CFP: Graphic Reading

A One-Day Conference University of Birmingham
May 19, 2017
Stichtag: 31.03.2017

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.” (James Baldwin)

“The surface of the page is a problem to solve.” (Art Spiegelman)

Perhaps no other word in our critical vocabularies is changing as quickly as “reading”. As critics such as Franco Moretti, Stephen Best, Sharon Marcus, and Heather Love offer highly visible ways of approaching the digital through distant reading and surface reading, they have limited their focus to the textual. The purpose of this conference is to take reading out of its literary comfort zone and to move away from the traditional parameters of fiction, poetry, and prose. Comics, film, the book, book art, maps, sculpture, the digital, and, often, the archive, comprise of words and images that require us to learn new or unfamiliar reading practices. We invite participants in Graphic Reading to interrogate and explore these practices, cutting across visual, material, cultural, and literary contexts to follow their global intricacies and interdisciplinary implications.

Critical attention is increasingly turning to the graphic but the graphic itself has long been treated as a peripheral, “low” or crude form of art. Less and less of a guilty pleasure, critics are finding that the unconventional, controversial, and popular aesthetics that comics, pulp genres, films, and games often entertain make for nothing like easy reading. The presence of pleasure in this work – whether overt or insidious – gives trouble to its readers. We therefore want to consider how the naïve, the confessional, the indecent, the violent, the gratuitous, and the explicit function in both familiar and less established mediums. In short, what happens when we read the graphic?

We invite papers that consider graphic reading across comic, critical, literary, and theoretical texts as well as less established mediums such as videogames and other digital media. Possible topics may include but are not limited to:

  • Past, present, and future methods and theories of reading and critique.
  • Representations of reading, representations of violence, representations of desire
  • Reading and graphic novels, reading and comics, reading and cinema
  • The pleasures/erotics of reading
  • Reading as labour, the ethics of reading, reading and critique
  • The history of reading, history of the book, the book as object, libraries
  • Childhood & Reading, Children’s Literature
  • Approaches to reading in queer theory, narrative theory, theories of affect, translation studies Reading in digital humanities
  • Reading theatre, reading drama

Keynote speakers
Dr. Sarah Dillon (U. Cambridge), “The Ungrammatical Knife”
Author of The Palimpsest: Literature, Criticism, Theory (2007) and Queer Intimacies: Deconstruction, Feminism, Film (2018)
Prof. Jason Dittmer (UCL), TBC
Author of Popular Culture, Geopolitics, and Identity (2010) and Captain America and the Nationalist Superhero: Metaphors, Narratives, and Geopolitics (2013)

Abstracts of no more than 250 words, accompanied by a short bio, should be sent to by March 31st.

Organizers: Dr. Charlotta Salmi (U. Birmingham), Dr. Angus Brown (U. Birmingham)

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