Sequential Art and Catastrophes:
Comics, Mangas, Graphic Novels
Is sequential art – comics, mangas, graphic novels – one of the favored ways of managing and bearing witness to catastrophes so as to convey their memory?
The two world wars gave rise to works in the 1970s and 1980s that became classics (Maus or Gen of Hiroshima) but since start of the third millennium (perhaps since 9/11, followed by the new oeuvre of Spiegelman) the phenomenon seems to have intensified. At the same time the appearance of journalistic comics (e.g. Joe Sacco's or Guy Delisle's works) has seemingly allowed the ninth art to deal with serious topics – and among these topics are catastrophes.
Catastrophes of all kinds are concerned – historical, such as the genocides in Rwanda and Cambodia, the ongoing war between Israel and Palestine; natural, as with the Indonesian (2004) and Japanese (2011) tsunamis; nuclear, for instance Chernobyl (which has inspired numerous works). . .
Relying on the harmony or discordance between text and image, appealing to various drawing styles (black and white or color, integration of photos, different fonts) or juxtaposingmultiple levels of narration, these works address recent or distant events with more or less objectivity, taking advantage of the divide between documentary and the novel. Comics may also integrate personal remembrances and experience and help to overcome the past. Actual or fictional witnesses may speak in order to grasp a catastrophe that has left very little material evidence behind (for example Igort in Quaderni ucraini records and illustrates later testimonies about hunger in the 1930s in the Ukraine). Catastrophes are described from an inside perspective (through witnesses) or from an outside one (through foreign visitors). Either they had worldwide repercussions or were more or less forgotten.The bursting of the Malpasset Dam in Frejus (France) in 1959 gave rise to a testimonial graphic novel by Corbeyran and Horne which was published in 2014.
The aims of the conference are 1) indexing and mapping a genre from a global perspective, 2) analyzing it from a formal, historical, social and cultural perspective, 3) studying all aspects of intermediality in the works themselves or by contrasting sequential art and other media.
A comparative perspective is encouraged with respect to the papers themselves and in terms of the overall conference. For instance one might analyze several graphic novels from different cultural eras addressing the same catastrophe, or one might focus on the diffusion and reception of these works. One could also examine the specific formal and stylistic features of the medium or of the works themselves and thus allowing them to serve as instruments of information or political and memorial art.
The conference will take place from 11 to 13 February 2016, University Sorbonne-Paris 3.
Organizers: Charlotte Krauss (Universität Freiburg) and Françoise Lavocat (Paris 3-Sorbonne Nouvelle)
Languages: French and English.
Proposals (250 words) for presentations of thirty minutes must be sent to
and to [email protected]
Deadline: 30 June 2015