GSA Comics Studies Network
October 3 - 6, 2019
The GSA Comics Studies Network invites submissions for a series of panels planned for the 2019 German Studies Association conference in Portland, Oregon (October 3-6, 2019). Please contact the respective panel organizer with submissions.
Comics Studies (1): Origins
The date of comics’ genesis as a medium is a point of contention among scholars. Some point to Richard F. Outcault’s Hogan’s Alley (1895) with its ubiquitously recognizable Yellow Kid, or the British comic magazine Ally Sloper’s Half Holiday (1884) as the first comic strip to feature a recurring character. Others look earlier to the sequential narratives of Rodolphe Töpffer in the 1830s and ‘40s, the work of William Hogarth in the 1730s, 31 century woodcut prints, illuminated medieval manuscripts, the Bayeux Tapestry (11th century), or to Trajan’s Column (113 CE). Some, like Scott McCloud, even consider prehistoric cave painting to be a form of comics. Suffice it to say, the lineage of comics as a form of sequential visual narrative is a long one allowing for the inclusion of a diverse range of texts and artistic productions either as comics in their own right, or as stages along the path of comics’ evolution. By any definition, German-speaking artists have played an integral role in innovating within the field of visual narrative and have contributed greatly to moving the medium forward.
This panel will explore the historical development of comics, its forebears, and relations within German-speaking Europe, focusing primarily on works prior to the so-called Golden Age of German comics in the 1950s. Areas of interest could include:
- comics under the NS regime
- satirical magazines such as Simplicissimus (1896-1944)
- Expressionist woodcut novels
- the works of Wilhelm Busch, Franz Pocci, Lothar Meggendorfer, etc.
- 19th century Bilderbogen
- Renaissance and Baroque printed fliers
- Medieval illumination
Additionally, papers could address the relationship between contemporary works and the longer history of comics within German-speaking Europe.
Please send abstracts of 350-600 words and a short bio to Brett Sterling (firstname.lastname@example.org) by January 31th, 2019.
Comics Studies (2): Social Justice
The multimodal dimensions of the comics form renders it a unique medium through which to discuss social justice issues. Furthermore, with its history of radical politics and ability to visualize bodies, comics draw attention to issues of representation – as well as to representation itself – in a way unlike other media. Through visualization and spatial and temporal fragmentation of social justice themes, readers experience the process of reading a graphic narrative differently than traditional texts. Visual cues on race, gender, class and ability are not easily flattened into single-issue subjects, while the history of the form asks readers to question assumptions, stereotypes and the impact of specific narrative strategies on social justice issues. Moreover, comics fundamentally demonstrate why representation is important, communicating experiences that are often difficult to translate into words alone, such as chronic illness, depression, oppression, trauma and silence. Lastly, through comics written by and about the LGBTQ community and people of color, authors and artists are able to communicate subjective experiences of oppression and segregation visually, imparting a first-person perspective into larger discourses of inequality, bigotry or discrimination. Birgit Weyhe’s “Madgermanes” (2016) and Paula Bulling’s “Im Land der Frühaufsteher” (2012), for example, demonstrate two projects that seek to reveal the institutionalized racism of postwar German history. “Nenn mich Kai” (2016) by Sarah Barczyk, on the other hand, offers a rare glimpse into the process of transition from female to male from an autobiographical perspective, while Ralf König is arguably one of the most prolific gay comics creators of all time. Lastly, Reinhard Kleist’s “An Olympic Dream” and “Kawergosk – 5 stars” and Peter Eickmeyer and Gaby von Borstel’s “Liebe deinen Nächsten” (2017) three comics that thematize the refugee crisis, demonstrate the power of visual documentation in the representation of conflict zones. Like Joe Sacco’s canonical text, “Palestine” (1997), these examples of comic journalism function as productive counters or companions to traditional forms of journalism and war photography, offering valuable insight into the role of media in constructing our understanding of important events.
This panel seeks to address the work of German comics on social justice subjects. How do German-language comics engage race, class and ability through form and content? How are German-language comics in dialog with comics outside of German-speaking Europe through their social justice issues? And what work do German-language comics have still to do?
Possible subjects include:
- comics and the refuge crisis
- comics representations of marginalized communities
- graphic medicine and the representation of disability in comics
- comics and the representation of race
- comics and social justice work/activism
Please send a 350-word abstract and short bio by January 31, 2019, to Biz Nijdam (email@example.com).
Comics Studies (3): Periphery
German-language comics and graphic novels are enjoying increasing academic attention. While it is worthwhile to analyze topics such as GDR history, German manga, and literary adaptations, our discussions mostly remain within the realm of the comics format traditionally conceived. That is to say, the majority of analyses focus on multi-panel, paper-based comics in which words and images are combined in fairly traditional ways (think, for instance, speech bubbles and captions, regular panel architecture) and which tell stories by means of conventional narrative structures. In order to broaden our scholarly view, this panel wants to shine a light on those graphic products in the German language market that dare to experiment with one or more of these classical comic elements. Hence, we seek papers on “comic-like” artefacts that border on, but are also distinct from comics as we commonly understand them. In exploring these “comicoid” texts, we ask definitional questions as much as we take stock of age-old and recent Anrainer. Ultimately, the panel gets at questions of intermediality and transmediality. As we look at the periphery of (German) comics production, we want to interrogate what constitutes a “narrative” within as well as across media and how the medial base shapes how stories (or whatever defies this label) are told. In this spirit, we welcome contributions that focus on various types of texts from all historical periods.
Possible topics includes, but are not limited to, the following:
- text types
- animation (TV, computer games)
- web comics
- comics that go beyond two dimensions
- comics that materially add or visually represent senses other than vision to a considerable degree
- single-panel cartoons
- wordless or ambient comics
- fumetti/photo comics
- mixed media comics
- handmade zines
- comics with unusual narrative structures
Please send a 350-600 word abstract and a short bio by January 15, 2019 to firstname.lastname@example.org.