In 2009, comics scholars in the Modern Language Association of America, or MLA, launched a Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives—a body that aims to bring greater focus and attention to comics studies within the Association, and within literary studies more broadly.
Now renamed the GS Forum on Comics and Graphic Narratives, our group seeks to build on the growing interest in comics studies within the academy, an interest attested to by rapidly increasing opportunities for book and journal publication, the proliferation of conferences in the field, and the expanding professional conversation about the teaching of graphic narratives. We hope to facilitate and accelerate the growth of the field.
The group was officially founded at the 125th Annual Convention of the MLA in Philadelphia (December 2009), after the MLA approved a petition authored and presented by Dr. Hillary Chute and supported by numerous scholars. In that petition, Dr. Chute noted the prevalence of comics studies—a diverse range of scholarship spanning themes, motifs, periods, and languages, as well as multiple disciplinary perspectives—and in particular the growing importance of comics to the literary field. Further, she noted that comics studies has already made significant inroads into the MLA over the past decade, and that a MLA Discussion Group would be a helpful and indeed overdue acknowledgment of that fact.
Following on the petition, an organizational meeting in Philadelphia resulted in the election of an initial slate of officers (2010-). The Group solidified over the succeeding year, while preparing for its first-ever presentation of sponsored panels at the 126th Annual Convention of the MLA in Los Angeles (January 2011).
More about the MLA: Founded in 1883, the Modern Language Association is the U.S.’s leading professional association for college and university-level teachers and scholars of literature and language. It is comprised (as of this writing) of eighty-eight major divisions and forty-nine smaller discussion groups. Its annual convention, which draws thousands of attendees, typically includes many hundreds of events: papers, panels, forums, keynote addresses, social gatherings, and more.
The MLA works to encourage and enable new scholarship, to drive new developments, and to set standards within the discipline. Its chartering of the Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives marks an important turning point in the literary study of comics.