Graphic Narratives as Literature: Strategies for Critical Reading

By Kirsten Møllegaard.

Published by The International Journal of the Humanities: Annual Review

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: November 5, 2014 $US5.00

At a time when the traditional print novel is in commercial and cultural decline, comics and graphic novels, once stigmatized as semi-literate lowbrow drivel, have expanded territorially from the subcultural domain of the comics shop to the college classroom, and now attract critical attention in literary studies. Although the combination of images with text bubbles is a narrative form radically different from traditional print literature, the narrative content of comics and graphic novels expands on our perception of what literature is and what it does. By applying the literary toolkit to the reading of graphic narratives, new perspectives arise on narration, intertextuality, and the relationship between text and image, which (among many possibilities) prompt consideration of how narrative voice works in graphic literature, how to interpret image alongside text, and what the dynamics of the unified text/image panel reveal about discourse and social criticism. The connection between literary genre and the graphic medium is particularly relevant because of the aesthetics of the artwork that supports the text. The discussion focuses on examples of critically acclaimed autobiographical and fictional graphic narratives by Alison Bechdel, Howard Cruse, Frank Miller, Alan Moore, Posy Simmonds, Art Spiegelman, Adrian Tomine, and Gene Luen Yang.

Keywords: Literature, Graphic Narratives

The International Journal of the Humanities: Annual Review, Volume 11, pp.123-132. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: November 5, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 396.721KB)).

Dr. Kirsten Møllegaard

Associate Professor, English Department, University of Hawai'i at Hilo, Hilo, Hawaii, USA