3 CFPs: Teaching and Reading Comics/Graphic Novels | French & German Comics: Reciprocal Connections  | German-language Comics Beyond Germany (Co-sponsored by Swiss Studies Network)

Conference Panel
GSA Comics Studies Network tion 47th Annual Conference
German Studies Associa
Montréal, Canada
October 5-8, 2023
Stichtag: 15.02.2023

Teaching and Reading Comics/Graphic Novels 

Comics and graphic novels are widely present in instruction and have been used across many disciplines for more than a half century (Blanch & Mulvihill, 2013). We find them today in courses on art, literature, history, law, medicine, among others, but often with little attention paid to their formal or rhetorical construction. Teachers often presume comics and graphic novels are unproblematic for any reader, which does not do justice to these texts’ thematic diversity and varying information structures. Though increasingly present in German-language courses, comics and graphic novels provoke many questions as to how they should/can be taught, including which texts, for whom, according to what pedagogies, and to what end(s)?

When learners encounter L2 comics and graphic novels, a variety of factors influence this reading. Their identities, knowledge of comics and other texts, and assumptions regarding graphic texts determine a baseline. Teachers also bring their knowledge, prejudices, and expertise not only to their own reading, but also to the selection and didacticization of comics/graphic novels for their students. A myriad of possible learning goals further complicates this model, including, but not limited to, critical, visual, and multimodal literacies; questions located in cultural studies, visual culture studies, art history, literary theory, and linguistics; as well as investigations of history, identity, and social justice. To understand the process of teaching and reading L2 comics, we should also include authors, publishers, editors, bookstore owners, critics, and academics. This expanded picture helps us to understand how, why, when, and where learners read specific comics and graphic novels.

This panel will support and deepen the conversation related to comics, graphic novels, and L2 teaching and reading, including the comics/graphic novel form; the texts’ production, interpretation, and reception; as well as their location in the curriculum in relation to other comics, texts, and learning activities. How do different teachers, learners, and readers choose, interact with, present, and make meaning with different text types, and what do they contribute to them in the process? How do we teach such texts as comics/graphic novels and as texts more broadly?

Potential topics include:

  • L2 comics/graphic novels readers and teaching
  • Comics/graphic novels in the curriculum and lesson planning
  • Comics/graphic novels and other texts in the classroom
  • Comics/graphic novels and assessment of learning
  • History of comics/graphic novel teaching
  • Digital humanities/distant reading and comics/graphic novels
  • Multimodality and multimodal reading
  • Comics/graphic novel reception
  • Critical literacy
  • Comics/graphic novel form
  • Rezeptionsästhetik/reader-response theory

Please send a 350-word abstract and short bio by February 15, 2023, to John Benjamin (john.benjamin@westpoint.edu) and Jill Twark (twarkj@ecu.edu)

French & German Comics: Reciprocal Connections 

As a medium that is widely acknowledged as fundamentally transnational, many traditions of comic art are still characterized through national, cultural and linguistic terms. However, comics themselves are not limited by political and linguistic boundaries. Manga, bandes dessinées (BD), and graphic novels possess national valences in their characterizations of comic art, yet in practice, these traditions began in conversation and continued to influence each other over the course of their evolution. In particular, the dominant comics paradigms of Central and Northern Europe, BD and European comics have a long tradition of reciprocal artistic influence while also sharing spheres of publication and mutually beneficial professional networks. 

 With this year’s GSA in Montreal, Canada, this panel seeks to critically examine the reciprocity and connections that exist between BD and German-language comics, drawing out conversations on the relationships between these comics traditions. 

Potential topics include: 

  • cartoonists that bridge traditions, such as Töpffer 
  • the role played by the Angoulême International Comics Festival in propelling German-speaking artists like Ulli Lust and Jens Harder to prominence 
  • German-language artists who got their publishing starts in France/Belgium (e.g., Andreas, Matthias Schultheiss, Chris Scheuer, Barbara Yelin) 
  • the influence of Franco-Belgium comics and ligne claire on German-speaking artists 
  • issues of translation and reception for French comics that circulated widely in German-speaking Europe (e.g., Astérix and The Adventures of Tintin) 
  • the influence of German-language comics in Francophone Europe 
  • comics publishing in Switzerland: where French and German traditions meet 
  • recent authorship by German-language artists of Franco-Belgian prestige titles like Lucky Luke (Mawil, Ralf König) and Spirou (Flix) 

Please send an abstract of 350-500 words and a short bio to Biz Nijdam (enijdam@mail.ubc.ca) by February 15, 2023.

German-language Comics Beyond Germany (Co-sponsored by Swiss Studies Network) 

The current landscape of German-language comics is dominated by the Federal Republic of Germany: German-language comics publishers, both mainstream and independent, are largely concentrated in Germany; the premier German-language gathering of artists, fans, and industry players—the biennial Internationaler Comic-Salon—has been hosted by the Bavarian city of Erlangen since its inception in 1984; and the major archives of German-language comics production are all located in Germany. The outsized role of the FRG in German-language comics, however, belies the importance and vibrancy of comics scenes outside the country’s borders. This panel aims to expand critical scholarship on German-language comics—historical and contemporary—beyond the FRG.

While the FRG’s centrality is suggested by the oft-cited label “German Comics” as a catchall for all comics produced in German, there is a rich history of comics in Austria and German-speaking Switzerland. The contemporary German-language comics landscape would be unthinkable without the experimental contributions of Swiss artists like Thomas Ott, M.S. Bastian, and Anna Sommer, and the Zürich-based magazine Strapazin, which brought an avantgarde of German-speaking artists to the attention of an international audience in the early 1990s. Switzerland continues to play a pivotal role in the development of German-language comics through the inventive and iconoclastic publisher Edition Moderne and the major international Fumetto comic festival in Luzern. Meanwhile, Austrian artists Nicolas Mahler and Ulli Lust are two of the most successful German-language comics artists of all time. Although unduly overlooked, Austria boasts scenes throughout the country, with eclectic projects like the art zine Tonto from Graz, the vending machine comics project Kabinett in Vienna, and gatherings like the dynamic NEXTCOMIC-Festival in Linz. The country even has its own band of caped crusaders in the series ASH – Austrian Superheroes.  

Like the landscape of the comics themselves, the field of German-language Comics Studies has focused primarily on artists and works from Germany proper. This is beginning to change, however, with critical attention moving outside the FRG. An important step in this direction was the creation of the Österreichische Gesellschaft für Comic-Forschung und -Vermittlung (oegec) in 2019 and the publication of a special issue of the Journal of Austrian Studies on Austrian comics in 2022. Critical attention on German Swiss comics, though, as scholar and journalist Christian Gasser laments, is still largely absent. This panel aims to generate and foster critical interest in artists and comics beyond Germany to fill in gaps in existing scholarship.

Potential topics include:

  • Austrian comics 
  • Swiss comics 
  • German-language artists publishing abroad 
  • The nature of “Germanness” in “German Comics” 
  • Transnational German-language comics 
  • German-language comics history outside the FRG 
  • International comic collaborations 

Please send an abstract of 350-500 words and a short bio to Brett Sterling (bsterli@uark.edu) by February 15, 2023.