CFP: Depicting the Undepictable in German Comics and Comic Books

Conference of the Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
April 12 - 15, 2018
Stichtag: 30.09.2017

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 novel, across works of different genres, times, or national and ethnic backgrounds.

The panel looks at comics and graphic novels from the German-speaking world that attempt to represent the abstract and the visually non-concrete. This includes, but is not limited to, aspects such as abstract ideas, emotions, and non-visual sensual experiences. Thus, the panel ultimately asks how artists experience, explore, and expand the limits of their medium.

Chair: Julia Ludewig (Allegheny College)

Submit abstract to NeMLA web site by September 30, 2017 deadline. To submit, you will need a free NeMLA CFP List account at

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