CFP: Comics and Art History

Collected volume
Editors: Ian Horton, Maggie Gray
Stichtag: 2020 02 07

Comics Studies is both starting to establish itself as an independent discipline (for example, with new postgraduate courses), and witnessing an intensifying questioning of its methodological and theoretical bases (and the dominance of models drawn from narratology, semiology and cultural studies). This makes it a crucial moment at which to evaluate what different disciplinary perspectives offer the study of comics. Some of the foundational texts of Comics Studies of the 1960s and 70s emerged from Art History, registering the dramatic shifts that discipline itself underwent in this period, as traditional approaches were challenged by radical Marxist and feminist currents. Although subsequently the study of comics remained marginal to the discipline, over the last decade there has been renewed interest in comics among art historians, and art historical methodologies can more broadly be seen to have informed much recent comics scholarship (whether implicitly or explicitly), particularly that placing greater emphasis on the form’s graphic, material and aesthetic dimensions.

This volume will re-examine the history of comics scholarship by art historians (informed by traditions of stylistic analysis, iconology and the social history of art), before mapping the contemporary and future applications of art historical methodologies in the field. In doing so, it will not only ask what Art History can offer comics scholars, but also conversely, what the study of comics demands of Art History, particularly in challenging its fundamental categories (art, the canon, quality, value, autonomy, authorship, style, and form). It aims to both provide models for adopting art historical approaches in comics scholarship on the basis of existing academic work, and to provoke further exploration of comics from diverse art historical perspectives.

We invite scholars from any disciplinary background to contribute chapters of 5,000 words, based on a recent or ongoing piece of comics research they have undertaken which has been informed by a specific art historical approach.

Each chapter will follow the same template:

  1. introduce the art historical methodology concerned and key references;
  2. outline the relevant comics research project;
  3. analyse how the former has specifically informed the latter;
  4. reflect on the benefits and challenges of this approach for Comics Studies more broadly.

We are seeking contributions that relate to the following methodologies (references are indicative):

  • Lives of the Artists – reference: Giorgio Vasari, Karel van Mander, John Richardson.
  • Connoisseurship – references: Giovanni Morelli, Bernard Berenson.
  • Formalism and Abstraction – references: Roger Fry, Clive Bell, Michael Fried.
  • Psychologies of Perception – references: Ernst Gombrich, Ernst Kris, Kendall Walton.
  • Material Studies and Technical Art History – references: Edward Forbes, Daniel V. Thompson.
  • Feminist Art History – references: Linda Nochlin, Griselda Pollock, Carol Duncan.
  • Psychoanalysis and Subjectivity – references: Bracha Ettinger, Rosalind Krauss, Maria Walsh.
  • Queer Art History – references: Amelia Jones, Whitney Davis, Christopher Reed.
  • Postcolonial Art History – references: R. Siva Kumar, Olu Oguibe, Kenneth Coutts-Smith, David Craven.
  • Critical Race Art History – references: Kymberly Pinder, Maurice Berger, Camara Dia Holloway, Jacqueline Francis.
  • Visual Culture Studies– references: W. J. T. Mitchell, Svetlana Alpers, Lisa Cartwright, Hans Belting.

We are also open to contributions that are informed by more recently emergent areas of art historical inquiry, such as Migratory Aesthetics, Biopolitics and Ecocriticism, and other art historical approaches not listed.

Please Note: It may be that you are engaged with one of these art historical methodologies but have not yet undertaken a relevant project of comics research applying it. We are therefore open to submissions for contributions that take a more speculative approach, proposing the benefits of a particular methodology to comics scholarship by applying it to a specific case study. (This would need to follow a similar template: 1. introducing the methodology and key references, 2. applying it to the case study example, 3. proposing the advantages and challenges of this approach for Comics Studies).

Please submit abstracts for proposed contributions (max. 400 words) to and by 7th February 2020.

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