Spanish and Iberian Comics/Graphic Narratives
This is a proposal for a collaborative session, jointly organized by the Forum Executive Committees of Comics and Graphic Narratives and 20th and 21st Century Spanish and Iberian Languages, Literatures, and Cultures.
Comics and other forms of graphic narrative have been central to Spain’s popular culture for much of the nation’s modern history, including a wide variety of formats such as the nineteenth-century aleluya; political cartoons of the War of 1898; tebeo comics of the mid-twentieth century; the outpouring of political and counterculture comics of late Francoism, the transition to democracy, and the 1980s cultural explosion of the movida; as well as more contemporary formats such as the currently-booming graphic novel.
While they have always been central to cultural production, in the last decade comics and graphic narratives have become an increasingly central focus of scholarship and teaching in the field of Iberian Studies. This disciplinary turn to comics is in keeping with broader trends in the Anglo- American academy, which has in recent decades seen graphic narratives cemented as a sufficiently “serious” object of study, as evidenced by comics scholarship series at several major university presses, including the Routledge Advanced Series in Comics Studies, University of Mississippi Press’s prolific titles, Rutgers University Press’s Comics Culture series, as well as major publications from Harvard University Press.
In the Iberian Studies context, the recent publication of several monographs and edited volumes attests to the current scholarly and pedagogical interest in this dynamic and multifaceted cultural form. These include: Benjamin Fraser’s several works including Disability Studies and Spanish Culture: Films, Novels, the Comic and the Public Exhibition (Liverpool, 2013), Barcelona, City of Comics: Urbanism, Architecture and Design in Postdictatorial Spain (SUNY Press, 2022), and Visible Cities, Global Comics: Urban Images and Spatial Form (Mississippi, 2019); Enrique Bordes’s Cómic, arquitectura narrativa (Cátedra, 2017); Santiago García’s several works including Spanish Fever: Stories by the New Spanish Cartoonists (Fantagraphics, 2016); and the edited volumes Consequential Art: Comics Culture in Contemporary Spain (ed. Samuel Amago and Matthew J. Marr, Toronto, 2019), Spanish Graphic Narratives: Recent Developments in Sequential Art (ed. Collin McKinney and David F. Richter, Palgrave, 2020) and Joanne Britland and Xavier Dapena’s forthcoming The Political Imagination in Spanish Graphic Narrative, among others.
Building on this lively field of critical work, this panel traces the contours of this vibrant subfield of artistic, literary and scholarly production, with the aim of bringing together two audiences at the 2024 MLA Convention who may not always be in communication with one another: members of the Comics and Graphic Narratives GS Forum and the 20th and 21st Century Spanish and Iberian LLC Forum. It seeks to build and solidify bridges between these two scholarly communities and also begin accounting for the possible gaps between them. Likewise, it especially welcomes abstracts that move beyond prevailing approaches—which often ask what graphic narratives can tell us about Spain’s history, culture, or politics—to focus as well on what Spain’s comic and graphic novel traditions might offer to broader scholarly conversations in the international field of Comics Studies.
We invite proposals for papers that consider the following questions, among others:
- What role do graphic narratives and comics play in contemporary Iberian cultural production?
- Who are the imagined and documented readers of these narratives? How do these texts circulate? What stories (and whose stories) are they particularly suited to telling?
- What is “new” in contemporary Spain’s graphic narrative and what existing traditions (from literatura de cordel or aleluyas to tebeos to the graphic novel) are being reframed or remixed in the 21st century?
- How does comics readership translate to comics culture, for instance in media adaptations?
- What modes of comics reading are valued in contemporary Iberian Comics scholarship? How do those scholarly priorities relate to US, French, Japanese and other national scholarly contexts?
- What relationships can we draw between Iberian comics/graphic novels and other Spanish- language graphic texts produced in Latin America and the US?
- What legacy has been left on Spanish comics by Francoist censorship, including its golden era ban on superheroes?
- To what extent are Iberian graphic narratives framed in conversation with trends or developments in comics and graphic novels in other national/linguistic traditions and markets? Why or why not?
- To what degree is the vibrant community of Iberian comics scholars in dialogue with or isolated from other national comics scholarship (within the North American academy)? What historical, material, or disciplinary factors account for this dis/connection?
- How might critical and scholarly approaches to Spain’s graphic narrative tradition build further dialogue with other communities of scholars? Given the collaborative nature of the panel, we ask that participants present in English, though we can provide translation during the Q&A if this is useful. Please submit 250-word abstracts and short bios (in English) by March 15, 2023 to Rachel Kunert- Graf (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Sarah Thomas (email@example.com).
Please note: this is a proposed, not a guaranteed, session at MLA 2024. It is contingent on approval by the MLA
Program Committee. All prospective presenters must be current MLA members by April 1, 2023.