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Series of Multimodal Forms of Narration: The Yellow Kid Newspaper Comics of the Nineteenth Century

Associated Project E

The project explores the first serialized, mass-produced, and colored “Yellow Kid” comics which appeared in two competing New York newspapers in the late nineteenth century. The colorful Sunday supplements that held the comics pages rapidly attracted new audiences and enticed the contest for sales figures. Their appearance marks the peak of sensational journalism and the American newspaper wars. The advent of the so-called Yellow Kid comic character in the Sunday supplement sections is a historical and cultural phenomenon that has, despite its regular mentioning in scholarly debates about comics, not yet been contextualized, nor thoroughly analyzed. The basic premise of the project is that the serialized newspaper comics are both commercial product and expressive forms of representation; they are a central cultural field of American modernity and offer insights into the popular imagination of the late nineteenth century. The project aims to investigate the contexts of the origin of the Yellow Kid newspaper comics and to examine the multimodal techniques of (re)-presentation in order to make a contribution to the debate about mechanisms and effects of American popular culture. The Yellow Kid comics are historically situated and are analyzed as manifestations of a new cultural and culture-political practice of the Progressive Era. By looking at the Yellow Kid pages, which offer new perspectives on the social and cultural changes and developments of the Progressive Era, the project will offer an analysis of the cultural work of comics at the end of the nineteenth century. The key concerns of the project are on the one hand to critically engage with the question of how the Yellow Kid pages visually and verbally negotiate social and cultural processes of modernization and on the other to explicate the (creative) modes and means of representation and the platforms of identification that the pages offer to their diverse readerships. The objective is to unfold the (popular) cultural self-representation of the U.S. in the late nineteenth century.

Director: Dr. Christina Meyer, American Studies, Hanover