Depicting the Undepictable in German Comics and Graphic Novels

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association
contact email: 

The recent wave of scholarly interest in comics and graphic novels has arrived in German Studies. Some of the most interesting work comments on the ways comic artists explore the formal, that is, visual means of their medium including aspects such as panel shapes, page design, and coloring. A topic that has not yet been at the center of scholarly attention lies at the very intersection between the visual and the non-visual. This panel looks at both the potency and limitations of the medium by analyzing how artists from the German-speaking world represent physical and mental phenomena that, by definition, go beyond the capacities of a visual medium. The panel invites papers which address, for example, the following questions:


  • How do comic artists represent abstract ideas (e.g. “freedom,” “otherness,” “history,” “vagueness” etc.)?
  • Related, yet distinct from the latter: what techniques are used to relate to the reader emotions such as “love,” “anguish,” “sadness” etc. or to create a certain mood or atmosphere?
  • How do artists depict non-visual sensual experiences such as touch, smell, or sound (for instance when they represent music)?
  • What part does language play in comics when it comes to the expression of abstract thoughts?
  • From an inter-media perspective, is the abstract, ultimately, a barrier or a chance for comic artists?

Paper submissions on other topics in the same vein are welcome. Focusing on one artist or even work is acceptable. Yet the panel also encourages a comparative perspective asking how these questions compare across more than one comic or graphic novels across works of different genres, times, or national and ethnic backgrounds.

Please submit an abstract of 200-350 words by September 30, 2017, to the following web address: