and on the mundane repetition of her experiences.
  • Underlying theme, woven throughout book, of love and relationships–romantic and familial.
  • Photos of swim suits on mannequins with descriptions of where each was purchased and worn.
  • Catalog of pool smells.
  • Sketches of swimmers she remembers, pools she’s visited, swimming in the ocean, the view from her hotel window.


Shapton documents her connection to water and swimming while trying to figure out what her past life/training as an elite swimmer could still mean to (and for) her. She writes:

Do I have a long term goal? If anything it is figure out what to do with something that I do well but no longer have any use for.

The one thing I’m formally trained at is swimming. I’m aware that I rely on this training when I’m working, that I know when to push through and when to rest, that I’ve figured out the equivalent of drills, interval training and performance when I’m on deadline or trying to realize a project. But I don’t know where to put the old skill, if I can, or even want to, incorporate it into my adult life (250-251).

Leanne Shapton

Useful for my book?

I love this book. I love how Shapton shapes her stories about swimming and training around sensations and repetitive, mundane practices. She provides a different sort of story about being an athlete. I also love how she focuses on struggling with how to make sense of her past and present relationships to something that matters so much to her: water/pools.

Specifically, I like her (somewhat) experimental format. I like her gallery of swim suits and how she tells the story of her love of collecting swim suits through it. Her inclusion of sketches and a catalog of smells is creative and allows her to tell stories through the senses.

For this book project, I think her chapters on practice (she discusses the discipline/habits/repeated practices of swimming and art), and goggles (she contemplates what to do with her training) are especially useful. I also enjoy her scattered reflections on the limits of her own memory, especially when she wonders how she can remember dodging a glob of spit in her lane at one particular practice but not how she told her coach she was quitting or any details about swimming at the Canadian Olympic trials (Quitting, 3-6).

I am also drawn to her catalog of suits. Are there any teaching-related items (maybe marginalia/notes) that I could turn into a gallery with stories. I like the idea of using objects to tell stories.

Ivan Brunetti’s Cartooning: Analysis

Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice



A syllabus with fifteen week-long lessons on learning how to draw and “write with pictures.”


  • “Formal” syllabus at beginning
  • 15 lessons


  • Syllabus contains: course description, lesson plan, required texts, terminology, the sketchbook, rules and regulations, useful tools, a few words on computers
  • Sections of syllabus included commentary and personal reflections
  • Lessons contain: explanation of key concept, several exercises, homework
  • Minimal illustrations/cartoons
  • Mostly (small, typed–is it futura?) text
  • 1 page appendix with recommended books


This ‘classroom in a book’ provides the aspiring cartoonist with a practical means for creative self-discovery and the exploration of complex ideas through the iconic visual language of comics (1).

About this Book

Useful for my book?

In quickly reviewing this book, I’m inspired to think again about structuring my project as a syllabus. But, would it work as well? I especially like how he incorporates his philosophy and personal reflections into his introduction and syllabus parts. He also includes some snark. It almost feels like an intervention into the syllabus-as-usual (dry, boring, boiler-plate, overly practical).

I’m struck by the differences between Brunetti’s and Barry’s tone/approach. Barry cites Brunetti as one of her key mentors. Part of the differences are because these are different projects. Brunetti’s book is an actual syllabus with lessons, while Barry’s book is a collection of reflections on and artifacts from her syllabi/classes. But, there’s more to the differences between their books.

Ivan Brunetti's Rules and Regulations
Ivan Brunetti
Lynda Barry's Classroom Rules
Lynda Barry

While Barry’s pages were crammed with images, doodles and hand-written and typed text, Brunetti’s pages are sparse with a simple typed font and lots of white space. His images are almost exclusively on separate pages, not mixed in with the text like Barry’s are. Both exude a passion for teaching and drawing, but Barry expresses her passion with more enthusiasm and vigor (as evidenced through her reflections, illustrations and gushing notes about/to students), while Brunetti employs sarcasm, self-deprecating humor and the ridiculing of “bad” students.*

*note: I’m basing my assessment of Brunetti on his syllabus and a very brief look at his 15 lessons. Since I’m thinking about “taking” his course, I don’t want to spoil it by reading ahead.

I would like my tone to be somewhere between these two, enthusiastic without too much gushing (and crowded images/text) or too much cynical distance (and sparse pages).

Kate Bornstein’s Workbook: Analysis

My New Gender Workbook



“A step-by-step guide to achieving world peace through gender anarchy and sex positivity.”


  • Book with clear chapters
  • Designed to look like composition notebook (cover)
  • Mostly text, with some images


  • Narrative text describing different aspects of gender identity
  • 3 Kate avatars, representing 3 different Kate identities, with additional commentary/stories, sprinkled throughout text in margins
  • Tweets, comments, stories from other voices (often twitter users) about topics in margins
  • Incorporating twitter voices even more, whole sections devoted to twitter threads and twitter users answers to questions like, Who Am I?
  • Blank (or mostly empty) pages for jotting down ideas, completing Kate’s assignments, several blank pages in the back
  • Various exercises, like “The 10 minute a day gender outlaw exercise” (56-57)
  • Crossword puzzles
  • Section on the beginning about comfort (4-7)
  • Concluding chapters explore what to do with new information/understanding developed by completing gender workbook
  • Book ends with series of Kate’s favorite “g’nite” tweets that Kate has written


A resource/survival guide for readers to use to “put the ideas and theories [introduced/discussed in workbook] to work with the intention of putting an end to the suffering of all sentient beings” (xiii).

Useful for my book?

I like the inclusion of Kate’s many voices (3 different avatars) and the incorporation of tweets (in margins). I wouldn’t mind including some of my own tweets + social media posts (tumblr? instagram?). I also like how Kate uses the margins to create space for alternative accounts–zie puts different voices/theories/ideas beside each other. And, I like Kate’s use of quizzes. I had some quizzes in my last book and found it be a lot of fun to create them.

I appreciate how Kate leaves some blank pages at the end and encourages readers to write on/in the text. For my project, I want to experiment with how to get readers to take notes, write in margins. Is leaving bigger margins enough? Should I provide instructions/exercises for writing in the book? I’m not sure about this one. Does it become too heavy-handed when you ask the reader to write in the margins? How do you encourage that marginalia without requesting it?

Lynda Barry’s Syllabus: Analysis

Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor



This is a book of notes, drawings, and syllabi I kept during my first three years of teaching in the Art Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This chronology is rough and mixed up in places but all kept by hand on pages of either legal pads or in standard black and white marbled composition notebooks.

Barry, 3


  • A composition notebook
  • Mixture of typed, hand-written text; images; photographs
  • Looks like actual composition book, with doodles and notes


  • Course Flyers
  • A “formal” introduction/about this book, typed (most other text is hand-written)
  • Fragments from Barry’s personal notebook/journal
  • Discussion of Influences
  • Drawings by Barry and by her students
  • Questions posed throughout, usually hand-written
  • Class Announcements
  • Brief bits of “formal” narrative scattered throughout book, typed-up and involving descriptions of the underlying principles of Barry’s methods and her courses
  • Images + minimal text about principles/methodologies of course: what is bad drawing?, on liking and not liking
  • Pages of “informal”/”less formal” narrative, hand-written in cursive with doodles/images, about her class: what she had students do, the students’ experiences completing assignments
  • Drawings, text (typed and hand-written), doodles/images about picking students for the class (she had prospective students complete a questionnaire)
  • Assignments, including the composition notebook
  • Classroom Rules
  • Excerpts from students’ assignments, including quick diary exercises
  • Letters to students about class, including announcements and assignments
  • Reflections on failures in class and what she/students learned (I hate crayons)
  • Reflections on the challenges and rewards of the drawing/thinking process that Barry is teaching


  • Share her method
  • Inspire others with her passion
  • Share and reflect on her experiences becoming a professor
  • Reflect on big questions like, What is art? What is an image?

I really enjoyed reading this book. It was inspiring, both in terms of my own book project and my approaches to thinking, writing, and creating.

Useful for my Project?

Yes. I’m particularly interested in how she incorporates syllabi and assignments into the text. I want to do this too, but my project is not exclusively focused on my time in the classroom. In fact, it’s more focused on the time outside/beside/after the classroom. I also like her tone. She exudes passion for her topic, which is infectious. Finally, I appreciate the format. It’s an actual composition book. The second book I’m looking at is Kate Bornstein’s My New Gender Workbook, which also uses the format of a composition notebook, but only looks like one, it isn’t actually a comp book. I don’t want to use Barry’s format, but I like the idea of using an unusual format (and not just mimicking one).


Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 10.36.45 AM

This morning I watched a beautiful and haunting interactive documentary from PBS FRONTLINE: Inheritance. I hope to analyze it soon. For now, I wanted to make sure and archive the link.

Follow up, 4 November 2015: After exploring the about project page of this online idoc, I discovered that Ken Dornstein has created 3 episodes about his brother and the Lockerbie bombing for FRONTLINE.