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English Literature goes graphic

LLC students and staff reflect on a recent collaboration with Edinburgh College of Art on the graphic novel.

Photo of students in a graphic novel workshop
The workshop in progress at Edinburgh College of Art. Image courtesy of ECA.

English Literature, Creative Writing and Illustration students have come together to adapt the Robert Louis Stevenson short story, ‘The Isle of Voices’.

A workshop paired students on ‘The Graphic Novel’ course in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC) with students on the Illustration BA (Hons) programme at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) and tasked them with adapting sections of the story into a double-page spread in a graphic novel format.

The process of adaptation

After an introduction to 'The Isle of Voices' and some of its context, the students worked in their groups to consider how certain parts of the story could be brought to life in a visual way.

Reflecting on the literary challenges, Creative Writing MSc student Lexie Angelo said, “The process of adaptation was something that I don’t have as much experience with, because I’m used to using my own original text as opposed to an adapted text.”

“I think there is a bit more liberty in terms of cutting things and finding themes, and being able to tear the work apart without either of our feelings getting hurt.”

“We realised that the first half was largely exposition, while the second half was more action-oriented,” said Connor Adams (Creative Writing MSc), “so it was about breaking down what information we do and do not need to tell, and what actions we do and do not need to show.”

A photo of some of the sample pages produced during the workshop.
An example of some of the work produced during the workshop. Image courtesy of ECA.

‘A depth of knowledge and passion’

The session was led by Dr Michelle Keown (Senior Lecturer, English Literature) and Harvey Dingwall (Lecturer, Illustration), building on a recent project in which Illustration students adapted another Robert Louis Stevenson story, ‘The Bottle Imp’. A Principal’s Teaching Award has supported the workshops, and there are plans to take the graphic adaptations to next year’s Festival of Creative Learning.

“The collaboration is really about looking at the nexus between visual and verbal storytelling,” said Michelle, whose research areas include Postcolonial literature and theory in the Pacific region. “I’m really impressed by the work that’s been produced.”

“The students have such a depth of knowledge and passion,” said Harvey, “working together, they can combine different methods of approaching a text.”

Working on a graphic novel was a new experience for several of the students involved.

“Writing can be a lonely, isolated activity, so it’s great to collaborate with someone who can bring a different set of skills,” said Sonali Misra (Creative Writing MSc), “especially with someone working in a different medium.”

“Once you’re working with adaptations, and you’re working with different media, you realise what it is about the textual medium that works best,” said Chris Lightfoot (English Literature MA Hons), “so it’s a nice way of getting reacquainted with the text, and realising what makes that special.”

This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on the Edinburgh College of Art website. With thanks to colleagues at ECA.

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Related links

Find out more about our MSc in Creative Writing

Find out more about studying undergraduate Illustration on the ECA website

Find out more about the Festival of Creative Learning on the Festival's website