As Craig reported four days back, Thought Balloonists will be going into hibernation this coming year so that he and I can take part in a new venture: a blog called The Panelists, to be hosted by the main page of The Comics Journal (www.tcj.com) and maintained by Derik Badman, Alex Boney, Isaac Cates, and Jared Gardner as well as us.
To say I'm excited about this move is a killer understatement! I'm looking forward to the expanded collaboration, the opportunity to post more regularly, and the mix of tastes and opinions that The Panelists will bring. In the meantime, I want to underscore what Craig has said: how glad we are to have worked together on TB, and how thankful to those who have read and commented on our work. If you're a loyal TB reader, we encourage you to make the hop over to The Panelists.
I'm damn lucky to work with Craig, a terrific writer and a good friend. We're gonna keep at it!
One more item of business before we go. Though this may seem like an odd way to close out, I want to blow the trumpets for something important on the near horizon, something that pertains to Craig's and my academic work and to the larger field of comics studies:
An encouraging sign of academia's growing interest in comics is the upsurge of related research within the Modern Language Association of America, or MLA, the leading professional association in the US for college- and university-level teachers/scholars of literature and language. Founded as long ago as 1883, the MLA sets standards and reflects trends in disciplines like ours, English studies (those of you who've ever had to do an academic paper with documentation in "MLA style" may know what I mean). These days comics research within the MLA is definitely accelerating.
Granted, comics studies have appeared only very infrequently in the Association's journal of record, the Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, or PMLA. However, comics-related papers and, very occasionally, panels have been a growing part of MLA convention programming for some time. These activities have been ad hoc and temporary in nature--until now. Very recently, comics scholars in the MLA have joined together to launch the Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives, a body that promises to bring new focus and oomph to comics studies within the Association (and within literary studies more broadly).
The Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives was founded in 2009 on the initiative of Hillary Chute (now of the University of Chicago and author of the new Graphic Women: Life Narrative and Contemporary Comics). Established by petition, and then launched with an initial organizational meeting at last year's MLA convention in Philadelphia, this discussion group will be offering panels for the first time ever this coming January, 2011, at the Annual Convention to be held in Los Angeles.
I'm proud to serve on the Group's executive committee, along with Isaac Cates (U of Vermont), who is this year's Chair, and Hillary Chute, Jonathan Gray (John Jay College), and Derek Parker Royal (Western Illinois U).
Admittedly, this Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives is but one fish in a very large pond: the MLA includes, as of last report, some eighty-seven major divisions and forty-nine smaller discussion groups, and its annual convention, which draws thousands of attendees, typically includes more than 700 or 800 events. But the group's presence within the MLA marks an important turning point--an encouraging next step after the MLA's publication of the book Teaching the Graphic Novel in 2009.
The 126th Annual Convention of the MLA will take place in Los Angeles this coming Jan. 6-9 (Thursday-Sunday) at the LA Convention Center and the nearby J. W. Marriott hotel. I'll be one of the, by my estimate, more than 2000 persons involved in putting on events there. Thankfully, the convention is not only local but is also no longer being held in the days between Christmas and New Year's (from now on, it will be held during the first weekend after the first Tuesday in January, I think).
Following are the three panels being sponsored or co-sponsored by the Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives:
312. Comics and Conflict in the Middle East
Friday, Jan. 7, 1:45-3:00 p.m., Room 407, LA Convention Center
Presiding: Isaac Cates
1. "Graphic Narratives and the Suffering of Palestinians," Aryn Bartley, Michigan State Univ.
2. "When We Were Kings: Representing Regime Change in Vaughan and Henrichon's Pride of Baghdad," Jonathan Gray
3. "A Female Prophet? Matriarchal Authority in Marjane Satrapi," Rachel V. Trousdale, Agnes Scott Coll.
552. Drawing Women's Lives
Saturday, Jan. 8, 1:45-3:00 p.m., Platinum Salon J, J. W. Marriott hotel
Presiding: Hillary Chute
1. "'My Independent Jewish Monster Temperament': The Serial Selves of Aline Kominsky-Crumb," Tahneer Oksman, Graduate Center, City Univ. of New York
2. "The Embedded Looker: Charting Narration in Graphic Memoir," Robyn R. Warhol, Ohio State Univ., Columbus
3. "Arranging the Narration of Women's Lives in Marjane Satrapi's Broderies/Embroideries," Stacey Weber-Feve, Iowa State Univ.
386. Graphic Aging
Friday, Jan. 7, 5:15-6:30 p.m., 407, LA Convention Center
Co-sponsored by the Discussion Group on Age Studies and the Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives
Presiding: Charles Hatfield, CSU Northridge (that's me)
1. "'Old Father, Old Artificer': Time, Memory, and Aging in Alison Bechdel's Fun Home," Michelle Ann Abate, Hollins Univ.
2. "Comics and the Problem of the Bildungsroman: Charles Burns's Black Hole," Christopher Pizzino, Univ. of Georgia
3. "Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth: Father as Fallen Superhero," John David Schwetman, Univ. of Minnesota, Duluth
Respondent: Leni Marshall, Univ. of Wisconsin, Menomonie
I'm pleased to be collaborating with Leni Marshall of the Age Studies group on this last one, which I believe will help establish a needed bridge between age studies and comics.
I hasten to add that these are by no means the only papers and panels of potential interest to comics scholars, nor the only things of interest to me. Besides promising offerings in so many areas--including, for me, children's literature, film, image-text relationships, and professional issues--the convention program offers scads of other programming, some 821 official events in all. Among these are, as usual, numerous telltale acknowledgments of current trends: a panel on Avatar, for example, and several panels focusing on social networking, and some attention to e-reading as well. There are also two other comics-themed panels, which are considered "special sessions," that is, ones not sponsored by divisions or discussion groups:
175. Narrative Imag(in)ing and the Comics of the Hernandez Brothers
Friday, Jan. 7, 8:30-9:45 a.m., Olympic III, J. W. Marriott
Presiding: Jennifer Glaser, Univ. of Cincinnati
1. "Serialization, Character Dynamics, and Narrative in Gilbert Hernandez's Love and Rockets," Christopher Gonzalez, Ohio State Univ., Columbus
2. "Strategizing Popular Genre in the Works of the Hernandez Brothers," Derek Parker Royal
3. "Emotion, Cognition, and Race in Los Bros Hernandez," Frederick Luis Aldama, Ohio State Univ., Columbus
Respondent: Charles Hatfield
382. Graphic Novels and Cultural Memory
Friday, Jan. 7, 5:15-6:30 p.m., Diamond Salon 6, J. W. Marriott
Presiding: Astrid Boeger, Hamburg Univ.
1. "Hybrid Narratives, Hybrid Identities: Line Hoven's Graphic Memoir Liebe schaut weg (2007)," Stefan Hoeppner, Univ. of Freiburg
2. "Beyond Genre: Autobiography, Cultural Memory, and History in Comics," Lan Dong, Univ. of Illinois, Springfield
3. "Comics as a Counterdiscourse of Cultural Memory," Dirk Vanderbeke, Friedrich-Schiller-Universitèt
Unfortunately, this second one, "Graphic Novels and Cultural Memory," which I would love to attend, is scheduled opposite the panel on "Graphic Aging." As I've said, the MLA convention is vast, so much so that the Association does not necessarily keep track of events on shared or similar subject matter that might conflict!
In addition, comics will be prominently featured in a session linked to this year's Presidential Forum topic, "Lives and Archives: Finding, Framing, and Circulating Narrated Lives Now":
505. Lives and Archives in Graphic and Digital Modes
Saturday, Jan. 8, 12:00 noon-1:15 p.m., Platinum Salon C, J. W. Marriott
Presiding: Julia Watson, Ohio State Univ., Columbus
1. "Comics Form and Narrating Lives," Hillary Chute
2. "Automedial Ghosts," Brian Rotman, Ohio State Univ., Columbus
3. "What Is Worth Saving? The Salvage Work of Comics," Theresa Tensuan, Haverford Coll.
I note that this panel includes not only Hillary Chute but also a scholar whom I had the pleasure of seeing present at the Ohio State University's recent Festival of Cartoon Art, Theresa Tensuan, who has published notable articles in Modern Fiction Studies and Biography and has a book forthcoming from the UP of Mississippi. The linkage of the Presidential Forum and comics studies is something quite new (I note, BTW, that Marianne Hirsch, former editor of PMLA, whose many writings include work on Art Spiegelman and Marjane Satrapi, will also be participating in a Presidential Forum session).
Besides the above events, a search of the convention program reveals several other papers that focus, or appear to focus, on comics or cartooning. These can be found within sessions on various topics not limited to comics. I'll list these papers here, by session and paper title, without listing all the other papers involved in these sessions:
13. French Noir: Film, BD (Bande Dessinée), Roman
Thursday, Jan. 6, 12:00 noon-1:15 p.m., 402B, LA Convention Center
2. "Revisiting the French Noir: The Birth of Adele Blanc-Sec," Anouk Alquier, Smith Coll.
33. Arab Literature and Commitment
Thursday, Jan. 6, 12:00 noon-1:15 p.m., 406B, LA Convention Center
2. "Muslim Women in Naif Al-Mutawa's Comic Book The 99," Shirin E. Edwin, Sam Houston State Univ.
63. The Globalization of the Holocaust
Thursday, Jan. 6, 1:45-3:00 p.m., Platinum Salon F, J. W. Marriott
1. "The Holocaust in Iranian Media: The Hamshahri Cartoon Contest and Zero Degree Turn," Justin Neuman, Yale Univ.
229. Remembering Madrid's March 11th: Terrorism, Immigration, and Identity in Contemporary Spain
Friday, Jan. 7, 10:15-11:30 a.m., 304A, LA Convention Center
3. "March 11th and the Graphic Novel," Kyra A. Kietrys
431. Textual Scholarship and New Media
Saturday, Jan. 8, 8:30-9:45 a.m., Diamond Salon 8, J. W. Marriott
1. "Comic Book Markup Language: An Introduction and Rationale," John A. Walsh, Indiana Univ., Bloomington
442. Postcolonial Diasporas
Saturday, Jan. 8, 8:30-9:45 a.m., 309, LA Convention Center
1. "South Asian-American Comics and Postcolonial Diasporic Identity," Uppinder Mehan, Univ. of Houston, Victoria
466. Teaching Asian American Literatures
Saturday, Jan. 8, 10:15-11:30 a.m., Platinum Salon H, J. W. Marriott
1. "Teaching Asian American Graphic Narratives in a 'Post-Race' Era," Caroline Kyungah Hong, Queens Coll., City Univ. of New York
Saturday, Jan. 8, 5:15-6:30 p.m., Atrium I, J. W. Marriott
2. "Reading in Pictures: Re-visioning Autism and Literature through Keiko Tobe's With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child," Christofer Craig Foss, Univ. of Mary Washington
Finally, here is a roundtable session in which comics will be discussed:
788. Teaching Life Writing Now
Sunday, Jan. 9, 1:45-3:00 p.m., Platinum Salon F, J. W. Marriott
Program arranged by the Division on the Teaching of Literature and the Division on Autobiography, Biography, and Life Writing
Presiding: Leonard Cassuto, Fordham Univ., Lincoln Center
Speakers: David M. Ball, Dickinson Coll.; Sarah J. Heidt, Kenyon Coll.; Susannah B. Mintz, Skidmore Coll.; Elizabeth Stone, Fordham Univ., Lincoln Center; Julia Watson, Ohio State Univ., Columbus
From the program: "This session will focus on the teaching of life writing, with particular emphasis on the issues raised by life writing today. Heidt will focus on teaching gender and life writing; Watson will address the teaching of memoir in the light of the questionable truth claims that have lately attached to it; Mintz will consider disability and life writing; Stone will focus on immigrant and ethnic life writing; and Ball will discuss the teaching of life writing in the form of the graphic novel."
David Ball, note, is the co-editor of the recent, and excellent, The Comics of Chris Ware: Drawing is a Way of Thinking (Mississippi, 2010).
In closing, I should add the caveat that I might have missed some comics-related work in the program, which after all is very long and dense. More details about the convention, including registration information, can be found at http://www.mla.org/convention.
I'm delighted to see this unprecedented level of comics research activity at the MLA, and I hope and expect that the upsurge will continue! Mark your calendars: MLA 2012 will be in Seattle, and 2013 in Boston. Comics will definitely be on the program from now on!