Dotter of Her Father's Eyes

DotterDotter of Her Father's Eyes
By: Mary M. Talbot and Bryan Talbot
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Format: Hardcover, 6 x 9, Black and White, $14.99
ISBN: 978-1-59582-850-7

A tour-de-force coming of age graphic novel Dotter of her Father's Eyes follows two young women though the most pressing and foundational years of their lives: Lucia, daughter of famed author James Joyce, and Mary Talbot, daughter of renowned James Joyce scholar James S. Atherton. Autobiographical fiction at its best this graphic novel gets two thumbs up.  One for Lucia's story. And a second for Mary's story.  

Marinated in a Shakespearean tragic tone, Dotter of her Father's Eyes lures the reader into thinking about 20th century themes that still resonate today. At the heart of the story readers will find the critical and sensitive relationship that exists between fathers and daughters. Branching out from the heart of its message about fathers and daughters readers will also find themselves thinking about parenthood, domestic violence, gender relations, family, and social expectations.  

An excellent text to pair with any literature by James Joyce or his famous scholarly advocate, this graphic novel lovingly and tragically belongs in every high school classroom and library. Fated to generate some of the most critical conversations you and your students will ever have about literature and life this graphic novel deserves your attention.

English Language Arts Elements of Story

Plot: This graphic novel follows the biographically based and young adult lives of Mary Talbot (daughter of James Joyce scholar James S. Atherton) and Lucia Joyce (daughter of James Joyce).

Setting: Post World War I Britain and Paris

Major Characters: Lucia Joyce, Mary Talbot, James Joyce, James S. Atherton

Themes: War and Peace, Identity, Family Relationships (especially father-daughter), Coming of Age

Traditional and Contemporary Literary Pairing Suggestions: any James Joyce literary selection, Dante's The Inferno, Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon, Charles Dickens' David Copperfield and/or Great Expectations, F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and/or The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Mark Twain's Huck Finn and/or Tom Sawyer, J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter

Some Teaching Recommendations For High School Readers

Suggested Alignment to the IRA /NCTE Standard(s):
- standard #s correspond to the numbers used by IRA/NCTE (www.ncte.org)

1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment.  Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.

8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.

11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.

12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Lesson Idea for High School Readers

Step 1:
Organize students into four groups. Counting off from one to four students will be assigned to one of the four main characters:
1. Lucia Joyce
2. Mary Talbot
3. James Joyce
4. James S. Atherton

Step 2:
Once students settle into their groups give them the following directions:

"At the top of a piece of notebook paper write down the name of your assigned character (one piece of paper per group). As you and your group members read Dotter of Her Father's Eyes you will be responsible for becoming 'experts' on that particular character. Thus, you will use your notebook paper to write down significant information about your character, which we will later use for a creative writing activity."

Step 3:
During the next 3 – 4 class meeting times offer students in-class reading time, and, in order to bolster collaboration on their notes for the upcoming writing activity, in-class group discussion time.  

Step 4:
When students are finished reading Dotter of Her Father's Eyes give them the following writing directions.

• "In a box in the front of the room I have a collection of folded pieces of paper. Each piece of paper lists one of the themes for this graphic novel (War and Peace, Identity, Family Relationships, Coming of Age). To begin, your group will need to send someone to the front of the classroom to randomly select a piece of paper from the box.  

• Once your peer has chosen a piece of paper and shared its theme your group will be asked to work together in order to generate some key, bullet point ideas about how or what your character would say about that theme. It may be helpful to pretend that you are reporters, and you are able to interview the character. "If you were given a chance to interview this character in real life, what might you ask them about your randomly selected theme? Why? What might he or she say? Why?"

• Keep a list of your character's predicted responses. When all groups are done predicting what their characters may say we will conduct some online research to further enhance our knowledge of each character and his or her possible thoughts on our assigned themes.  

Your group should ask itself: "If we google search the name of our character (_____________________________) what pops up? Does this new information compliment what we learned about the character from the graphic novel? Does it compliment our predicted character responses? Or, does it add to or significantly change our predicted responses?"

Be sure to jot down all of your findings on a piece of paper.

• Finally, students will hold a mock debate.  Sitting together, each group will share their theme and their predicted character’s response(s) to that theme. As each group presents their character and his/her possible responses (garnered and based in evidence from the graphic novel and online research) other groups will be encouraged to chime in. The other groups should share their character's particular thoughts and ideas on the other groups' themes as well. In short, as students speak for their character the other groups will also speak and respond to that character. It is hoped that we will have a lively discussion between all four main characters in the graphic novel, thus enriching our comprehension and critical thinking skills about each of the graphic novel’s themes.  

NOTE: Each group will have the same amount of time to lead their own thematic, in character discussions. Ten to fifteen minutes would be ideal.

As each group presents students should keep notes on the progress and details of the discussion.  

• Once every group has conversationally spoken in character and the other groups have weighed in as well, each group will have time to meet one more time. During this time, groups should review all of their notes from each stage in the lesson plan (from their reading of the graphic novel, their group notes about their assigned characters, their additional online research, and the mock debates).  

• For assessment purposes each group will need to finalize their thoughts on the graphic novel, its themes, and, especially its four main character. Groups can record their final thoughts on the table below.

Figure 1: Dotter of Her Father's Eyes themes and major characters.

How do the characters exemplify each theme?



James Joyce

James Atherton



War and Peace



















Family Relationships









Family Relationships









Coming of Age







• When the table is complete students can turn it into the teacher or librarian, who will review them and respond in a timely manner.

Katie Monnin, PhD, is an assistant professor of literacy at the University of North Florida and author of Teaching Graphic Novels: Practical Strategies for the Secondary ELA Classroom (2010) from Maupin House. To learn more about Teaching Graphic Novels or Katie Monnin, please go to this link: http://www.maupinhouse.com/monnin.php.