New Publication in Hungarian

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I am very enthusiastic about comics scholarship in Hungary: in the last two years so many things happened! There were two comics conferences, and we have finally started to build a network of university people and critics who are not afraid of comics.

I have decided that I’ll publish more in my native language, and I was really happy when out of the blue I was asked if I could write about one of the major poets of the 19th century, János Arany. His poetry is very layered and amazing, he also translated the most of Shakespeare to become one of the most influential literary figures of his times. Well, he was born 200 years ago, so 2017 was devoted to celebration and a reflection on both his heritage and the cult around him. Lucky for me, an innovative and clever comics adaptation of one of his ballads also came out (link). The artist, Dániel Csordás is possible the Hungarian cartoonist with the greatest number of awards. It goes without saying that his adaptation won the best webcomic award in 2017.

So I was writing about the success of this comic, which is I think based on several factors. It is aesthetically more interesting than the other adaptations made that year (for me, naturally), it uses irony, it inserts the story of the ballad into the corrupt worlds of (Hungarian) politics of the present. But the success of this adaptation is also rooted of it being part of a marketing campaign, and also of the Hungarian cultural climate which still considers comics as curiosities. Csordás’s comic uses the wow-factor with which comics are surrounded really cleverly (wow, it is not only for children! wow, it uses literature! wow, I actually like it! wow, no superheroes! wow, it is not American!). I also argue in this article, that marketing agencies and non-profit organization, as well as institutions serving the memory politics of the current political regime often use comics — more often than we would suspect — but they always use the medium only once, and do not return to it in their next campaigns. Plus the people who see these marketing-boosted comics do not see the other comics that exist in our country under the radar: the translations of DC and Marvel, and the varied and (mostly) interesting original output made by Hungarian artists. (Let me take the opportunity and recommend the sci-fi comic series Fantomatika.) For the general public, comics is invisible, and it is because of this lack of cultural reception that marketing campaigns using comics are so successful.

I also interpret Csordás’s comic in light of  Linda Hutcheon’s theory of adaptation and Henry Jenkins’s theory of convergence culture. And I am very grateful to the 13 secondary school teachers who shared with me their ideas on how they teach comics at school.

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Public lecture in Hungarian

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I am going to give a public lecture tomorrow (4 Dec 2017) about the body and comics. It is partly based on my dissertation, but most of it is about my ongoing new project on the ways in which the body is involved in reading and interpreting comics. The lecture is aimed at the general public, and it will be in Hungarian. It is part three of a four-part lecture series at the Open Academy of Humanities, Budapest, given by members of the research group I am a founding member of (cf. Narratives of Culture and Identity Research Group.) Each talk is given by a different group member, and we focus on the body in space in as diverse media as computer games, distopic fiction, comics, narratology.

Here is the description of my talk in Hungarian:

III. 2017. december 4., hétfő 18.00 Képregényolvasás és testi referencia
Előad: Szép Eszter.
A képregényt nemcsak nézzük és olvassuk: az értelmezésbe az egész emberi test bevonódik. Az előadás olyan képregényeket vizsgál (főleg Katie Green, Miriam Katin és Joe Sacco műveit), amelyekben az alkotók reflektálnak a képregényolvasás taktilis és testi részére, és ráébresztik az olvasót, hogy mennyire nagy mértékben hagyatkozik testi tapasztalataira.
Helyszín, Pesti Bölcsész Akadémia, ELTE BTK, Múzeum krt. 4-6. Ifjúsági épület, III. em.

Comics Scholarship in Hungary: Edited Volume is Out

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It is difficult to place Hungary on the map of comics, and it is almost impossible to locate our output in the field of comics scholarship.

As far as comics artists are concerned, some of them did find their place in Dark Horse’s or DC’s outsourced projects as pencillers or inkers, but in general Hungarian comics are not translated into English.
As far as comics scholarship and the academic research of the medium is concerned, it turns out that a lot is done at various universities, mainly at departments of “Media and Communication.” Here, some courses are offered, but there is no systematic program.

Last year’s conference, organized by Ferenc Vincze was a big breakthrough in comics scholarship: it was the first time that some of the researchers who work in isolation could meet and exchange ideas. We have come from a multitude of backgrounds: I have a background in English and American comics and literature, others come from French studies, galleries, media studies, popular culture studies (especially music).

The volume based on this conference is the first collection of comics scholarship in Hungary. I can’t wait to read it!
I contributed with an article on Gergely Oravecz’s Blossza. This is an amazing strip series: for 100 days, Gergely was drawing a strip a day about his life. In the first part of the article I show some instances of ironic authentication (Charles Hatfield term) at work in Blossza, so we can say that I am not saying anything radically new about comics diaries, but the term has not been used in Hungarian, and I thought it is utterly important for Hungarian readers to know about it and to be able to approach non-fiction comics through the simultaneous filters of irony and authenticity.  I also emphasize instances when the daily rhythm of the diary project is ironically undermined within the strips themselves.

In the second part of the article, and I really enjoyed writing this part, as it is close to my dissertation, I show ways in which the quality of the line contributes to the meaning of the strip. I show one such wordless strip at the end of this blog entry.

If you speak Hungarian, you might find this collection of essays interesting.

 

szépirodalmi figyelő

szépirodalmi figyelő címlap

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Exhibition Opening

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Márton Hegedűs, author of what is called the first Hungarian graphic novel, will exhibit his work in his home town, Göd. (Göd is displayed as God in the English-speaking Internet, but that is just a coincidence. Residents of the place do not have any privileges in the afterlife.) I’ve known Márton for a year now, we took part and travelled to a comics conference in Cluj, Romania /Transylvania together. It was soooo much fun!
I love the humor of Márton’s illustration for children, and the complex ideas behind his comics for adults. So it is an honour that I can open this exhibition, though I’ve been warned that it will be a small one. But, seriously, who cares? 🙂

Here are some of Márton’s works:

A Series of Encyclopedia for Children called Ablak Zsiráf, which hints that the entirety of knowledge between letter A and letter Z are covered in the books. Literally, ablak means window, and zsiráf means giraffe, so the two protagonists of the series and returning characters of the illustrations are a window and a giraffe. They are really funny! They try everything out, they make fun of everything, and they are curious.

figura-ablak-suly figura-zsirafablakAZS_Jarmuvek_borito.indd

Illustration for Hungarian magazines >>> here is a link to Márton’s homepage for a lot of images: http://www.martonhegedus.com/illustrations

Comics: well, I can clearly identify with this one, as they are drinking coffee all the time 🙂 🙂

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slussz kulcs klan.indd

Extra: Animation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLFddpLrUug

 

Spaces of Indecision: Interpreting Foreign Language Texts in Contemporary Non-Fiction Comics – Abstract

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Comics Forum 2017
Comics and Space
Leeds, 21-22 Sept 2017

 

The presentation examines the challenge the readers face when encountering textual elements in comics that are written in a language inaccessible to the reader: such textual parts create spaces of indecision in the surface of the page, and entice the reader to improvisatorially decipher their relationship to the more easily accessible parts. These textual bits appear either in speech bubbles or in caption boxes, which indicates that they are meant to be part of the symbols that “tell” (Hatfield 40), but as they are undecipherable as language, their status as commentary is made uncertain. At the same time, they are not purely part of the symbols that “show” (Hatfield 40): they are not visual in the same sense as the drawn images in the same panel are, or in the same sense as textual bits appearing in the drawn sections (eg. street names) are. Such textual bits exist in a limbo, and I argue that they take part in the redistribution of both actual physical as well as cognitive space between textual and visual.

These textual sections not only frustrate the reader’s expectations about the roles of text and image in comics, they also question the usual spatial division between the two in a given panel or on a given page. They introduce a productive uncertainty in the experience of reading comics, the reader has to decide to what extent such elements are “decoration” and to what extent they are “language”. The works of comics journalists productively build on this limbo, for example in Rolling Blackouts Sarah Glidden does not give the translation of all textual elements. Multilingual comics artists refuse to translate all their text. With the rise of an increasingly multinational comics market and with contemporary comics non-fiction’s interest in the stories of non-English-speaking communities, such elements become more and more frequent.

I will show instances from Miriam Katin’s work where Hungarian and English text compete for space over the page, and make the reader conscious of the similarities of drawing and writing. I argue that especially in Letting It Go, Katin deliberately establishes such similarities over the surface of the pages, constantly shifting what brings the narrative forward and what is decoration. At the same time I will also show that the Hungarian text is not purely decorative – the archaic representation of these textual bits in both of Katin’s memoirs creates a special private space of memories and belonging for the protagonist and her mother, both living in exile.

 

Reference

Hatfield, Charles. Alternative Comics. An Emerging Literature. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2005.

Abstract – Presence and Disappearance: The surface of the page and narrating sexual abuse in the works of Debbie Drechsler and Katie Green

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I’ll be talking at a panel at the 7th International Comics and Medicine Conference in Dundee in a couple of days (link). The topic of this year’s conf is “Stages and Pages”, and here is my abstract:

 

Presence and Disappearance  – The surface of the page and narrating sexual abuse in the works of Debbie Drechsler and Katie Green

The paper focuses on autobiographically motivated graphic narratives, namely Debbie Drechsler’s Daddy’s Girl (1996) and Summer of Love (2002) and Katie Green’s Lighter than My Shadow (2013), and examines representations of the violated female body in relation to the surface of the page. Both authors use the expressive power of background, and build on the emotional potential of patterns against which the body is performed. Furthermore, both Drechsler and Green utilize the notions of presence and absence their visual representations of deeply traumatized heroines.

Drechsler deconstructs the idea of form and background in her tragic and disturbing stories about incest: she often visually disguises her female protagonists by making them blend in with backgrounds. Simultaneously, her work features backgrounds of dark rhythmic patterns, minute strokes, curves as a canvas on which the character’s emotions and moods can be represented. Green uses a system of visual markers of anorexia, anxiety and guilt – such as the gaping mouth or the black cloud of scribble – not only to indicate the emotional state of her protagonist, but on a different level also to structure the pages and the connect layout with content.

In the works of both Drechsler and Green, emotionally motivated visual markers eventually influence the very structures of the narratives, and in Green’s case, the very format of the published work. The very body of this heavy, more than 500-page long book that promises lightness in its title can be interpreted as a metaphor for the body – think, for instance, about its scrapbook-like design and the disintegration of the protagonist’s body

Apart from form and pattern, absence will also be studied: Green’s sequence of black (142-145) and white (384-386, 388) pages will be interpreted as performative gestures and performative spaces where the anorexic body is present by its disappearance.

 

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Absztrakt – Képi testet öltés és önreprezentáció önéletrajzi képregényekben

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Oravecz Gergely Blosszájáról fogok beszélni Kolozsváron. Arról, hogy a vonal nem csak esztétikai tényező, de a narratívában is komoly szerepe van. Sok példával.

A konferencia neve: Tendenciák a kortárs magyar képregényben és képregénykutatásban, időpontja: május 6–7.

vonal

Képi testet öltés és önreprezentáció önéletrajzi képregényekben

Az előadás Oravecz Gergely Blossza c. stripsorozatában vizsgálja az alkotó önreprezentációs stratégiáit és azt, hogy ezek árnyalásához az alkotó kézjegyét és testi lenyomatát viselő vonal hogyan járul hozzá.

Elsősorban a rajzolás folyamatára és annak talán legkisebb egységére (ha létezik ilyen), a vonalra fókuszálok. A vonal Jared Gardner megfogalmazásában nyom (trace), mégpedig a rajzoló kezének közvetlen lenyomata (54). A kéz („the hand”) fogalma egyaránt jelenti az aktuálisan megrajzolt panelt vagy oldalt, illetve az alkotó felismerhető stílusát. A vonal és a kéz fogalma egyrészt a rajzolás átéltségére, hitelességére, másrészt az alkotás fizikai, testi aspektutásara utal. A véget nem érő folyamatot, amiben az identitást számtalan önarckép sorozataként hozza létre az alkotó, Elisabeth El Refaie képi testet öltésnek [pictorial embodiment] nevezi (51).

Egy olyan értelmezési keretben igyekszem tehát Oravecz Blosszáját értelmezni, mely a képregényt – tömeges és nyomdai előállítása mellett – az oralitáshoz közelíti, és a vonal (és stílus) társadalmi és kulturális kódoltsága mellett is annak performatív, átélt, és expresszív jellegét hangsúlyozza (graphic enunciation). Így válik az önéletrajzi ihletettségű képregény az autentikusság fix értelmezésétől lemondva is auratikus műfajjá (Chute 112).

képregényén

Hivatkozott irodalom:

Baetens, Jan. —. “Revealing Traces: A New Theory of Graphic Enunciation.” The Language of Comics. Word and Image. Ed. Varnum, Robin and  Christina T. Gibbons. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2001: 145-155.

Chute, Hillary. “Comics Form and Narrating Lives.” Profession 2011: 107-117.

El Refaie, Elisabeth. Autobiographical Comics: Life Writing in Pictures. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2012.

Gardner, Jared. “Storylines.” Substance 40.1. 2011: 53-69.