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The Perzine Is Political: Critical Thinking with Casual Texts

This is the detailed syllabus for Jenna Freedman's Pre-College Program class at Barnard College, held in the summer of 2023.

Monday: Getting to Know Zines

drawing of bears, one holding a zine, the other reaching for itMake a self-introduction zine (2-2:45)

(one-page zine folding technique)

Suggested contents (can be text, illustrations, poems, representational stand-ins, guessing games, Yelp reviews, etc.)

  • Cover: name & a self-portrait
  • Inside cover page: identities & metadata
  • Facing page: where you're from
  • Centerfold left: your family, animals, who you live with
  • Centerfold right: your friends, chosen ones
  • Facing back inside cover page: your house, your room
  • Inside back cover page: a story of your name
  • Back cover: Barnard summer playlist

Introductions by Sharing Zines (2:45-3:15)

Break 3:15-3:30

illustration of an anthropormorphic hot pink magnifiying glassSyllabus review & collective expectations (3:30-3:45)

  • Attendance
  • Self-regulating (comfort needs)
  • Raising hands
  • Feedback
  • Addressing aggressions
  • Talking and listening, moving up and moving back
  • Use of devices
  • Expressing difficult feelings
  • Readings
  • Care 
  • Vulnerability 
  • Pronouns

Read: Piepmeier Introduction (3:45-4)

Provided on paper, but you can also read it via Courseworks. Take care to read the correct Piepmeier article.

Zine Case Studies: read & make notes in zine form (4-4:30)

finish for homework

Tuesday: Personal Zines

Hope Is a Discipline (Mariame Kaba quote), art by JudyKJoy / Gratitude (9:30-9:45)

The Personal Is Political article

  • what is the author saying
  • what does the time context add
  • how might this article be different today
  • how does the article make you feel

Break (10:45-11)

Personal zines (11-11:30)

  • Nijsten, Nina. Scissors & Chainsaws No. 2 : Diary Comic Zine Made in July 2020 During International Zine Month. Gent, Belgium: Nina Nijsten, 2020.

  • "zines—paper documents, usually made by hand, without any financial incentive—endure. Zines are quirky, individualized booklets filled with diatribes, reworkings of pop culture iconography, and all variety of personal and political narratives." - Alison Piepmeier, Girl Zines: Making Media, Doing Feminism.
  • "A zine, short for fanzine or magazine, is a DIY* subculture self-publication, usually made on paper and reproduced with a photocopier or printer. Zine creators are often motivated by a desire to share knowledge or experience with people in marginalized or otherwise less-empowered communities." - Barnard Zine Library definition.
  • Class definition: creativity, personal, empowering, quirky, relatable, messy, DIY, vulnerable, political, undefinition, personal, embarrassing, free flowing, for everyone, fun, messy, rebellious, entertaining, chaotic, unpredictable, deep, emotional, communicative, individual, feminist, vibrant, artsy, multitudinous, provocative, outgoing, triggering, touch base on a lot of topics

Find personal zines in CLIO

What Is a Perzine definition (follow link)Zine Making: make a perzine (11:30-12)

Suggested topics

  • critical response to the zine definitionsl
  • reflections on YWLI so far
  • personal education manifesto
  • reflections on your high school
  • personal learning history

read a zine and write a letter to the author

  • comment on their text and graphics
  • share how you relate or don't
  • call them out if you disagree with them
  • handwrite or type your letter
  • feel welcome/encouraged to add graphics of your own

Finish for homework

Wednesday: Other Zine Genres

Joy / Gratitude (9:30-9:45)

Letter sharing (9:45-10:30)

Is the personal political? (10:30-10:45)

  • Was the zine you read political--explicitly or inherently?
  • Are all zines political--the very act of self-publishing?
  • What in your life doesn't seem political, but actually is?
  • Is how you express yourself and in what venue a political decision?
  • What would a zine by Joe Biden look like? By Donald Trump? By AOC? MTG?

Break (10:45-11)

screenshot of zine genres list (follow link)Other zine genres (11-11:30)

Make a zine in a different genre (11:30-12)

Finish for homework

Thursday: Riot Grrrl

Joy / Gratitude (9:30-9:45)

cover of the Women and Performance issue that includes the articleRead Riot Grrrl Race and Revival excerpt (10:30-10:45)

Break (10:45-11)

Riot Grrrl Race and Revival discussion (11-11:50)

  • observations & revelations
  • feelings

Course Check-In (11:50-12)

  • content
  • depth
  • rigor
  • joy
  • growth
  • interactions/discussion
  • readings
  • anything you want Jenna to know
  • anything you want a classmate to know

cover of Fire, zine precursorField trip to Schomburg Center for Black Culture

meet in front of Barnard Hall at 1:15