Students Receive Awards for Comics Created in FI Course

By William Lineberry
University College, Honors College

Two students in University College’s Department of Focused Inquiry have been announced as winners in the Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries Jurgen Comics Contest for work created UNIV 200, the last course in the three-semester Focused Inquiry sequence. 

The student winners are Focused Inquiry students, Daniel Lee and Sophia Shokraei. Both won the “First Time Comic Creator” category in the contest, which takes place annually. Lee was a student of Focused Inquiry Instructor Kim Zicafoose and Shokraei was a student of Professor in Assistant Professor Michaux Dempster's course. 

Lee’s comic entitled "Behind the Scenes" (right) asked the question, "Do the words you hear really come from the person holding the microphone?" and Shokraei’'s comic, "Malicious Compliance," depicted a musician's act of self-censorship and silent protest when faced with a broadcast network's performance restrictions.

Lee and Shokraei, along with their fellow UNIV 200 students, were assigned to research and explore censorship and codes in a greater conversation about how codes (both hidden and overt) guide communication interactions in our society.

They created their comics in response to their research and classwork around operational literacies, a pillar of UNIV 200. Students were encouraged, but not required to enter their multimodal compositions into the Jurgens Contest which has a category for First Time Comic Creators geared toward entrants who have something to say, but do not necessarily view themselves as artists or comic creators.

The Jurgen Comics Contest is named after James Branch Cabell’s ribald and satirical fantasy, Jurgen: A Comedy of Justice. In 1920, Jurgen was declared a “certain offensive, lewd, lascivious and indecent book” by the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. Suppressed just as Prohibition took effect, "bookleggers" sold copies of Jurgen at exorbitant prices. Two years later, courts exonerated Cabell's work, and Jurgen was again available–reaching an even wider audience due to the interest generated by the sensational trial."