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Literature > Comics and Graphic Novels

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Alan Moore Cover

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Alan Moore

Comics as Performance, Fiction as Scalpel

Eclectic British author Alan Moore (b. 1953) is one of the most acclaimed and controversial comics writers to emerge since the late 1970s. He has produced a large number of well-regarded comic books and graphic novels while also making occasional forays into music, poetry, performance, and prose.In Alan Moore: Comics as Performance, Fiction as Scalpel, Annalisa Di Liddo argues that Moore employs the comics form to dissect the literary canon, the tradition of comics, contemporary society, and our understanding of history. The book considers Moore's narrative strategies and pinpoints the main thematic threads in his works: the subversion of genre and pulp fiction, the interrogation of superhero tropes, the manipulation of space and time, the uses of magic and mythology, the instability of gender and ethnic identity, and the accumulation of imagery to create satire that comments on politics and art history. Examining Moore's use of comics to scrutinize contemporary culture, Di Liddo analyzes his best-known works--Swamp Thing, V for Vendetta, Watchmen, From Hell, Promethea, and Lost Girls. The study also highlights Moore's lesser-known output, such as Halo Jones, Skizz, and Big Numbers, and his prose novel Voice of the Fire. Alan Moore: Comics as Performance, Fiction as Scalpel reveals Moore to be one of the most significant and distinctly postmodern comics creators of the last quarter-century.

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Autobiographical Comics

Life Writing in Pictures

Elisabeth El Refaie

A troubled childhood in Iran. Living with a disability. Grieving for a dead child. Over the last forty years the comic book has become an increasingly popular way of telling personal stories of considerable complexity and depth.


In Autobiographical Comics: Life Writing in Pictures, Elisabeth El Refaie offers a long overdue assessment of the key conventions, formal properties, and narrative patterns of this fascinating genre. The book considers eighty-five works of North American and European provenance, works that cover a broad range of subject matters and employ many different artistic styles.


Drawing on concepts from several disciplinary fields--including semiotics, literary and narrative theory, art history, and psychology--El Refaie shows that the traditions and formal features of comics provide new possibilities for autobiographical storytelling. For example, the requirement to produce multiple drawn versions of one's self necessarily involves an intense engagement with physical aspects of identity, as well as with the cultural models that underpin body image. The comics medium also offers memoirists unique ways of representing their experience of time, their memories of past events, and their hopes and dreams for the future. Furthermore, autobiographical comics creators are able to draw on the close association in contemporary Western culture between seeing and believing in order to persuade readers of the authentic nature of their stories.

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The Call to Read

Reginald Pecock's Books and Textual Communities

Kirsty Campbell

The Call to Read is the first full-length study to situate the surviving oeuvre of Reginald Pecock in the context of current scholarship on English vernacular theology of the late medieval period. Kirsty Campbell examines the important and innovative contribution Pecock made to late medieval debates about the roles of the Bible, the Church, the faculty of reason, and practices of devotion in fostering a vital, productive, and stable Christian community. Campbell argues that Pecock’s fascinating attempt to educate the laity is more than an effort to supply religious reading material: it is an attempt to establish and unite a community of readers around his books, to influence and thus change the ways they understand their faith, the world, and their place in it. The aim of Pecock’s educational project is to harness the power of texts to effect religious change. Combining traditional approaches with innovative thinking on moral philosophy, devotional exercises, and theological doctrine, Pecock’s works of religious instruction are his attempt to reform a Christian community threatened by heresy through reshaping meaningful Christian practices and forms of belief. Campbell’s book will be of interest to scholars and students of medieval literature and culture, especially those interested in fifteenth-century religious history and culture.

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Chester Brown

Conversations

Dominick Grace

The early 1980s saw a revolution in mainstream comics--in subject matter, artistic integrity, and creators' rights--as new methods of publishing and distribution broadened the possibilities. Among those artists utilizing these new methods, Chester Brown (b. 1960) quickly developed a cult following due to the undeniable quality and originality of his Yummy Fur (1983-1994).

Chester Brown: Conversations collects interviews covering all facets of the cartoonist's long career and includes several pieces from now-defunct periodicals and fanzines. Brown was among a new generation of artists whose work dealt with decidedly nonmainstream subjects. By the 1980s comics were, to quote a by-now well-worn phrase, "not just for kids anymore," and subsequent censorious attacks by parents concerned about the more salacious material being published by the major publishers--subjects that routinely included adult language, realistic violence, drug use, and sexual content--began to roil the industry. Yummy Fur came of age during this storm and its often-offensive content, including dismembered, talking penises, led to controversy and censorship.

With Brown's highly unconventional adaptations of the Gospels, and such comics memoirs as The Playboy (1991/1992) and I Never Liked You (1991-1994), Brown gradually moved away from the surrealistic, humor oriented strips toward autobiographical material far more restrained and elegiac in tone than his earlier strips. This work was followed by Louis Riel (1999-2003), Brown's critically acclaimed comic book biography of the controversial nineteenth-century Canadian revolutionary, and Paying for It (2011), his best-selling memoir on the life of a john.

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Comics and Language

Reimagining Critical Discourse on the Form

Hannah Miodrag

It has become an axiom in comic studies that "comics is a language, not a genre." But what exactly does that mean, and how is discourse on the form both aided and hindered by thinking of it in linguistic terms? In Comics and Language, Hannah Miodrag challenges many of the key assumptions about the "grammar" and formal characteristics of comics, and offers a more nuanced, theoretical framework that she argues will better serve the field by offering a consistent means for communicating critical theory in the scholarship. Through engaging close readings and an accessible use of theory, this book exposes the problems embedded in the ways critics have used ideas of language, literature, structuralism, and semiotics, and sets out a new and more theoretically sound way of understanding how comics communicate.

Comics and Language argues against the critical tendency to flatten the distinctions between language and images and to discuss literature purely in terms of story content. It closely examines the original critical theories that such arguments purport to draw on and shows how they in fact point away from the conclusions they are commonly used to prove. The book improves the use the field makes of existing scholarly disciplines and furthers the ongoing sophistication of the field. It provides animated and insightful analyses of a range of different texts and takes an interdisciplinary approach. Comics and Language will appeal to the general comics reader and will prove crucial for specialized scholars in the fields of comics, literature, cultural studies, art history, and visual studies. It also provides a valuable summary of the current state of formalist criticism within comics studies and so presents the ideal text for those interested in exploring this growing area of research

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Comics and Narration

Thierry Groensteen

This book is the follow-up to Thierry Groensteen's ground-breaking The System of Comics, in which the leading French-language comics theorist set out to investigate how the medium functions, introducing the principle of iconic solidarity, and showing the systems that underlie the articulation between panels at three levels: page layout, linear sequence, and nonsequential links woven through the comic book as a whole. He now develops that analysis further, using examples from a very wide range of comics, including the work of American artists such as Chris Ware and Robert Crumb. He tests out his theoretical framework by bringing it up against cases that challenge it, such as abstract comics, digital comics and sh?jo manga, and offers insightful reflections on these innovations.

In addition, he includes lengthy chapters on three areas not covered in the first book. First, he explores the role of the narrator, both verbal and visual, and the particular issues that arise out of narration in autobiographical comics. Second, Groensteen tackles the question of rhythm in comics, and the skill demonstrated by virtuoso artists in intertwining different rhythms over and above the basic beat provided by the discontinuity of the panels. And third he resets the relationship of comics to contemporary art, conditioned by cultural history and aesthetic traditions but evolving recently as comics artists move onto avant-garde terrain.

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Comics and the U.S. South

Brannon Costello

Comics and the U.S. South offers a wide-ranging and long overdue assessment of how life and culture in the United States South is represented in serial comics, graphic novels, newspaper comic strips, and webcomics. Diverting the lens of comics studies from the skyscrapers of Superman's Metropolis or Chris Ware's Chicago to the swamps, back roads, small towns, and cities of the U.S. South, this collection critically examines the pulp genres associated with mainstream comic books alongside independent and alternative comics. Some essays seek to discover what Captain America can reveal about southern regionalism and how slave narratives can help us reread Swamp Thing; others examine how creators such as Walt Kelly (Pogo), Howard Cruse (Stuck Rubber Baby), Kyle Baker (Nat Turner), and Josh Neufeld (A.D.: New Orleans after the Deluge) draw upon the unique formal properties of the comics to question and revise familiar narratives of race, class, and sexuality; and another considers how southern writer Randall Kenan adapted elements of comics form to prose fiction. With essays from an interdisciplinary group of scholars, Comics and the U.S. South contributes to and also productively reorients the most significant and compelling conversations in both comics scholarship and in southern studies.

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The Comics of Chris Ware

The Comics of Chris Ware: Drawing Is a Way of Thinking brings together contributions from established and emerging scholars about the comics of Chicago-based cartoonist Chris Ware (b. 1967). Both inside and outside academic circles, Ware's work is rapidly being distinguished as essential to the developing canon of the graphic novel. Winner of the 2001 Guardian First Book Prize for the genre-defining Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth , Ware has received numerous accolades from both the literary and comics establishment. This collection addresses the range of Ware's work from his earliest drawings in the 1990s in The ACME Novelty Library and his acclaimed Jimmy Corrigan , to his most recent works-in-progress, "Building Stories" and "Rusty Brown.

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A Comics Studies Reader

Jeet Heer

A Comics Studies Reader offers the best of the new comics scholarship in nearly thirty essays on a wide variety of such comics forms as gag cartoons, editorial cartoons, comic strips, comic books, manga, and graphic novels.

The anthology covers the pioneering work of Rodolphe Töpffer, the Disney comics of Carl Barks, and the graphic novels of Art Spiegelman and Chris Ware, as well as Peanuts, romance comics, and superheroes. It explores the stylistic achievements of manga, the international anti-comics campaign, and power and class in Mexican comic books and English illustrated stories.

A Comics Studies Reader introduces readers to the major debates and points of reference that continue to shape the field. It will interest anyone who wants to delve deeper into the world of comics and is ideal for classroom use.

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Contemporary Comics Storytelling

Karin Kukkonen

What if fairy-tale characters lived in New York City? What if a superhero knew he was a fictional character? What if you could dispense your own justice with one hundred untraceable bullets? These are the questions asked and answered in the course of the challenging storytelling in Fables, Tom Strong, and 100 Bullets, the three twenty-first-century comics series that Karin Kukkonen considers in depth in her exploration of how and why the storytelling in comics is more than merely entertaining.

Applying a cognitive approach to reading comics in all their narrative richness and intricacy, Contemporary Comics Storytelling opens an intriguing perspective on how these works engage the legacy of postmodernism—its subversion, self-reflexivity, and moral contingency. Its three case studies trace how contemporary comics tie into deep traditions of visual and verbal storytelling, how they reevaluate their own status as fiction, and how the fictional minds of their characters generate complex ethical thought experiments. At a time when the medium is taken more and more seriously as intricate and compelling literary art, this book lays the groundwork for an analysis of the ways in which comics challenge and engage readers’ minds. It brings together comics studies with narratology and literary criticism and, in so doing, provides a new set of tools for evaluating the graphic novel as an emergent literary form.

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