Hot Best Seller

Breaking the Frames: Populism and Prestige in Comics Studies

Availability: Ready to download

Comics studies has reached a crossroads. Graphic novels have never received more attention and legitimation from scholars, but new canons and new critical discourses have created tensions within a field built on the populist rhetoric of cultural studies. As a result, comics studies has begun to cleave into distinct camps--based primarily in cultural or literary studies--th Comics studies has reached a crossroads. Graphic novels have never received more attention and legitimation from scholars, but new canons and new critical discourses have created tensions within a field built on the populist rhetoric of cultural studies. As a result, comics studies has begun to cleave into distinct camps--based primarily in cultural or literary studies--that attempt to dictate the boundaries of the discipline or else resist disciplinarity itself. The consequence is a growing disconnect in the ways that comics scholars talk to each other--or, more frequently, do not talk to each other or even acknowledge each other's work. Breaking the Frames: Populism and Prestige in Comics Studies surveys the current state of comics scholarship, interrogating its dominant schools, questioning their mutual estrangement, and challenging their propensity to champion the comics they study. Marc Singer advocates for greater disciplinary diversity and methodological rigor in comics studies, making the case for a field that can embrace more critical and oppositional perspectives. Working through extended readings of some of the most acclaimed comics creators--including Marjane Satrapi, Alan Moore, Kyle Baker, and Chris Ware--Singer demonstrates how comics studies can break out of the celebratory frameworks and restrictive canons that currently define the field to produce new scholarship that expands our understanding of comics and their critics.


Compare

Comics studies has reached a crossroads. Graphic novels have never received more attention and legitimation from scholars, but new canons and new critical discourses have created tensions within a field built on the populist rhetoric of cultural studies. As a result, comics studies has begun to cleave into distinct camps--based primarily in cultural or literary studies--th Comics studies has reached a crossroads. Graphic novels have never received more attention and legitimation from scholars, but new canons and new critical discourses have created tensions within a field built on the populist rhetoric of cultural studies. As a result, comics studies has begun to cleave into distinct camps--based primarily in cultural or literary studies--that attempt to dictate the boundaries of the discipline or else resist disciplinarity itself. The consequence is a growing disconnect in the ways that comics scholars talk to each other--or, more frequently, do not talk to each other or even acknowledge each other's work. Breaking the Frames: Populism and Prestige in Comics Studies surveys the current state of comics scholarship, interrogating its dominant schools, questioning their mutual estrangement, and challenging their propensity to champion the comics they study. Marc Singer advocates for greater disciplinary diversity and methodological rigor in comics studies, making the case for a field that can embrace more critical and oppositional perspectives. Working through extended readings of some of the most acclaimed comics creators--including Marjane Satrapi, Alan Moore, Kyle Baker, and Chris Ware--Singer demonstrates how comics studies can break out of the celebratory frameworks and restrictive canons that currently define the field to produce new scholarship that expands our understanding of comics and their critics.

39 review for Breaking the Frames: Populism and Prestige in Comics Studies

  1. 5 out of 5

    Robert Boyd

    The idea that there are professional comics scholars working in mainstream professorial jobs in academic settings is not a new idea to me, but may be to others. After all , as far as I know, there is no "department of comics studies" in any university in the world (although perhaps there should be). But there is enough written about comics that Marc Singer, a professor at Howard University, could write a whole book about this scholarly work. And it's a humdinger. He takes his colleagues to task. The idea that there are professional comics scholars working in mainstream professorial jobs in academic settings is not a new idea to me, but may be to others. After all , as far as I know, there is no "department of comics studies" in any university in the world (although perhaps there should be). But there is enough written about comics that Marc Singer, a professor at Howard University, could write a whole book about this scholarly work. And it's a humdinger. He takes his colleagues to task. One of his criticisms is that they don't know enough about comics to write about them, especially when they come over from other fields. But more than that, too many of them are devoted fans--they are somewhat uncritical of comics. They engage in special pleading on behalf of their chosen medium, in a desire for it to be taken as seriously as other kinds of communication (literature, film, art, etc.). For instance, in one section he discusses responses to Umberto Eco's essay, "The Myth of Superman" (1962), one of the earliest academic analyses of comics. Singer writes, "[Angela] Ndalianis invokes Eco to support her claims for the originality of superhero comics, just as she rejects him when he suggests that the comics of his day don't compare favorably to more consecrated art forms. [...] Ndalianis doesn't analyze or interpret her subjects as much as she celebrates them." Ndalianis edited and contributed to a book called The Contemporary Comic Book Superhero. Breaking the Frames is filled with such judgments of Singer's fellow academic toilers. I suspect he will not be getting lots of love at academic conferences he attends in the next year or so. The rest of the book is organized around specific works by specific artists and the academic and critical reaction to them as well as his own criticisms. There is a section on Planetary by Warren Ellis--a clever series that essentially congratulates its readers for having read a lot of comics. His critique can be quite amusing. Discussing Planetary issue 7, Singer writes, "The story revolves around the apparent demise of the chain-smoking British occultist Jack Carter, who serves as a proxy for Alan Moore's chain-smoking British occultist John Constantine. (No reader ever had to work to figure out a Warren Ellis allusion.)" He berates academic readers who look at Planetary and other revisionist super-hero comics as being somehow outside of ideology and power dynamics. And surprisingly many do. (He also pretty much dismantles Planetary so thoroughly that I can't imagine reading it again.) He performs a similar task on The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Niell. He switches focus about halfway through the book to more alternative work, starting with Chris Ware (who is criticized primarily for fetishizing a kind of quotidian realism of the sort that has dominated literary fiction in the postwar period.) This criticism seems a little weak and depends a lot on Ware's statements about his work rather than the work itself. But Singer more than makes up for it in a chapter on Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. Satrapi burst onto the American scene in 2003 with the publication of the first volume of Persepolis. It was an instant hit, similar in some ways to Maus by Art Spiegelman. Like Maus, it was autobiographical, it portrayed a highly personal story set in a hugely important historical event, and like Spiegelman, Satrapi was the first popular artist to arise out of a specific school of comics. Satrapi's school doesn't have a name that I know of it, but one could refer to it as the L'Association generation, speaking of the artists who came to prominence around that French publisher, including Lewis Trondheim, Edmond Baudoin, and most important in the case of Marjane Satrapi, David B. He specifically criticizes Hilary Chute for minimizing L'Association's and David B's influence on and encouragement of Satrapi. Chute allows that Satrapi was influenced by Maus but minimizes the influence of David B and his masterpiece, Epileptic. This is unfortunate in the case of Chute, but not tragic. He calls out the lazy criticism that compares Persepolis to the genre of Persian miniatures. Satrapi's Iranian, her drawings are presented in a small format (a graphic novel, 6 1/4 x 9 1/4 inches), so obviously she's producing a kind of Persian miniature, right? This connection feel so lazy, and yet critics and scholars make it repeatedly. Singer writes, "While the name encourages such specious comparisons, Persian miniatures can in fact be quite large compared to most comics." The point he makes is that when critics make this comparison, they often do so from an ignorance of Persian miniatures. Singer adds, "In its most glib and fleeting invocations--which is to say, most of them--the comparison serves to exoticize Satrapi and her work, walling her off from the culture in which made Persepolis and limiting its influences to the culture of her birth." The last chapter was on Kyle Baker's Nat Turner. There is less academic and critical response to Nat Turner than to the other work discussed, so most of this chapter is Singer's own analysis of Baker's book. He is highly critical mainly of the many liberties Baker takes with the historical record, while acknowledging the defects of the historical record.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Osvaldo

    Whew! There is a lot to say about this book, more than I can fit here and more than I am ready to synthesize quite yet. Nevertheless, Singer's thoughtful examination of the state of comics studies is rigorous and unflinching. What is most likely the stand-out aspect of this book is Singer's willingness to "name names," to directly address what he sees as the shortcomings of particular work by particular scholars in an attempt to challenge the degree to which advocating for comics in general lead Whew! There is a lot to say about this book, more than I can fit here and more than I am ready to synthesize quite yet. Nevertheless, Singer's thoughtful examination of the state of comics studies is rigorous and unflinching. What is most likely the stand-out aspect of this book is Singer's willingness to "name names," to directly address what he sees as the shortcomings of particular work by particular scholars in an attempt to challenge the degree to which advocating for comics in general leads to both overly optimistic readings and the establishing of certain creators as geniuses above criticism - in particular ideological criticism. While this kind of direct addressing and criticism of the work of other scholars is a part of the scholarly discourse and should be taken in a collegial vein, it nevertheless can lead to folks taking the criticism personally. Comics Studies is a pretty small field, and as someone involved in it, I not only recognized all the names, I know some of the people written about personally. That said, however, Singer's criticisms are so specific, well-documented and explained and delivered without rancor, it is difficult to not take them seriously and accept them as correct. At the same time, however, Singer writes with a certain directness that is a joy to read and that provides a bit of a thrill at his willingness to aim his sites at a range of scholars. While I was reading Breaking the Frames I quickly came to look forward to each name included to think about who he might take down next. Well, maybe "take down" is too strong a word that implies venomous intent, and I don't get that feel at all, but let's be real, the vast majority of time he names people it is to criticize and challenge their work). And yet, to focus only on this willingness to analyze the work of other scholars in this way would be to miss the utility of his own readings of comics and his deeply rigorous work of close-reading, historical contextualizing, and examination of the conditions under which the labor has been produced - all the things Singer calls on other comics scholars to do. His chapter on Kyle Baker's Nat Turner is a particularly strong example of this (as is his chapter on Alan Moore - I will admit I did not read the chapters on Chris Ware (yawn!) and Marjane Satrapi as closely b/c I am less interested in their work - though my guess is that for scholars of those creators the chapters would be equally as useful and fascinating). I will also add, however, that when it comes to his criticism of Nat Turner itself, the readings become needlessly pedantic and literal. Ultimately, Singer makes the case for a more balanced and rigorous comics studies that is less fannish and hagiographic, and less interested (explicitly or implicitly) in establishing canons based on the utility of texts in a strict literarily analytical way (despite literary studies being Singer's own general field). He calls on those in comics studies to move away from just cheerleading comics in order to make a place for them among "legitimate literature," but to prove their worthiness for study through demonstrating they can stand up to ideological critique regardless of the outcome of that critique, rather than reading everything for the dubiously liberatory and resistant possibilities. If there is one area that could have stood to be more fully explored in Breaking the Frames it is connected to that notion of resistant possibilities, by more closely examining work in fan studies and audience reception. I know I will be returning to this book and returning to (or reading for the first time) some of the texts that Singer tackles. There is a lot here and this book is quite a feat and quite a contribution to the field.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Tucker Stone

    The best academic book on comics criticism that exists, an excellent work of research, and a hall of fame entry of comics criticism itself. Should be required reading for anyone who wants to be considered a serious person. It’s also stylish, which it doesn’t have to be-but what a treat that it is. What a great book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Aaron

    Every comics scholar should read this.

  5. 4 out of 5

    A. David Lewis

    The kick in the ass that Comics Studies needed. Now, what do we DO with it?

  6. 4 out of 5

    Guilherme Smee

    De tempos em tempo surge um livro sobre teoria dos quadrinhos que todo estudante e entusiasta desta mídia precisa ler ou, pelo menos ficar de olho. Foi assim com Supergods, de Grant Morrison; com Reading Comics, de Douglas Wolk; com Graphic Women, de Hillary Chute, entre outros exemplos. Mas por mais que esses livros tenham - principalmente - introduções muito inspiradas, o mesmo não vale para o restante da publicação. Como toda publicação com capítulos de temáticas díspares, alguns deles sairão De tempos em tempo surge um livro sobre teoria dos quadrinhos que todo estudante e entusiasta desta mídia precisa ler ou, pelo menos ficar de olho. Foi assim com Supergods, de Grant Morrison; com Reading Comics, de Douglas Wolk; com Graphic Women, de Hillary Chute, entre outros exemplos. Mas por mais que esses livros tenham - principalmente - introduções muito inspiradas, o mesmo não vale para o restante da publicação. Como toda publicação com capítulos de temáticas díspares, alguns deles sairão com análises que acabam por dividir águas, outros capítulos nem são muito dignos de nota. Isso, claro, também depende do seu interesse nas temáticas do livro. Este Breaking The Frames, de Marc Singer, faz em sua introdução uma lindíssima defesa e justificativa de se estudar quadrinhos na academia. Segue com um primeiro capítulo tentando atualizar o célebre artigo de Umberto Eco, chamado O Mito do Superman, com o qual se sai muito bem. O segundo capítulo segue na mesma verve ao analisar como os quadrinhos de super-heróis são vistos no "pós-modernismo". Até então o autor segue uma linha de raciocínio coesa para o livro, mas quebra ela com os capítulos seguintes, que falam da Liga Extraordinária, Chris Ware, Marjane Satapri e Kyle Barker. Depois de ler o capítulo da Liga Extraordinária, por exemplo, deixei de ler o livro por um bom tempo até retomar para ler os demais. Nesse caso, um direcionamento editorial pode ajudar. Mas não parece ser apenas isso, já que, conforme falei, outros livros do gênero pecam da mesma forma.

  7. 4 out of 5

    AaronL

    Good book. I wish there were ten more like it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    4.5 Enjoyable, edifying, informative, and motivating.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Brian

  10. 4 out of 5

    Logan Dalton

  11. 4 out of 5

    Gregory

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jorge Cotte

  13. 5 out of 5

    Zack Kruse

  14. 5 out of 5

    Michael Rhode

  15. 4 out of 5

    Chad Brock

  16. 4 out of 5

    Anna

  17. 4 out of 5

    Joe

  18. 5 out of 5

    Josh

  19. 5 out of 5

    Brad

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nick Nguyen

  21. 5 out of 5

    Zappster

  22. 5 out of 5

    CCC

  23. 5 out of 5

    Teucer

  24. 4 out of 5

    Brian Nelson

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sara

  26. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Noe

  27. 5 out of 5

    Catherine

  28. 5 out of 5

    Cian

  29. 4 out of 5

    Richard Gray

  30. 5 out of 5

    Zane Gregory

  31. 5 out of 5

    Reuvenc

  32. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Garden

  33. 5 out of 5

    Rodolfo Almeida

  34. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  35. 5 out of 5

    Mariam

  36. 4 out of 5

    Jendi

  37. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

  38. 4 out of 5

    Victoria

  39. 5 out of 5

    Dorian Alexander

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.