Comics and the Canon

full name / name of organization: 
Partial Answers: Journal of Literature and the History of Ideas
contact email: 
partans@mail.huji.ac.il

Comics and the Canon

Over the last three decades, comics, graphic memoirs, and graphic novels have emerged as literary, artistic, and cultural artifacts of central importance. Comics were once seen as outside what we might broadly call a literary and fine-arts “canon”: as objects belonging to low culture rather than high culture, as ephemeral items rather than artworks of lasting and iconic significance, as lesser hybrids of word and image rather than as belonging to a specific demanding medium. And yet the last thirty years have seen the rise and impact of works that are serious, ambitious, and monumental — works in conversation with an established literary and artistic canon, and works which themselves make a claim to cultural centrality and significance. “Comics studies” has developed as an academic discipline; artists and critics have worked to recover the rich and understudied history of the medium, with the result that a “canon” of central figures is emerging.

What is gained and what is lost when we try to establish a Comics canon? How do artists make claims to cultural centrality by putting their work in conversation with more traditional canonical works, and how do they challenge the ‘canon’ through exploring alternative aesthetic values and subjects? In the canon-building process of winnowing and centralization, which works are elevated and which are excluded? Is there something perverse in canonizing works in a medium that has often characterized itself as marginal? What tensions are thereby exposed, not just in comics but also in the very process of canonization?

This collection invites essays on all aspects of comics and canonization, including
• analyses of comics which rewrite or otherwise engage with canonical works of art, film and literature,
• studies that consider comics in relation to other artistic media in which word and image are traditionally combined (illustrated novels, illuminated manuscripts, film scripts and storyboards, etc.),
• defenses and critiques of the artists whose works have become most central to the comics canon (Spiegelman, Satrapi, Bechdel),
• arguments for the inclusion of understudied artists, artworks and movements in the comics canon,
• essays on the ways in which comics challenge the premises and processes of literary canonization,
• projections on the future of the ‘canon’ in comics classes and scholarship.

Submissions (between 5,000 and 10,000 words, the Harvard system of references) are due by April 30, 2014. Authors of the papers that are accepted will be responsible for obtaining permissions to reprint illustrations.

The journal will accept electronic submissions, in Word or RTF, to be sent to partans@mail.huji.ac.il . For inquiries please contact the guest editor, Professor Ariela Freedman (Concordia University, Montreal) at ariela.freedman@concordia.ca

cfp categories: 
childrens_literature
cultural_studies_and_historical_approaches
journals_and_collections_of_essays
modernist studies
popular_culture
twentieth_century_and_beyond