Comics: Philosophy and Practice, poster by Chris Ware

This weekend, May 18-20, thanks to the tireless work of our own Hillary Chute, the University of Chicago‘s newly established Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry is hosting:

Comics: Philosophy & Practice—a symposium that brings together what is certainly the most distinguished roster of comic artists ever assembled for an academic event:

Lynda Barry, Alison Bechdel, Ivan Brunetti, Charles Burns, Dan Clowes, R. Crumb, Phoebe Gloeckner, Justin Green, Ben Katchor, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Françoise Mouly, Gary Panter, Joe Sacco, Seth, Art Spiegelman, Carol Tyler, and Chris Ware.

Wow! These artists will be doing talks and workshops, interviews and panels, throughout the weekend. It all starts tonight, Friday, May 18, at 6:15 p.m. CDT with Art Spiegelman’s What the %$#! Happened to Comics, a conversation with U of Chicago’s distinguished W. J. T. Mitchell. It comes to end on Sunday, May 20, from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. with one of Lynda Barry’s famed Writing the Unthinkable workshops. In between, it looks like one can’t-miss event after another. Also taking part as interviewers/moderators are other distinguished U of Chicago scholars, including Kristen Schilt and, of course, Hillary Chute herself.

Comics: Philosophy and Practice

For those of us who can’t attend the conference in person—sob!—UChicago Live will be holding real-time webcasts of much of the event, starting tonight (Friday) at 6:00 p.m. CDT with opening remarks and the Spiegelman/Mitchell event. Other webcast times include all of Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 7:15 p.m., and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to noon.

Comics: Philosophy & Practice clearly signals not only the arrival but the current stature and seriousness of comics studies in the academy. Co-sponsored by the Gray Center, the Franke Institute for the Humanities, the Scherer Center for the Study of American Culture, the journal Critical Inquiry, and a number of other U of Chicago entities, it represents a vast collaborative effort and a hugely important public proclamation of comics’ relevance and indeed centrality in the study of the humanities.

It all takes place at the just-opened Logan Center for the Arts, a multidisciplinary arts center and a major new U of Chicago venue (in fact the conference is part of the Logan Center’s preview period, the run-up to its grand opening in the fall).

The Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, U of Chicago

Congratulations to Hillary Chute and her colleagues at the University of Chicago for assembling this historic event!

PS. The conference’s website is a terrific one-stop compendium of information about distinguished comics artists, so much so that it could serve as a useful starting point for assignments in a comics course!