CfP: Modernist Comics

The Modernist Studies Association (MSA) 19
Conference Panel
Amsterdam, Netherlands
August 10 - 12, 2017
Stichtag: 13.12.2016

The present-day genre of comics might begin with Rodolphe Topffer in 1837; Punch magazine’s 1843 satiric cartoons; Richard F. Outcault’s 1895 The Yellow Kid; Famous Funnies, the U.S. magazine that standardized the comic book format in 1934; or Action Comics, the 1938 series that turned the fledgling industry into mass culture in a single bound. When defined by formal qualities, however, comics date to at least the Medieval period, with a long tradition of panels and speech scrolls in illuminated manuscripts establishing conventions that would become standard in newspaper strips and graphic novels in the 20th century. Because the rise of comics coincides with the ebbing of Modernism, and because Modernism often is defined in opposition to popular culture, the notion of “Modernist Comics” might appear oxymoronic. As Jackson Ayers writes in the introduction to a three-essay “Comics and Modernism” section in the Winter 2016 Journal of Modern Literature, comics are “Modernism’s wretched Other.” Yet the wordless woodcut novels of Frans Masereel, Lynd Ward, Giacomo Patri, and Laurence Hyde, as well as Max Ernst’s surrealist collage novel A Week of Kindness, can be analyzed fruitfully via comics theory. Further, such works as the image-incorporating poetry of Langston Hughes, the concrete experiments of Guillaume Apollinaire, and even the page-space arrangements of William Carlos Williams all employ visual strategies common to later comics and comics poetry. Finally, the comics of George Herriman, Lyonel Feininger, Windsor McCay, and other early 20th century creators might be reevaluated as Modernist texts.

This panel will explore such lines of inquiry between Modernism and comics. Please email abstracts (200-300 words) and a brief scholarly bio to Chris Gavaler ( by December 13, 2016.

For more information, contact: Chris Gavaler

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