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Studying Comics and Graphic Novels

ISBN: 978-1-118-49991-7
176 pages
June 2013, Wiley-Blackwell
Studying Comics and Graphic Novels (1118499913) cover image


This introduction to studying comics and graphic novels is a structured guide to a popular topic. It deploys new cognitive methods of textual analysis and features activities and exercises throughout.

  • Deploys novel cognitive approaches to analyze the importance of psychological and physical aspects of reader experience
  • Carefully structured to build a sequenced, rounded introduction to the subject
  • Includes study activities, writing exercises, and essay topics throughout
  • Dedicated chapters cover popular sub-genres such as autobiography and literary adaptation
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Introduction: How to Use This Book 1

What This Book Holds 2

Working Definitions 4

1 What's in a Page: Close-Reading Comics 7

Cognitive Processes and Critical Terms 7

Navigating the Comics Page 16

Entering the Storyworld and Meeting its Participants 19

Comics Analysis – A Basic Checklist 26

2 The Way Comics Tell it: Narration and Narrators 31

Showing and Telling 31

Story, Discourse, and Plot 34

The Narrator 39

Narration, Focalization, and Point of View 44

Narrative as Meaning-Making 48

Graphic Narrative – A Basic Checklist 49

3 Narrating Minds and Bodies: Autobiographical Comics 55

Style and Subjectivity 55

Autographic Agents 57

Embodiment 60

Self-Reflexivity 61

Time, Story, and History 65

Alternative Agendas and Authenticity 68

4 Novels and Graphic Novels: Adaptations 73

Transporting Stories 74

Media Affordances and Adaptation Strategies 75

Fidelity in Adaptation 80

Literary Complexity 85

The Page Revisited 90

5 Comics and Their History 99

The Beginnings of Comics History 99

Precursors in Emergent Mass Culture 102

Newspaper Comics (1900s–1930s) 103

The Comic Book (1930–54) 106

Comics Censorship (1954) 110

Comics as Popular Culture 113

Breaking the Code 1: Pop Art and Underground Comix 117

Breaking the Code 2: The British Invasion 118

6 The Study and Criticism of Comics 123

Resources for Studying Comics 123

Access to Comics Texts 123

Critical Work on Comics 124

Critical Approaches to Comics 125

Comics Semiotics 126

Comics Narratology 128

Cognitive Approaches to Comics 129

Historical and Auteurist Approaches 131

Cultural Studies and Gender Studies 133

Psychoanalysis 134

How to Write Your Essay on Comics 139

The Crime Scene 142

The Witnesses 142

Making Your Case 144

End Credits 146

Conclusion: Comics as Literature 149

Appendix: More Comics and Graphic Novels to Read 155

Glossary 167

Index 179

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Author Information

Karin Kukkonen is Balzan Postdoctoral Research Fellow at St John’s College, University of Oxford, UK. Her research focuses on the emergence and development of comics as a narrative form during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Dr Kukkonen has published work on metaphors, metafiction, and multi-perspective storytelling in comics. Her recent monograph, Contemporary Comics Storytelling (2013) examines how the comics of recent years engage with the legacy of postmodernism.

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“A much-needed textbook that provides an analytical toolkit to bring to bear on the complexities of comics as narrative art and cultural practice. It is both rigorous and reader-friendly: the case-study approach encourages an active application of the conceptual framework that is carefully built up. This book is a real asset for all students of comics.” —Ann Miller, University of Leicester

“Karin Kukkonen's Studying Comics provides the reader with the tools necessary to transform themselves quickly from a comics reader to a comics scholar, capable of engaging graphic narratives from a broad range of approaches and ready to engage in this dynamic and emerging field of study. This is a smart introduction that takes both its readers and its comics very seriously indeed, while always remaining lively and accessible.” —Jared Gardner, Ohio State University

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