English Class Gets its Con On
–By Faith Lorenz ’17
If you never thought that attending an anime convention would be a requirement for an English class, then you haven’t read the syllabus for English 356: Manga and Anime.
On Sept. 23-25, Trinity students from this unique cross-cultural studies (CCS) class trooped out to the Radisson Holiday Star Plaza in Merrillville, Ind., to attend Ramencon 2016, a convention where anime fans gather to share their mutual love for the genre through panels, screenings, and cosplay. With all the gaming, vendors, autographs, artists, and photo ops available, Ramencon is a condensed experience of Japanese visual culture that asks students to stretch their normal modes of thinking.
Dr. Mark Jones, professor of English and a self-proclaimed fan of anime and manga as well as their cons, started this class in 2012 as an addition to the Trinity Honors Program. But interest in the class spread quickly. What began as a first-year writing class is now an upper-level literature class open to all interested students regardless of year or major.
As part of the foundational CCS courses, the goal of the class is getting students to engage with narrative across different cultures and various media, and it seems to be doing just that. “Classroom discussions are always rich and full of insight from students,” said Jones. “Sometimes I find it hard to know when I should start talking again.”
Ramencon won’t be the class’s only expedition. Next on the docket is a trip to the Japanese-American commercial center Mitsuwa Marketplace in Arlington Heights, Ill., where students will immerse themselves in a pocket of Japanese culture with a wide selection of Japanese food, fashion, and clientele. “Part of the responsibility of teaching a course like this is to find ways for students not only to pursue the study of other cultures, but to engage meaningfully with members of other cultures,” said Jones. “That’s one reason why the experience outside the classroom is so important.”