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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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.

The Ethical Stakes of Style: Crosshatching and Testimony in Joe Sacco’s Comics. Abstract.

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Documenting Trauma: Comics and the Politics of Memory
A Symposium hosted by the TORCH Network

University of Oxford, 22.06.2017

Joe Sacco’s reportage has often been studied in ethical frameworks, as his comics have shed light on both the background of journalistic work and on the creation of narratives in the comics form. Sacco’s comics contribute to human rights discourse and the narratives have played important parts in revealing the complexities of armed conflicts for a Western public.

In my paper I read Sacco’s comics on the Bosnian War and study the connection between style and ethical engagement in the narratives. I explore the capability of drawing style to express engagement and compassion with the pain and vulnerability of the Other, and argue that Sacco has a compulsive relationship to drawing, which supersedes his often mentioned meticulous attention to detail. I show that the role of crosshatched backgrounds in Safe Area Goražde (2000) and The Fixer: A Story from Sarajevo (2003) create a different temporality for both the artist and the reader, the temporality of dwelling (Diprose). I show that the heavily crosshatched haptic surfaces foreground the labour of the artist, and represent his embodied presence in the work. The haptic surfaces are just as important in panel compositions as the figures giving testimony, and are expressive of an intensive, laborious and time consuming engagement with both the materials used for drawing and, more importantly, with the traumatized person who is being drawn. In the close readings of certain panels and page structures I also rely on Norman Bryson’s theory of the logic of the gaze, as well as on Laura U. Marks’ now classic investigation of haptic visuality, and ultimately show that style, and not only the choice of topic or the nature of narratives, can be representative of ethical issues.

 

Literature

Bryson, Norman. Vision and Painting: The Logic of The Gaze. Macmillan, 1983.

Diprose, Rosalyn. “Corporeal Interdependence. From Vulnerability to Dwelling in Ethical Community.” SubStance, vol. 42, no. 3, 2013, pp. 185-204.

Marks, Laura U. The Skin of the Film: Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment, and the Senses. Duke University Press, 2000.

Comics and Haptic Reading: Bodies in Joe Sacco’s The Great War – Abstract

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Birth, Death, and Rebirth: (Re-)Generation as Text
8–10 June, 2017
University of Bucharest

 

 The starting point of my presentation is the realization that comics is a medium of embodiment, and comics creation, as well as comics reading, are constituted by bodily performances of the artists and readers. On the example of Sacco’s unusual graphic narrative, The Great War (2013), which narrates one of the most brutal battles from the first world war, the battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916, I examine the ways in which Sacco’s visual representation of the events of a single day relies on the haptic and bodily involvement of the reader. The Great War is not a comic per se, as the textual component is printed in a separate booklet, and the units of the visual narrative, rather than being separated by panels, flow seamlessly into each other. The increasingly violent action of the battle is presented as a seamless visual narrative in the format of a folded mini-panorama, while the format itself serves as an obstacle to the fluency of reading: the accordion-like structure is not that easy to handle as is turning the page of a book, the materiality of the pages has to be dealt with. In the analysis I show the importance of the formal traditions that Sacco is diverging from – the 19th century panorama, the comic strip, the graphic novel, –  and argue that the new format does not only make the reader conscious of his or her body during reading, but, more importantly, due to the reader’s bodily performance during reading, it creates an actual embodied connection with the thousands of represented bodies that are being destructed in the battle.

Absztrakt – A képregény Kongóban. A Kittenberger vizuális világa.

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Tendenciák a kortárs magyar képregényben és képregénykutatásban II.
PTE BTK, Kommunikáció- és Médiatudományi Tanszék
május 5–6.

Az előadás Somogyi György, Dobó István, és Tebeli Szabolcs Kittenberger: Fabriqué en Belgique (2016) című képregénye kapcsán Kongó mint képregényhelyszín vizuális megjelenítését, a cselekmény és a helyszín viszonyát vizsgálja három eltérő műfajú, eltérő esztétikájú, és eltérő országban készült képregényben. Az elemzés fókuszában álló Kittenberger a posztkoloniális gondolkodás kérdésfeltevéseit sikeresen ülteti át a magyar kalandképregény közegébe, bár az antropológiai hitelességre (is) törekvő narratív igénynek olykor ellentmondanak a vizualitás szintjén megjelenő klisék és általánosítások. A Kittenbergert először a koloniális eszméket tükröző belga klasszikus, Hergé Tintin Kongóban tükrében olvasom, melynek első, később átszerkesztett változata 1931-ben jelent meg. A későbbiekben az összehasonlítás a Joseph Conrad életét és legismertebb regényét feldolgozó a 2010-es brit graphic novel, a Heart Of Darkness sejtelmes vizualitásának elemzésével folytatódik.

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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.

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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.