Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Desecration of Academia

"When I was a student, despite being deeply interested in comics and making them, it never occurred to me to do something with them as my work. It simply wasn't a possibility."
"And now I [get] to make comics at the highest level of study and teach them."
"If they [the public] can learn to look at themselves and the world in a slightly different way, they can discover new possibilities for how they can be in the world."
Nick Sousanis, post-doctoral fellow, comic studies, University of Calgary

"If there was a generation that resisted comics as literature, that generation is now gone. The battle has been fought and won."
"I  hoped people would understand, and clearly they did, that I'm a writer first. My main interest is story, and story structure. Regardless of the form or genre they were writing in, students appreciated my helping them get their story up on its feet structurally."
Scott Chantler, cartoonist, Waterloo, Ontario

"We've seen a definite transformation in terms of attitude toward comics and a recognition that they might not necessarily want to put them always on par with the great classics of literature, but definitely that they are a valuable form of reading."
"There are a lot of people working very hard but for not much remuneration [attempting to ply a living producing comics]."
Benjamin Woo, professor of communication studies, Carleton University
IDW Publishing

There you have it, academia surrendering to the new discipline of literary (?) comics. All right, comics generally as a medium for story-telling. Japanese manga led the way into public acceptance, no doubt. I once wandered through a manga shop in Tokyo and swiftly wandered my way back out again, finding nothing therein to arouse my interest; in fact if that exposure did anything it evoked in me a swift and total distaste in the knowledge that thinking adults would gravitate to the form of literary expression that manga represented.

But of course manga also explored and exploited the gritty side of human society and perhaps that was their real attraction for their readership. In Canada, no less a literary figure -- honoured by some and detested by others -- than Margaret Atwood has issued comic books and isn't that fascinating. Some might interpret that state of affairs as Ms. Atwood declaring her talents as a writer fit for comic book format and content, and some would be hard put to disagree.

Comic photo for a comic writer

Who might have imagined that academia might ever stoop so low as to offer courses in comic book literature? The very linkage of comic books and literature is breathtaking in its audacity and the breadth of its arrogance. Nick Sousanis represents what is put out as a growing cadre of 'scholars' who have emerged into the light of academic acceptance hastening to celebrate comics as a serious academic study field. Gag on that, if you will.

If you won't, then consider this from 1 Corinthians 13:11 : "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child, I talked as a child, but when I became a man, I put away childish things." That recognized fitness of chronology and thinking pursuits from antiquity to the present has resonance here. Pictographs represent an undeveloped mind struggling to understand what language will eventually answer far more elegantly and precisely than a picture.

But there it is, public acceptance of comics has long been a fact. A visit to any bookstore or library will invite those inclined to peruse the offerings of comic book publications. So that the child in the otherwise-reluctant reader of books can dally and tell themselves that they're indulging their inner child and simultaneously reading literature of an adult variety, even while they clearly are not. If the classics are now published in cartoon form, they have been cartoonishly edited and diminished.

This is an opinion of someone who treasures both reading and literature, someone quite obviously reluctant to be unpegged from tradition. Quite the opposite, for example, of Scott Chantler the cartoonist who was slotted into a three-month appointment as writer-in-residence at the University of Windsor's English department. Which to traditionalists represents an academic travesty, but to Mr. Chantler, recognition too long in arriving.

That a Holocaust memoir was produced and won a Pulitzer Price is something I cannot even imagine, let alone come to terms with. Nor does it appear possible that Carleton University professor of communication studies Benjamin Woo merited a Governor General's Gold Medal for his PhD dissertation on nerd culture: comic books as nerd culture? Aren't 'nerds' imagined as closet intellectuals?

The final blow to literary sanity is that Nick Sousanis presented a comic book format in his PhD dissertation at Columbia University's teachers college. Is nothing sacred any longer?

"Critical Inquiry" Merges Comics and Academia

Comic Book Resources

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