(CFP) Paraliterary Narratives: Reassessing the 'Graphic Novel'


Paraliterary Narratives: Reassessing the ‘Graphic Novel’

6-7 June 2008
The School of Arts, University of Northampton, UK

The term ‘graphic novel’ is an intensely contested term that covers the pop zeitgeist of American superhero comics to high conceptual art. Just how to define the genre is only one a series of critical conundrums that Samuel R. Delany’s term ‘paraliterary’ scarcely addresses, but offers a starting point for reconsideration. Alongside the complexity of definition comes the problem of critical vocabulary and approaches. That language and methodologies used to discuss prose, film, and non-narrative visual art sometimes fit, but often don’t, is part of that issue. Just how are we to discuss an art form that has in the last 25 years gathered an increasingly serious readership and seen the emergence of many major new artists and writers, but struggles with critical credibility? It is, undoubtedly, a genre greater that the sum of its aesthetic parts incorporating drawing, narrative fiction and, perhaps, cinema, into an integrated, fully realised, artistic form that matches any other in terms of its expressive possibilities.

This conference is an opportunity to reassess ‘graphic novels’ and comic
art more generally, about how to formulate an appropriate critical
vocabulary, and how to assess their cultural impact. Some topics for
discussion might include:

• Genre
• Critical approaches/vocabulary
• Narrative experimentation/innovation
• Self-reflexivity
• The reader
• Art vs popular comic narratives
• Adaptations (book to ‘graphic novel’, ‘graphic novel’ to film) –
Paul Auster, Shakespeare, Sin City, Ghost World, A History of Violence,
• Author-Illustrators (Alan Moore, Art Spiegelman, , Daniel Clowes,
Chris Ware, Derek Kirk Kim, Neil Gaiman etc)
• Autobiography (Harvey Pekar, Alison Bechdel, Art Spiegelman, etc)
• Representing the past in the ‘graphic novel’
• Social commentary and green issues
• Metropolis: the city in the graphic novel (imagined or real
• Anime and Manga
• Close readings of written text in ‘graphic novels’
• Close readings of the visual art of ‘graphic novels’
• The post-modern superhero
• Gender and the ‘graphic novel’

Abstracts of 200 words for 20-minute papers by 31st March 2008 to:
lawrence.phillips_at_northampton.ac.uk or the postal address below.

Proposals for comprised panels of three speakers are also welcome.

Conference website:

Dr Lawrence Phillips,
Paraliterary Narratives Conference,
Media, English and Culture
School of Arts
University of Northampton
Avenue Campus,
St George’s Avenue,
Telephone: +44 01604 893293

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