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Re -imagining genre: Comics, *literature, and textual form

Leslee Rene Wright, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


My research approaches the comics form as a literary medium capable of producing a unique visual and communicative reading experience. Comics criticism is a rapidly emerging field in academia, and a small number of historiographical and memoir comics, such as Art Spiegelman's Maus and Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, are recognized as texts worthy of critical literary analysis. Despite this recognition, it remains difficult to locate a definite space for comics within literary studies. My work establishes this indefinite space as a problem that has emerged from a common misunderstanding wherein the characteristics of popular comic genres are perceived as representative of limitations inherent to the comic form itself. My research, which is rooted in cultural studies theory and semiotics, recognizes that there are a number of cultural constraints and connotations that have kept comics located on the fringes of literary study, and proposes that these connotations have led to inadequacies in the critical language surrounding the comics form. Because of these inadequacies, and because comics are an aggregate of images and words that borrow from other visual practices freely---which include but are not limited to typography, lettering, architecture, set design, and so forth---the development of a critical vocabulary for discussing literary genres of comics is both a difficult and necessary task. My project moves toward the development of such a vocabulary by using a synthesized reading approach that bridges the visual, the narratological and the communicative aspects of the form, which further allows one to "read" for literary elements as they are communicated through the artist's distinctive graphic stylings. Throughout the chapters of this project, I apply this reading approach to comics by George Herriman, Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, Julie Doucet, and Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli. My argument refers to Anthony Easthope's ideas on the division between popular culture texts and high cultural texts, employing them as a springboard for framing comics as a literary medium which embodies the opposition implicit to modernism's division of high and popular cultures. ^

Subject Area

Art History|Literature, American

Recommended Citation

Wright, Leslee Rene, "Re -imagining genre: Comics, *literature, and textual form" (2006). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3213860.