Seriality and Intermediality in Graphic Novels

Associated Project A

This project investigates Anglophone graphic novels from the 1980s through 2000s. While writer-artists such as Art Spiegelman, Joe Sacco, and Chris Ware are responsible for both the text and the pictures of their works, many graphic novels are collaborative productions and as such call for a cooperation of writers, scripters, and plotters on the one hand, with pencillers, inkers and colorists on the other.

Despite their success, graphic novels have often been stigmatized as lowbrow entertainment, but in the wake of Cultural Studies and its interest in popular forms, graphic novels with their repetitive structures, their formulaic plots and effects of recognition are experiencing a re-evaluation. While cultural, economic, and ideological issues should play an important role in any analysis of cultural phenomena, we claim that an in-depth analysis of the distinct poetics and practice of seriality is indispensable when dealing with graphic novels. Our project has developed a typology of serial phenomena in this format, describing their specific functions and effects. Our hypothesis is that seriality based on bi-mediality differs from other forms of seriality: Since graphic novels are based on an intricate interaction of and competition between text and image, it will be important to ask questions concerning bi-medial storytelling and intermedial narratology—emerging fields in the humanities to which the project has contributed.

Director: Prof. Dr. Gabriele Rippl, American Studies, Bern (Switzerland)