Autobiographical comic book thesis a Canadian first
By Allen M. Quinn
North Vancouver secondary school art teacher Meghan Parker is graduating this month from SFU with an MA in education and a special distinction. She is the first Canadian to complete a thesis of an autobiographical nature in comic book form.
The 236-page thesis is an autobiographical comic exploring Parker’s personal experiences and reflections as a new teacher in the public-school system.
“It is a humorous, playful and empathetic portrayal of my lived experiences but also explains why the arts matter, arguing that through the arts we can connect with one another, finding our common humanity,” says Parker.
The thesis came about through course work in professor Lynn Fel’s performance inquiry class.
“We were invited to share weekly reflections on readings, lived experiences and classroom practices in a verbal-visual form,” says Parker. “The comics emerged through this assignment and quickly became my language both to learn through and communicate with.”
These weekly assignments caught Fel’s attention.
“Meghan’s cartoons arrived as an unexpected delight in my performative inquiry class, and weekly became Meghan’s action site of inquiry and documentation of moments, issues, concerns that she encountered daily in her life, and as an art teacher in a high school,” says Fels.
As a result Fels, along with professor Michael Ling, encouraged Parker to take the leap and create a comic thesis.
Parker says the process was fun, but time-consuming.
“I carried a sketchbook with me everywhere and documented my daily practices, experiences, lessons, challenges and questions. They were created in no particular order and I was making about two to three comics a week over a two-year period.”
She worked closely with Fels and Ling during this period, discussing, stacking, sorting and rearranging the work into its final form.
Since its successful public defense, Parker's thesis has received the 2017 Arts Researchers Teachers Graduate Research Award and is the first thesis of its kind in Canada.
“I am honoured and grateful to have created the first master’s thesis in Canada in a comic form,” says Parker. “I feel that through this form I was able to create a scholarly work that is artful, insightful and deeply personal. It has been the most meaningful learning experience I have ever undertaken. I wish that experience upon everyone.”