ImageTexT: Interdisciplinary Comics Studies

ISSN: 1549-6732

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[cfp] Out of the Gutter: Collection on comics and graphic novels

Posted 27 Feb, 2008

Over the course of the past two years, there has been a marked increase of academic interest in comic books and graphic novels, from a cultural theory perspective as well as from the fields of media studies and literature. However, there have been surprisingly few book-length studies on this topic published from any of these disciplinary perspectives. Hence, while Scott McCloud’s groundbreaking book Understanding Comics raised public and academic interest in this under-theorized and challenging medium, and helped to theorize the medium-specific qualities of sequential pictorial narratives, his book suspends the question of how specific disciplinary perspectives might be engaged.

This new interdisciplinary collection will bring together the work of scholars writing about comic books and graphic novels. Our collection of essays from a wide selection of academic perspectives will not only demonstrate the far-reaching influence of this exciting medium across disciplines, but it will also make this still-controversial subject accessible to a wider scholarly audience of teachers and students alike. Abstracts (1000 words) are welcome for but not limited to the following proposed chapters:

1: Origin stories: The history and development of the genre
This section will showcase a selection of articles that provide historical frameworks for understanding the recent development of the comic book from various academic perspectives. We will encourage contributions from authors who focus on the contemporary academic and critical re-appraisal of comic books as a form of literature (from early works by Winsor McCay and George Herriman to contemporary ‘graphic novelists’ such as Alan Moore and Chris Ware).

2: What we talk about when we talk about comics: Theory and terminology
One of the problematic aspects of academic approaches to the medium is the lack of consensus on what terms to use, or even what theoretical framework to apply to narratives that combine words and images. The complicated nexus of meaning and cultural prejudice surrounding the medium has prompted a large number of terms, each of which has proved problematic in its own way, from comic strips to the alternative moniker ‘comix’ to the more recent ‘graphic novel’ or ‘sequential art’. This section will offer a variety of interdisciplinary critical perspectives on the debates surrounding theory and terminology.

3: ‘Out of the gutter’: Graphic novel adaptations
One of the reasons the comic book medium has been the locus of an increase in critical, public and academic debate in recent years is the large number of intermedial adaptations that have been sourced from comic books. Film, video games, TV series, and even acclaimed novels by authors like Neil Gaiman have been based in whole or in part on comic books. This section of the book will feature in-depth case studies of comic book adaptations that have had a wide cultural impact.

4: Men in tights?: Superheroes in the graphic novel
From the late 1930s onward, superhero narratives have dominated the American comic book industry. Even after the celebrated deconstructionist work of Alan Moore and Frank Miller in the late 1980s, men in tights have remained the defining force within the American comic book marketplace and most popular prejudice surrounding the medium. These superheroes have traditionally been linked to dominant agendas in American politics throughout history, but this tradition has proved to be increasingly problematic in a post-9/11 environment. This section analyzes the heritage of the superhero tradition in contemporary graphic novels and comic books from a political perspective.

5: Drawing history: Non-fiction in graphic novels
Since the critical and commercial success of Art Spiegelman’s Maus, non-fiction comic books have become a growing subgenre in the comic book medium, not only as part of the literary ‘graphic novel’ movement, but also as an essential element of new methods in pedagogy. The articles in this section will address some of the medium-specific ways in which the comic book form brings both problems and opportunities for the presentation of non-fictional narratives ranging from (auto)biography to historiography.

Please submit abstracts and/or full-length papers (5000 words) no later than 15 March 2008 to:

Dan Hassler-Forest
University of Amsterdam
Dep. Media Studies
Turfdraagsterpad 9
1012 XT Amsterdam
The Netherlands

Dr. Joyce Goggin
University of Amsterdam
Dep. English Literature
Spuistraat 210
1012 VT Amsterdam
The Netherlands



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