Announcing Our MLA 2013 Sessions!

Join us there!

We of the MLA Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives are proud to announce our sessions for the 128th Annual MLA Convention, to be held 3-6 January 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts. See below for our lineup—including our first-ever social event, a cash bar on Saturday evening, January 5!

Besides the sessions we’re sponsoring, there will of course be others in Boston devoted to comics (which we’ll list in a future post). Comics studies within the MLA continues to be a robust, very active area. Do bookmark this blog and check back in over the weeks to come, as the convention draws nearer! We’ll be posting abstracts of all the papers in our sessions by Dec. 15.

Note: Only a limited number of MLA sessions are open to the general public (see the MLA website here). That does not include the sessions below, which are open only to registered participants in the convention. For more information about the convention, including registration costs, see the homepage for MLA 2013.

Birth of a Nation: A Comic Novel, by McGruder, Hudlin & Baker (2005 ed.)

132. Black Studies and Comics

Thursday, 3 January, 5:15–6:30 p.m., Back Bay D, Sheraton Boston

Presiding: Qiana Joelle Whitted, Univ. of South Carolina, Columbia

  1. “(In)Visible Bodies: Rewriting the Politics of Passing in Incognegro, a Graphic Mystery by Mat Johnson and Warren Pleece,” Christophe Dony, Univ. of Liège
  2. “Birth of an Imperium: Tragedy, Comedy, and the Graphic Representation of African American History,” Jonathan W. Gray, John Jay Coll. of Criminal Justice, CUNY
  3. “A Work of Its Time and a Timeless Work: The Spirit, Ebony White, and Will Eisner’s Legacy,” Andrew James Kunka, Univ. of South Carolina, Sumter

Two panels from Joe Sacco's Footnotes in Gaza (2009)

303. Graphic Lives in Wartime

Friday, 4 January, 1:45–3:00 p.m., The Fens, Sheraton Boston

Program jointly arranged by the Division on Autobiography, Biography, and Life Writing and the Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives

Presiding: Linda Haverty Rugg, UC Berkeley; Joseph (Rusty) Witek, Stetson Univ.

  1. “Joe Sacco on Joe Sacco,” Julia Watson, Ohio State Univ., Columbus
  2. “Ethical Obligation in the Wartime Graphic Memoir: Theorizing the Face in Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis,” Joseph Darda, Univ. of Connecticut, Storrs
  3. “Atomic Bomb Manga,” Hillary Chute, Univ. of Chicago
  4. “Views from Nowhere: Journalistic Detachment in Joe Sacco’s Palestine,” Marc Singer, Howard Univ.

MICE (Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo) 2012 poster, by Dan Moynihan

504. New England DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Comics

Saturday, 5 January, 12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., The Fens, Sheraton Boston

Presiding: Martha B. Kuhlman, Bryant Univ.

  1. “Minicomics and the Graphic Nonnovel,” Isaac Cates, Univ. of Vermont
  2. “Comics Culture and Community: Providence,” Martha B. Kuhlman
  3. “‘Like Us Be Free and Bold’: Innovation, Rebellion, and Self-Reliance in Boston Minicomics,” Susan E. Kirtley, Portland State Univ.
  4. “The Illegitimate Sons of Superman: DIY Publishing and the Rutland Halloween Parade,” Craig Fischer, Appalachian State Univ.

Okay, so the mixer won't really be like this, but... hey, it's Hogarth!

657. Cash Bar Arranged by the Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives

Saturday, 5 January, 7:00–8:15 p.m., Independence West, Sheraton Boston

Please join us for this informal mixer—and help us chart our future! Members of the Discussion Group’s Executive Committee will be on hand to chat about our programming, our plans, and the further growth of comics studies at the MLA. We invite your input, and hope to connect with all those who are interested in comics scholarship. Not to be missed!

MLA 2013 CFP Update

Boston logo for MLA 2013

The MLA Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives plans to propose three panels for MLA 2013, to be held in Boston on 3-6 January:

  • Black Studies and Comics
  • New England DIY Comics
  • Graphic Lives in Wartime (co-sponsored with the MLA Division on Autobiography, Biography, and Life Writing)

The Call for Papers (CFP) for these panels has closed. The Group has gathered in abstracts for all three topics, and is now in the process of reviewing the abstracts, designing the panels, and submitting final proposals to the MLA Program Committee.

We expect to confirm our slate of MLA 2013 programming sometime in June—please watch this site for further news!

CFP Deadline Extended: Black Studies and Comics (MLA 2013)

The MLA Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives has extended the deadline for its proposed MLA 2013 session, Black Studies and Comics, to 16 March 2012. We encourage all interested scholars to submit a proposal!

Herriman, Harrington, Ormes, and Cowan & Palmiotti

BLACK STUDIES AND COMICS

Call for Papers for a proposed panel at the Modern Language Association (MLA) Annual Convention, 3-6 Jan. 2013, in Boston. Sponsored by the MLA Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives. Submission deadline: 16 March 2012.

This proposed panel seeks to explore how the methods of Black Studies may inform comic studies, and vice versa. We hope collaboration between these fields will yield greater understanding of race and representation in one of America’s most vital cultural archives. We invite proposals from all angles, including but not limited to:

• African-American cartooning pioneers, e.g. Herriman, Harrington, Ormes, Turner
• Anderson’s King and other graphic representations of the Civil Rights Movement
• Contemporary African-American strip cartoonists
• Comics and the U.S. South
• Comics and Afro-futurism
• Masks and double consciousness in superhero comics
• Encounters between comics and hip-hop
• Black publishing and entrepreneurship in comics
• Scholarly and curatorial recoveries of Black cartooning
• The archive of comics and the archive of slavery
• EC Comics’ commentaries on racial discrimination
• Caricature and stereotype in Eisner, Crumb, and others

Send 300 to 500 word abstracts in .doc or .pdf form to Charles Hatfield: charles[dot]hatfield @ gmail[dot]com. The deadline for submissions is now 16 March 2012. Submitters will receive notification of results from the Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives by April 1.

PLEASE NOTE: This CFP is for a proposed, not a guaranteed, session at MLA 2013, meaning it is contingent on approval by the MLA Program Committee (which will make its decisions after April 1). All prospective presenters must be current MLA members by no later than 7 April 2012.

Feel free to leave comments on this site, or to email Charles Hatfield at charles[dot]hatfield @ gmail[dot]com if you have questions!

CFP: Graphic Lives in Wartime (MLA 2013)

Katin, Sacco, Satrapi, Mizuki

Call for Papers for a proposed panel at the Modern Language Association (MLA) Annual Convention, 3-6 Jan. 2013, in Boston. Jointly sponsored by the MLA Division on Autobiography, Biography, and Life Writing and the MLA Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives.


Comics and warfare are longtime companions. Organized mass violence underlies some of the most famous and enduring works in the form: the Crusades of Prince Valiant, the imperialist campaigns of Norakuro, the anti-imperialist clashes of Asterix, the global conflicts of Steve Canyon and Sgt. Rock, the wartime misadventures of noncombatants like Bécassine, and so many others. The concept of the superhero and the development of book-length stories in comic book format can hardly be separated from the outbreak of World War II. But the late 20th century metamorphosis of “funnybooks” into “graphic novels” brought a new element to the familiar thematic concerns of comics: life writing and the depiction of the self. Graphic biographies, autobiographies, and autofictions set in wartime have witnessed and personalized, dramatized and questioned, upset, reframed, and demythologized some of the most divisive and catastrophic conflicts in history—and in our time.

Indeed graphic life writing set in wartime has been crucial to recent developments in the Anglophone discourse on comics, including the cultural legitimization of comics that has enabled the rise of academic comic studies. From the trinity of Art Spiegelman, Joe Sacco, and Marjane Satrapi to diverse other examples, comics’ critical reception has been informed by war and memories of war—as has the re-visioning of comics in global rather than nationalistic terms (consider Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen, Guibert’s The Photographer and Alan’s War, Katin’s We Are on Our Own, and many others). In fact an exhaustive list of graphic life writing rooted in war is hard to envision; in a world where warfare has become the normal state of affairs, such a list is functionally impossible.

This panel invites papers on the confluence of life writing, graphic representation, and organized violence, in all aspects and from all perspectives. Send 200 to 300-word abstracts in .doc or .pdf to Linda Haverty Rugg (rugg [at] berkeley [dot] edu) and Joseph Witek (jwitek [at] stetson [dot] edu) by 15 March 2012. Submitters will receive notification of results by April 1.

PLEASE NOTE: This CFP is for a proposed, not a guaranteed, session at MLA 2013, meaning it is contingent on approval by the MLA Program Committee (which will make its decisions after April 1). All prospective presenters must be current MLA members by no later than 7 April 2012.

Please feel free to leave comments on this site, or to email Charles Hatfield, charles [dot] hatfield [at] gmail [dot] com, if you have questions!

CFP: New England DIY Comics (MLA 2013)

Images from Ft. Thunder, Mat Brinkman, Highwater, CCS, & Brian Ralph

Call for Papers for a proposed panel at the Modern Language Association (MLA) Annual Convention, 3-6 Jan. 2013, in Boston. Sponsored by the MLA Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives.


Even as literary culture makes way for e-Readers and iPads, an opposing DIY trend champions the tactile, material qualities of printed books, flouting conventional economic wisdom and celebrating the haptic potential of reading. Indeed one effect of the digital revolution has been to highlight the virtues of pre-digital reading, turning attention to the book as art object and artifact. One expression of this phenomenon is the interest in handmade or limited-edition readable objects, not only lavish and collectible artists’ books but also more accessible small-press publications such as zines and minicomics.

New England has been a vital center for DIY comics and zine production. Notably, the former publisher Highwater Books, founded in Massachusetts, served as an aesthetic benchmark for small-press comics in the late 1990s. The Providence-based artists’ collective Fort Thunder, known for minicomics, installations, performance art, and music, coalesced around the Rhode Island School of Design in the nineties and launched the careers of important artists like Mat Brinkman, Brian Chippendale, and Brian Ralph. Small-press shows such as the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo, or MICE (http://www.masscomics.com), carry on the handmade comics tradition, aided by regional bookstores that promote individualized comics, such as Cambridge’s Million Year Picnic and Providence’s Ada Books. Also, the Center for Cartoon Studies, a highly regarded comic art school located in White River Junction, Vermont, stresses self-publishing (http://www.cartoonstudies.org).

We invite papers that explore the DIY culture of comics from Boston and New England more generally. A few questions to consider:

  • What makes the DIY comic unique from an aesthetic perspective? What kinds of artistic experimentation and production (from screen-printing to photocopying) distinguish this particular genre? How can we theorize both the material qualities of these works and the economic and cultural frameworks within which they circulate, for example collaborations, artists’ collectives, and small-press festivals?
  • How are DIY comics connected to other subcultures? What cultures and social connections help explain the staying power, aesthetic distinctiveness, and cultural importance of DIY comics?
  • Are there distinct groups that share a common aesthetic? Or are the connections between individual authors primarily about their practical approach to production?
  • To what degree are DIY comics studied and exhibited?
  • What connections exist between comics and the local community? Do these artists represent their respective cities, or New England more generally, from particular perspectives? How might educational or artistic initiatives break down the barrier between artist and audience?

Send 500 word abstracts in .doc or .pdf form to Martha Kuhlman: mkuhlman [at] bryant [dot] edu. The deadline for submissions is 10 March 2012. Submitters will receive notification of results from the Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives by no later than April 1.

PLEASE NOTE: This CFP is for a proposed, not a guaranteed, session at MLA 2013, meaning it is contingent on approval by the MLA Program Committee (which will make its decisions after April 1). All prospective presenters must be current MLA members by no later than 7 April 2012.

Please feel free to leave comments on this site, or to email Martha Kuhlman at mkuhlman [at] bryant [dot] edu if you have questions!