Comics as the textual basis of information literacy (IL) instruction provide distinct pedagogical advantages at the same time as they throw up obstacles to that pedagogy. This chapter explores how students’ facility in decoding visual texts challenges instructors’ and librarians’ ability to provide the interpretive scaffold upon which students critically engage with visual primary materials. The authors, an English faculty member and an instruction librarian at the urban commuter campus of a state university, collaborated on an instruction unit which focused on Alan Moore’s graphic novel From Hell, as well as visual and textual contemporary sources exploring the comic’s subject matter, the Jack the Ripper events in Victorian London. Their case study describes the instructors’ and students’ journey through the graphic novel, newspaper cartoons, broadsheets, and articles, and their uncovering of the anti-Semitic, xenophobic, classist, and gendered responses to the serial murders in Victorian London. Guided by the instructors, students learned to decode visual narratives using the metadiscourse of graphic fiction; to interrogate their sometimes visceral reactions to those images; to apply their IL skills to new texts; and to excavate the biases of what has come down to us in the received narratives about the Ripper events.

Publication Date


Journal Title

Comics and Critical Librarianship: Reframing the Narrative in Academic Libraries


Library Juice Press

Document Type

Book Chapter


©2019 Library Juice Press


This is a preprint of a chapter published by Library Juice Press in Comics and Critical Librarianship: Reframing the Narrative in Academic Libraries in 2019, available for purchase online.