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Workshop | Comic Studies with Nina Mickwitz (UAL)

Jun 02, 2022 | 10:00 AM - 02:00 PM

Organised by James Hodapp (Fellow in Reseach Area 4: "Literary Currencies") and Jasmin Wrobel (Research Area 4: "Literary Currencies"). The two-part workshop takes place in the context of the International Conference "Lateral Solidarities: Visualizing Global South Comics".

Part I: Mapping Comics Studies (10-12h)

Graphic narratives are increasingly recognised as a global popular culture phenomenon encompassing expressions and traditions including (but not limited to) comics, comix, comic strips, graphic novels, manga, manhwa, bande dessinée, historietas and histórias de quadrinhos. Some traditions, namely North American/Anglophone comics, Japanese manga and Franco-Belgian bandes dessinée, have for a range of reasons (these will be set out in the introductory talk for this workshop) emerged as dominant in terms of global circulation and readerships. But within these traditions, as beyond them, the diversity of genres should also be acknowledged. Among such genres we might mention superheroes, adventure and historical fiction, war, horror, fantasy, crime, romance, humour, reportage or documentary comics, auto/biographical modes, graphic medicine and more.

At the same time, the study of comics does not have its own faculty or institutional home, and thus lacks the structural supports that a department or recognition at faculty level might offer. This evidently presents challenges for those involved in this area of research, especially as the value and significance of their chosen subject is not as self-evident compared to celebrated cultural forms. Yet this uncertain and improvised base can also be viewed as an asset and strength. As an outcome of the field’s rather precarious institutional position, Comics Studies is marked by its multi-disciplinarity, clearly reflected in the edited collections, journals, conferences and other networks that shape and produce the field.

In this collaborative workshop we will attempt to map Comics Studies in a number of intersecting ways, including scholarly fields and disciplines, regional and national contexts, and academic networks and institutions. This exercise will examine terms such as international (Lent 2010), transnational (Stein, Denson and Meyer 2013), and 'world literature' (Hodapp 2022), to acknowledge and examine the uneven sightlines of knowledge production in this cross-disciplinary field. An initial presentation will be followed by group work and allocated tasks, leading to informal small group presentations and a consolidatory discussion.

Part II: Genre and Social Justice Agendas in Graphic Narratives (12-14h)

Social justice agendas form a strong (and in many cases fundamental) component in what appears to be a growing proportion of graphic narratives and comic books. This tendency is evident across a broad range of genres, from superheroes and heroines, science fiction and fantasy to memoirs, biographies, advocacy and other, less easily defined categories. We might consider high profile titles such as Ms Marvel and Black Panther: Wakanda as recent examples of large-scale comics producers acknowledging the multiplicity of readerships and re-negotiating the terms of representational repertoires. But there is also an exponentially growing body of socially engaged comics that adopt factual registers and modes of address: from historical revisionist accounts and educational comics about the climate emergency, comics that give voice to migrant experiences as a form of advocacy, graphic memoirs taking as their focus diaspora identities or gender and sexuality, and comics relating the experiences of geo-political power-struggles. Some creators, such as Alison Bechdel, Joe Sacco and Marjane Satrapi to name just a few, have achieved considerable recognition. But there are also huge numbers of lesser known but no less attention-worthy examples to discover and choose from. While longform and print still form important aspects of comics culture, we should take care to also account for shorter form publications and webcomics, as the accessibility of such forms (for creators as well as readerships) can be an important consideration.

In short, graphic novel or comics treatments of social (in)equalities cannot be assigned neatly to specific formats and they encompass both fiction and factual modes. Taking this as its stepping off-point, this seminar will engage participants in close reading, critical and comparative analysis and discussion of examples. The specific aim of the session is to consider the role and impact of genre conventions for the stories told. To what extent is a story shaped by the demand for code switching and heroic acts in a superhero story? What mechanisms are set in motion by the elicitation of pity by a witness testimony? How does humour work as a tool to address difficult topics? What happens when a large-scale and systemic issue is personified in the service of storytelling? What might be the advantages and limitations by the expectations that accompany specific genres?

Participants are invited and encouraged to bring with them examples of their own choice, to add to the selection of works to be analysed.

Time & Location

Jun 02, 2022 | 10:00 AM - 02:00 PM

Freie Universität Berlin
EXC 2020 "Temporal Communities
Room 00.05
Otto-von-Simson-Straße 15
14195 Berlin

Further Information

The two parts are offered as connected yet free-standing components. You can choose to participate in both, or any one of them. You can register until May 31 at jasmin.wrobel@fu-berlin.de.