Newsletter No.8 (October 2013)

As announced this summer, NNCORE’s interim board met at the University of Copenhagen on 14th October to discuss its new structure as a scholarly association charging a small membership fee. Besides summarizing the outcomes of the meeting, this newsletter also contains a report on the Performance Studies International conference in which some of us participated and ends with information about upcoming comics studies events in Scandinavia.

NNCORE Interim Board Meeting and Constitution

A constitution for NNCORE is currently under preparation for formalizing the network’s structure and functioning. It will specify the network’s aims of promoting comics research within and beyond Scandinavia, the membership fees, conference frequency and funding, communication tools as well as board responsibilities and elections.

At present, Rebecca Scherr is the president, Michael J. Prince is the treasurer, Anne Magnussen is in charge of the website creation and maintenance, Fredrik Strömberg is administrating the Facebook page and Rikke P. Cortsen and Maaheen Ahmed are editing the newsletter. The executive board will continue until the elections in 2015. The next board meeting will also be held that year, ideally in conjunction with the NNCORE conference in Oslo. Rebecca Scherr is organizing the event, which will coincide with the Oslo Comics Expo.

Furthermore most of the original members of the advisory board have already confirmed their interest in continuing to cooperate with us. This includes Roger Sabin (University of the Arts London), Ann Miller (University of Leicester), Bernd Dolle-Weinkauff (Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main) and Jan Baetens (KU Leuven). We would also to like to warmly welcome the newest member of the advisory board, Jared Gardner (Ohio State University), and thank him for his enthusiastic response.

The membership fees will be around 20 euro for faculty and 10 euro for students. Members will be entitled to discounts at the conferences. From now on, the conferences will not be covered by the network’s budget. Instead, the host organization will have to arrange for funding and charge conference fees.

As an association NNCORE will have a new, independent website which is currently under construction and should be ready early in 2014. Besides the official website, NNCORE also has a Facebook discussion group where, at present, members can invite non-members to join in:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/710593512304082/?fref=ts

 

Comics at the Performance Studies international Conference

By Gunhild Borggreen

In June, a group of NNCORE members participated in the annual Performance Studies international (PSi) conference at Stanford University, California. Ylva Sommerland, Rebecca Scherr, Frederik Byrn Køhlert and myself are all working with comics from some kind of performance studies perspective, so we decided to propose a panel at a conference in a field somewhat different from what comics studies is usually aligned with.

The PSi represents both academic scholars within the broad field of theatre and performance studies as well as practitioners and artists. Many of the activities at PSi conferences focus on the collaboration and exchange between theory and practice. Each PSi conference has a title or a theme, and this year’s theme was Now Then: Performance and Temporality.

To match this theme, our panel was titled “Drawing Time: Identity and Memory in Contemporary Comics”. In our introduction, we defined comics in broad terms as drawings and text structured in visual sequences that offer a particular organization of time and space. On the comics page, crucially, time is performed as space, and thus emphasizes a relationship between materiality and temporality. The time it takes for the artist to execute the drawing is intersected by narrative and visual structures that organize, negotiate or disrupt the aspect of time in the reading process.

Our performance studies approach focused on how comics “do” things through text and image, as well as through text-image relations and structure, narratives, formats, medium, distribution, and many other factors. Performance in the context of re-enactment relates to how comics perform repertoires of individual and collective memories of the past. This also connects to how comics perform instances of geo-political issues such as activism and resistance.

Frederik went first with a paper on “Autobiographical Performances of the Stereotyped Comics Self: Toufic El Rassi’s Arab in America”. Frederik pointed out how comics communicate via a performative iconography through which authors of autobiographical works can challenge, subvert or play with expected visual representations through the agency of performing the self on the comics page. Frederik took his theoretical points from Judith Butler, and argued that the performance of the self in autobiography can be constitutive of subjectivity as the writer creates a representation of a largely fictional self from the available discursive resources.

Rebecca, in her presentation “Joe Sacco’s Comics of Performance”, also drew on Judith Butler but rather than looking at the emancipatory dimensions of Butler’s theory of performativity, Rebecca focused on how Joe Sacco’s work Footnotes from Gaza presents news ways of thinking about everyday lives in which emancipation is nearly impossible because of the social and political situation. Rebecca referred to Butler’s Frames of War, and drew attention to framing suffering by arguing that Sacco uses framing in both a literal sense (in the book’s panels) as well as in an elusive sense by pointing out what is excluded in the parameters of “reality”.

My own presentation, “Documentary Manga on the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake”, focused on Yoshimoto Kôji’s Santetsu, a Japanese manga recounting a narrative of recovery in North-Eastern Japan after the earthquake and tsunami disaster in 2011. I argued that three significant aesthetic and structural devises in Santetsu are performative in creating disaster ownership and agency, not only for the characters in the narrative but the reader as well: the leaps of temporality in the visual and narrative structure, the framework of autobiography, and the labour of drawing. They convey an emotional truth that keeps the recollections and memories of the people involved present and alive.

Ylva’s presentation entitled “Gravity, Play and Visual Weight – Sport Performances in the Works of Manga Artist Takehiko Inoue” focused on Inoue’s basketball manga Slam Dunk, to highlight the kinds of performance involved, both as a part of the play established in the basketball game in the narrative as well as the imaginary performance carried out by the reader. Taking her clue from the notion of visual weight, Ylva argued that an imagined gravity is necessary when translating sport performances into drawings. This links to the make-believe aspect of Roger Caillois’ six criteria for defining play because the reader has to pretend as if a sport event is taking place in the pictures.

The audience responded by providing relevant comments and questions, and one member of the audience explicitly expressed his delight in seeing comics studies being present in the context of performance studies. Such a remarks highlighted the main goal of our NNCORE panel at the PSi conference: to expand the scholarly fields with which comics studies may collaborate and exchange knowledge and vision, and to demonstrate how comics studies may contribute new insights concerning the current social, political and cultural situation.

 

Upcoming comics events

Seriefrämjandet (The Swedish Comics Association) is organizing a conference on comics archives in Sweden (30th November 2013, Lund). NNCORE members Rikke P. Cortsen, Michael F. Scholz and Fredrik Strömberg will be speaking at the event. For more information please visit:

http://serieframjandet.se/2013/10/21/programmet-tar-form-till-framtidens-seriearkiv/

In addition, Frank Bramlett (Stockholm University) and Kristy Beers Fägersten (Södertörn University) are planning a Scandinavian Comics Workshop for 5th May 2014 focusing on linguistic research in Scandinavian comics but open to scholars working with comics in general.

As always, if you have any information that you would like to include in the next newsletter, please send an e-mail to ahmedmaaheen@gmail.com.

Newsletter No. 8 is edited by Rikke Platz Cortsen and Maaheen Ahmed

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Newsletter No.7 (June 2013)

On May 23-25, NNCORE held an International conference at Helsinki University. It was the network’s biggest event until now, and it will therefore take up most of the space in this newsletter. But please note that the newsletter also contains a report from the last of the NNCORE seminars, about didactics and comics, held in Copenhagen on May 31. Read more about the seminar at the end of the newsletter.

NNCORE 2013 at the University of Helsinki

As will be apparent below, the conference was replete with presentations, discussions and lively exchange of ideas. None of this had been possible, however, without the work of the main organizer of the conference, Kai Mikkonen, his assistants and the infrastructure of the University of Helsinki, so thank you very much. From NNCORE we would also like to thank The Danish Council for Independent Research (FKK, Kultur og Kommunikation) as the main source of finance of the event. The Federation of Finnish Learned Societies contributed very kindly with funding that paid the hotel costs for the Advisory Board members, which we are very thankful for. We would like to thank the Finnish Comics Society for their hospitality and their help organizing part of the conference. Last, but not least, we wish to thank all the participants, including the Advisory Board members who are all busy scholars but nevertheless took the time to participate in the conference, – and of course the many non-NNCORE members from across the globe.

The NNCORE 2013 Helsinki conference according to Rebecca Scherr

The NNCORE conference was an intense 3 days, during which I found it very exciting to hear about the range of comics scholarship being practiced across Scandinavia and beyond. Since it seems that most of us who were there do comics scholarship alone at our various institutions, it was very meaningful to myself and many I spoke with to feel part of a scholarly community. Since the conference, I have had contact with several people I met at NNCORE, and we have exchanged our writing and ideas. More than anything else, it is these exchanges and networks that will continue to shape how comics scholarship develops in this region.

Rebecca Scherr, Associate Professor,

Dept of Literature, Area Studies, and European Languages, University of Oslo, Norway

 

NNCORE 2013: the Key Notes

The conference ran for two and a half days and included three Key Note presentations that were held by three of NNCORE’s Advisory Board members. Ann Miller, University of Leicester, opened the conference with her talk on Comics and Politics. On the second day, Jan Baetens, University of Leuven, discussed The ‘roman dessiné: A forgotten subgenre of the postwar era?, and on the last day, Thierry Groensteen,  le Musée de la Bande Dessinée (Angoulême), presented A few thoughts about self-representation in comics. All three Key Note speeches were thought-provoking and included truly original material and ideas.

The NNCORE 2013 Helsinki conference according to Jorge Falcones

In the next few lines, I will try to resume my experience in the NNCORE 2013. As someone non-related at any level to NNCORE, I hope this little recap will give another perspective about the meeting hosted in the University of Helsinki. I basically could sum up my experience in one word: Inspiring. I was inspired by seeing a lot of people from diverse backgrounds working together and I was inspired by observing how egos were put aside just to pursue a common goal. I was lucky to witness, how with some funding and a lot of human effort, a great research network has been built and how it is still working and growing up. It was a great experience and I hope I could be able to make it again next year!! Thanks to everyone!!

Jorge Falcones, Language Lector, School of European Culture and Languages, University of Kent, UK

 

NNCORE 2013: 15 sessions and a PhD seminar

The conference included almost 50 presentations, divided between 15 sessions, and they involved a broad range of themes, comics genres, theoretical frameworks and questions. The presenters were a good combination of experienced scholars and PhD and MA students, and there was a surprisingly broad international representation. The Nordic countries were very well represented, as many NNCORE members naturally participated, but it was a very positive surprise that the conference had attracted many participants from beyond the Nordic countries. The conference therefore combined two of NNCOREs main objectives: to strengthen relationships among Nordic comics scholars and to use NNCORE as a platform to connect to other comics scholars. The last session at the conference was a PhD seminar at which four PhD students presented their projects and received comments and questions from the Advisory Board members present. It was a pleasure to witness the high quality and enthusiasm of this new generation of comics scholars and we truly hope that they will continue to contribute to comics research in the future.

The NNCORE 2013 Helsinki conference according to Kees Ribbens

Travelling to the Nordic countries is especially rewarding when one has the pleasure to attend the recent NNCORE conference. I felt very welcome at the University of Helsinki where all attendants were well taken care of (and I easily forgive the organizers for letting us have to finish our meals within 45 minutes). The conference program showed an interesting variety, not only in the length of academic careers of those attending, but most certainly in the topics presented (from theoretical to historical items, showing a diversity in approaches from literary to more sociological) as well as in the geographical origin of the participants. The usually high level of the presentations combined with the willingness to exchange views made this trip to Finland an inspiring one!

Prof. dr. Kees Ribbens, NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Amsterdam, NL

The NNCORE 2013 Helsinki conference according to Sabrina Seerup

“So – how was the conference?” he asked me while picking up my suitcase. “It was nice”, I replied, barely being able to keep my eyes open as a result of three days of information overload and a diet consisting of mainly coffee and beer. “I guess it was more than ‘nice’ ” he said laughing, when I was unpacking at home – scrutinizing every place where a piece of paper might hide in my clothes or luggage, sorting whatever I found into small piles of references; piles that could form my future. The e-mail addresses were of course being handled with specific care.

“Yes”, I answered. “It was.”

Sabrina Seerup, independent Scholar, Denmark

 

NNCORE 2013: Debates

Apart from the Key Notes and the 15 conventional sessions the conference included a series of debates that introduced subjects with relevance for comics scholarship generally. Roger Sabin, Central Saint Martins (London) and part of the NNCORE Advisory Board, introduced a series of questions and challenges for comics scholarship as he discussed hot topics such as publication formats, peer reviewing and copyright. Bernd Dolle-Weinkauff, Wolfgang Goethe-University (Frankfurt), who is also part of the Advisory Board, participated in a debate about building and maintaining comics archives. The debate included Akihiko Ieshima, Shimane University, and Reija Sann, representing the Finnish Comics Society, and also Joachim Trinkwitz, Bonn University, presented his database of comics scholarship. Creating and maintaining databases of comics and comics research is crucial for the field as a whole, and all four encouraged everybody to participate in this work. Joachim Trinkwitz’ database is available on http://www.comicforschung.uni-bonn.de/, but we will be happy to publish any further information about the database initiatives in the August newsletter.

Two other debates, one about the potential for a comics theory reader, and another about the interdisciplinary characteristics of comics research. Both of these debates involved a panel of scholars and very exciting interventions.

 

The NNCORE 2013 Helsinki conference according to Katja Kontturi

It was such an amazing thing to meet all these brilliant colleagues and comics scholars, not only from the other Nordic countries but literally all over the world. Being part of the group and hearing about ongoing research was a great inspiration to keep on working my own dissertation. I got very good tips for source material and quite a few new observations that I need to include in my study as well. And what is best, I found another scholar working on Disney comics! All in all, I can’t wait for the future events and to see everyone again!

Katja Kontturi, PhD student

Dept. of Art and Culture, University of Jyväskylä, Finland

 

After NNCORE 2013: Publications, projects and the future of NNCORE

In his comment to the conference (see below), Stephan Packard states that the conference “started more chapters than it concluded,” which is exactly right. At the end of the conference, many both formal and informal initiatives and plans were taking shape, and we hope to see a series of common research projects and publications in near future as a result of this.

In the next NNCORE newsletter, in August, Kai Mikkonen will discuss the subject of publication, with a specific focus on special issues of journals, but this should not slow down plans that are already under way.

NNCORE is as mentioned earlier funded by the The Danish Council for Independent Research (FKK, Kultur og Kommunikation) for a two-year period, and that ends by August 2013. In Helsinki we agreed to continue the network beyond this period, and an interim board will spend the 6-9 months to figure out how to organize NNCORE as an association. The August newsletter will contain more information about the process and how individual members can participate. As always, if you have any advertisement or information that you would like to include in the next newsletter, please send an email to magnussen@sdu.dk before the end of July.

 

The NNCORE 2013 Helsinki conference according to Stephan Packard

In a few short and very full days, the NNCORE conference 2013 gave room to an amazing array of different perspectives and disciplines; and most importantly, it gave ample room for debate and discussion. Comics studies in its best sense happens between scholars rather than for each of them, and this was definitely the case here. The impressively interdisciplinary and international field of scholars was brought together for a truly productive opportunity for exchange. Together with the discussed projects concerning a comics theory reader, a perpetuated NNCORE structure as well as possibilities for a European umbrella cooperation of comics scholars, the conference started more chapters than it concluded, and offered participants lots of additional encouragement and motivation, new questions, ideas, and not least new reading lists. I’ve taken home a suitcase full of new perspectives to think about, and for that I am very grateful and happy.

JunProf. Dr. Stephan Packard, Institut für Medienkulturwissenschaft, Freiburg University, Germany

 

Didactics Seminar in Copenhagen, May 31

By Marianne Eskebæk Larsen

Few days after the NNCORE conference in Helsinki, the comic didactics group from NNCORE met at a workshop in Copenhagen to discuss their work and progress. The presenters involved the Danish cartoonist and illustrator Erik Petri, who talked about his work as a graphic facilitator. According to Erik the didactic potential of g.f. is that it activates people more, it makes discussions more concrete and it makes people more innovative. Erik had us all drawing in order to show that it is not about technique! Erik Petri was followed by Karin Kukkonen, who presented some of the points from her soon to be published book Studying Comics and Graphic Novels. Finally, Michael Løhde presented the outline for a model to analyze comics he has created in collaboration with the Rikke Platz Cortsen and Marianne Eskebæk Larsen. The aim is to come up with a model that gives a starting point for teaching comics. Attending the workshop was apart from the above mentioned, Sabrina Seerup, Andreas Gregersen and Malik Nairat. Subsequently Marianne has created a LinkedIn group for the discussions to continue.

The day after the workshop also filled the University of Copenhagen with comics scholars and enthusiasts, since the Copenhagen Comics festival began with an academic program filled with both researchers and practicing comic book artists. The international line of guests contained Karin Kukkonen from Oxford, who talked about how to teach students the art of close reading comics. Kalle Hakkola from Helsinki’s Comics Center talked about the lack of comics for children and presented the new Nordic anthology Dreambuddies. The British comic book artist Charlie Adlard attracted quite a few more people to the auditorium. He works on the popular American comic book series The Walking Dead. Among the local presenters were NNCORE’s own Rikke Cortsen and geographer Chris Kjeldsen, who presented their project with the goal of incorporating comic books in the research and teaching of the natural sciences. Also the two creators behind the Danish success Taynikma, Jan Kjær og Merlin P. Mann, came to talk about how they have managed to reach out to children all over the world with their unique combination of text and comic. Taynikma has been successful in motivating children who are not considered strong readers. The program also included Nota, the national library for people with reading difficulties, who presented sound-comics (?) that seem to motivate children with reading difficulties to read more. All through the day was a discussion on genre, both in relation to Taynikma and inevitably graphic novels, but also sound-comics where the dialogue is read aloud by actors thus giving the medium a scenic character. The program gave the audience examples on how and why to use comics in the class room and gave insight into the process of making comics.

Edited byAnne Magnussen

Newsletter No.6 (April 2013)

This Spring’s NNCORE activities consist of an international conference to be held at Helsinki University, Finland, May 23-25, and the last of the sequence of thematic seminars, this one about comics and didactics in Copenhagen on May 30. For information about both events and the possibilities of participating in them, please see below.

Helsinki International Conference, May 23-25, 2013

We are very excited about the conference and the program looks very promising. It consists of three plenary addresses; a series of panel debates and interventions on comics theory, on comics and intertextuality, and on the comics medium’s future. And not least, there are 16 thematic sessions and a PhD seminar. To see the full program, please go to NNCOREs website, www.sdu.dk/nncore.

Most of the NNCORE Advisory Board members will be attending the conference, and we are truly happy that Ann Miller, Thierry Groensteen, Bernd Dolle-Weinkauff, Roger Sabin and Jan Baetens will all be participating, either as plenary speakers or with other interventions. Scholars from the Nordic countries are of course well represented in the program, but we are happy that the conference has also attracted participants from other parts of the world. We are especially pleased to have a strong representation of PhD students. The German comics research organization, ComFor, is also represented, which is a great opportunity to strengthen and broaden a Northern European comics research connection.

The combination of renowned comics scholars, the up-and-coming generation of young scholars and representatives from different regions and organizations will hopefully lead to exciting discussions about comics, but it will also be an important step regarding the subject of the next section in this newsletter, i.e. the future of NNCORE.

For more information about participation in the conference, please contact Kai Mikkonen, kai.mikkonen@helsinki.fi, Associate Professor at Helsinki University and part of the NNCORE steering group, who is the main organizer of the event.

 

NNCORE’s future – up for debate

One of the key issues up for discussion at the Helsinki conference is the future of a Nordic network for comics research. After the conference there will be one more thematic seminar, and then the funding from the Danish Research Council will have run out. The last one and a half years have shown that there is a considerable group of comics researchers, from PhD students to professors, across the Nordic countries and in different research institutions, departments and centers. With NNCORE, this group has become better acquainted and the result has been a series of exciting initiatives and projects. We hope to continue this process beyond September 2013, but it requires that we rethink and renew how to organize the cooperation.

At the conference we will have a special session on the subject, and it is a priority that we find a way to continue NNCORE. Another, related but probably more difficult, issue is to figure out how the many comics research organizations and networks across different regions and countries can best work together. This is of course a complex question that includes many people, interests and entities, but in Helsinki we have representatives from several organizations and networks, so the debate will not only be about NNCORE, but also about NNCORE as part of a bigger network.

 

Research Invitation: Representing Enemies and Allies in Popular Culture

The Dutch historian Kees Ribbens (NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Amsterdam / Erasmus University, Rotterdam), NNCORE project manager Anne Magnussen (University of Southern Denmark) and NNCORE steering group member Michael Scholz (Gotland University) would like to discuss the possibilities of initiating a new interdisciplinary research project. The aim of this project is to study comics and other popular media in the 20th and 21st century in order to see how the Second World War and more recent large scale conflicts have been represented for a variety of audiences across Europe in different media. The focus would be on how the visual and textual representations of friends and foes have changed over time ever since 1939, how these often internationally distributed representations, originating in a specific country, were adapted elsewhere based upon the (perceived) characteristics and demands of the political and cultural contexts, the specific – but highly interrelated – media (comics, films, games, novels and others) and the intended audiences.  What was the impact of the Cold War and the post-1989 situation? How do these popular representations relate to elements like politics, propaganda, censorship and educational aspects ? And how do they fit within national and transnational memory cultures?

We would like to see whether it is possible to organize an exploratory workshop in 2014 on the ‘Representing allies and enemies in popular culture’ with Dutch, Nordic and other researchers. The final goal would be to apply for funding (European Research Council, European Science Foundation) for a long term research project. NNCORE members and others attending the upcoming conference in Helsinki who are interested in participating are encouraged to contact prof dr Kees Ribbens, k.ribbens@niod.knaw.nl. At the Helsinki conference, there will be two sessions named Controlling the Message that in different ways, empirically and/or theoretically, refer to the subject described above. We hope that this project will function as a reference point in these sessions so that they can contribute to develop it further. Kees Ribbens, Michael Sholz and Anne Magnussen will all participate with presentations in these sessions.

 

NNCORE Workshop in Copenhagen, May 30

The thematic group, Learning from and through comics: Comics as a didactic tool is organizing a workshop in Copenhagen on May 30. The organizer Marianne Eskebæk Larsen has planned it so that it coincides with the Copenhagen Comics festival that will take place June 1-2. For more information about the festival, see http://copenhagencomics.dk/.

The NNCORE work-shop will have an informal structure, based on the discussion of texts and ideas rather than formal presentations. The objective is to have a lively discussion of the participants’ ideas and challenges concerning their own research or teaching. The program is open for suggestions.  To start off the workshop, Marianne Eskebæk Larsen has invited Karin Kukkonen to present her upcoming textbook Studying Comics and Graphic Novels, and the cartoonist Erik Petri http://www.erikpetri.dk/about/ who will talk about his work with process visualization and the didactic potential of graphic facilitation within the education system.

The workshop is open for everybody. For practical reasons it is necessary to register, so please contact Marianne Eskebæk Larsen, mary_e_larsen@hotmail.com or mael@ucc.dk, before May 15. For more information about time and place, you can also contact Marianne.

Apart from the workshop Marianne Eskebæk Larsen is responsible for a seminar focusing on comics for children/YA and comics didactic, which will take place the day after the workshop, i.e. on May 31. The seminar is free and open for all.  The speakers at the seminar will be a mix of researchers, writers, illustrators and teachers. For more information about the program, time and place, please contact Marianne Eskebæk Larsen mary_e_larsen@hotmail.com or mael@ucc.dk.

 

This was all for now. If you have any questions about the particular events and initiatives, please contact the persons mentioned in the texts above. If you have questions about NNCORE or if you have suggestions as to the content of future newsletters, please do not hesitate to contact Anne Magnussen (magnussen@sdu.dk)

Edited byAnne Magnussen

Newsletter No.5 (December 2012)

CONGRATULATIONS!

NNCORE includes among its members a considerable group of young scholars with original and thoroughly interesting projects within the comics research field. This is truly promising for future comics research in a Nordic, as well as an international, context. Four of these young researchers and founding members of NNCORE have finished their PhD-theses this Fall:

Ylva Sommerland defended her PhD thesis, The Tomboy in Manga for Teens: Kaleidoscopic Bodily Styles at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden on September 21. For more information, see the press release http://www.hum.gu.se/english/current/news/Nyhet_detalj//the-tomboy-in-manga-for-teens–kaleidoscopic-bodily-styles.cid1097824 Ylva furthermore sends a link to the thesis in full text: https://gupea.ub.gu.se/handle/2077/29319

Rikke Platz Cortsen defended her PhD thesis, Comics as Assemblage: How Spatio-Temporality in Comics is Constructed, at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, November 23. Two of NNCORE’s advisory board members, Ann Miller and Jan Baetens, were opponents.

Mervi Miettinen will defend her PhD thesis, Truth, Justice, and the American Way? The Popular Geopolitics of American Identity in Contemporary Superhero Comics, on December 15 at the University of Tampere, Finland. Jared Gardner will be the opponent.

SAM Myklebost has submitted his PhD thesis with the title, Shakespeare in Configuration: Models, Comics and Manga, at the University of Bergen, Norway. The defence will take place at the end of February 2013.

Congratulations to all four! The dissertation titles clearly indicate the breadth and originality of comics research, and we all wish the four of them long and happy comics research careers in spite of the difficult times (also) in Academia.

If you have any news that you would like to have included in the NNCORE newsletter, please send information to Anne Magnussen, magnussen@sdu.dk

 

Comics Research moving into other fields

Within the last years, quite a few journals, seminars and conferences specifically about comics research have emerged. Together with the wonderful comics dissertations described above, this is a sign of a research field that is gaining more and more strength. Yet another sign of this is that comics research is becoming visible at conferences and in publications that are not specifically about comics. An example of this is the special issue of the Danish journal of Kritik, with contributions from several NNCORE members; Frederik Stjernfelt, Rikke Platz Cortsen and Felix Kühn Paulsen. For more information, see http://www.kritik.gyldendal.dk/

SAM Myklebost draws our attention to a call for papers for a special issue of Digital Humanities Quarterly [http://comicscholarship.selfloud.net/index.html], on Comics and Scholarship (deadline for abstracts January 1).

A third example of integrating comics research in other fields is Michael Sholz’ suggestion of proposing a session on comics as historical sources for the 2014 Nordic Historians’ Meeting (https://www.uef.fi/nordiskahistorikermotet). Anybody who is interested in participating in such a session, or to know more about it, please contact Michael Scholz directly. michael.scholz@hgo.se But please do it soon, as the deadline is December 1 this year.

 

Telling Stories, Challenging Conventions

An NNCORE Conference at Malmö University

The seminar/conference for Group A of NNCORE took place at Malmö University on the 25th and 26th of October. The first day started with an open session, with about 50 persons in the audience. The very first event was a presentation of NNCORE by Rikke Platz Cortsen, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. This was followed by a number of questions by the audience, which was very obviously interested in the subject. Many in the audience came from the current iteration of the course Comics and Visual Narative at Malmö University. [Both photos are by Fredrik Strömberg]

Next followed a panel on the state of comics research in the Nordic Countries, moderated by Fredrik Strömberg, Malmö University, Sweden. In the panel there were representatives from NNCORE Group A from almost all Nordic countries, including: Rikke Plats Cortzen, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, Hege Emma Rimmereide, Bergen University College, Norway, Fred Andersson, Åbo Akademi University, Finland and Mari Laaniste, Estonian Literary Museum, Estonia. These presentations showcased that most Nordic countries are at about the same level when it comes to academic research into comics, with Estonia trailing with Mari as one of the few researching comics in her home country.

In the afternoon the first day followed the first seminar for the members of NNCORE Group A, in which four members presented everything from fresh research ideas to finished papers. This was a closed event and the waves of debates were high, with the benefits of members coming from different academic fields and therefore having different theoretical and methodological backgrounds became evident. Taking part, besides the members mentioned earlier, were: Lars Vinter Kristensen, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, Andreas Gregersen, University of Copenhagen, Denmark and Marianne Eskebæk Larsen, Aarhus University, Denmark.

The first day ended with an official dinner for the members of NNCORE at Malmö Brewhouse, Malmö´s first and foremost microbrewery, followed by a visit at the home of Fredrik Strömberg and his extensive comics library.

The second day started with the second seminar for the members of NNCORE Group A. Four more members presented their ideas for discussions. This day, associated professor Jakob Dittmar of Malmö University and also a member of Group A, was also present and took vigorously part in the discussions. Themes again ranged widely and all members went away with new ideas of what to do with their ideas and material.

During this period the members also discussed our participating in the Helsinki conference in 2013, both as a group and as separate members. NNCORE Group A now have a plan for our participating in the Helsinki conference in 2013, both as a group and as separate members.

After lunch the second day, the students from the course Comics and Visual Narative did a presentation on their latest project, creating web comics. Gunnar Krantz, who manages this course at Malmö University, moderated this presentation.

Finally, there was a visit at the Comic Art Centre in Malmö, where Fredrik Strömberg showed the members of NNCORE Group A the headquarters of the Swedish Comics Association, the Comics Studio, the studio for C’est Bon Kultur and the Comics Art School of Malmö.

Before and during the NNCORE meeting, media was reporting on the conference and making NNCORE and comics research better known publicly. There were articles and interviews at the home page of Malmö University and on Sydsvenska Dagbladet, the major daily newspaper of the region, as well as an interview with Fredrik Srömberg on Swedish radio.

All in all, this was a really good seminar/conference, gathering scholars from all over the Nordic countries for both learned exchanges of ideas and more relaxed time for socializing and getting to know your colleagues better.

 

Propaganda and Censorship

Thematic seminar and ComFor conference, Freiburg, September 2012

The thematic group on Propaganda and Censorship organized a meeting at September 27 in Freiburg, coinciding with our participation in the annual conference held by ComFor, Gesellschaft für Comicforschung, September 26-30Ralf Kauranen, Michael Scholz, Rikke Platz Cortsen, Louise C. Larsen and Anne Magnussen were present at the meeting held on Thursday 27 at the Institut für Kulturwissenschaft at Freiburg University in a room reserved for us by the ComFor-conference organizer, Stephan Packard. We discussed the possibilities of joint publications with the ComFor and of a special ComFor-session with the group on Propaganda and Censorship at the Helsinki conference in 2013.

Comics and Politics was the title of this years ComFor-conference and Ralf, Michael, Rikke and Louise took part in the international day of the conference with a special session titled: In Between Propaganda and Entertainment: Nordic Comics 1930s-1960s. The session was held on Friday 28, integrating our different research projects and culminating with Anne as the keynote speaker the same evening on Spanish comics and politics. Ann Hoyer, a member of both NNCORE and ComFor, was moderator at the afternoon session. It was particularly rewarding to have the whole ComFor-audience to discuss the papers with us, and it generated great and inspiring questions. The four days of the conference put our respective research projects into a wider perspective, generating fresh ideas and new scholarly exchanges with the many other participants that presented a wide range of wonderful papers. The NNCORE-group was welcomed and treated with great hospitality by the organizers and the ComFor-members, and the event generated many ideas for future cooperation and work. With the Helsinki conference in 2013 as one of the first, future, goals.

 

PROJECTS AND INITIATIVES

Preparing a collective research project

Representing Enemies and Allies in Popular Culture Comics will have a prominent position in a new collective research project about the representations of enemies and allies in popular culture from the Second World War and onwards (Europe, the Americas and Asia). Kees Ribbens from the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies in Amsterdam, and Michael Sholz, Gotland University and member of the NNCORE steering group, have gone together and will apply for ESF funding for an exploratory workshop as a step towards a full-blown research funding application. NNCORE is a partner in the project and will help out wherever possible in the development of it. NNCORE members interested in participating are very welcome to contact Kees Ribbens, k.ribbens@niod.knaw.nl. As Kees Ribbens will be participating in the NNCORE Helsinki conference in May, the plan is to have an open meeting about the project at that event also.

Potential PHD studies in the work of Storm P

In a cooperation between NNCORE and the Copenhagen based museum about Storm P, a Danish caricaturist from the first half of the 20th century, we would like to make contact with potential PhD scholars with an interest in Storm P or related caricature. For more information, please look at the invitation posted on the NNCORE website.

Funding for Swedish comics research

Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, an independent Swedish foundation with the goal of promoting and supporting research in the Humanities and Social Sciences, approved grants for Michael Scholz’ project ”Entertainment or Propaganda. Comic Strips in Sweden during World War II” for 2013/2014 (http://anslag.rj.se/en/fund/45311).

Edited byAnne Magnussen

Newsletter No.4 (September 2012)

Come October a whole year has passed since NNCORE’s founding meeting in Odense in 2011. This newsletter more than suggests that it has been a year of remarkable activity, and that the year ahead will prove no less fruitful and productive.

Below you will find reports from two of the NNCORE seminars, but before that we would like to advertise both our international conference in Helsinki in May 2013 and two seminars to be held this fall.

Call for papers: NNCORE 2013. International Conference in Comics Studies

University of Helsinki, Finland, May 23-25, 2013

Organized by the Nordic Network for Comics Research in cooperation with University of Helsinki and The Finnish Comics Society.

The NNCORE conference provides a major international forum for presenting and sharing recent research in comics studies. The NNCORE advisory board members Jan Baetens (University of Leuven, Belgium), Bernd Dolle-Weinkauff (Goethe-University, Frankfurt, Germany), Thierry Groensteen (independent scholar, France), Ann Miller (University of Leicester, UK) and Roger Sabin (University of the Arts London, UK) will speak and/or comment on papers at the event.

We invite proposals for presentations in comics studies in any discipline in human and social sciences. Preference will be given, but not limited, to papers that relate to the NNCORE research themes:

  • Telling stories, challenging convention
  • Comics in between: intertextuality and inspiration
  • Contesting and creating identities and communities
  • The power of comics: propaganda and censorship
  • Manga and the globalization of comics
  • Learning from and through comics: comics as a didactic toolPlease submit an abstract (max 500 words) in English of a twenty-minute presentation. The abstracts should be e-mailed to Kai Mikkonen at kai.mikkonen@helsinki.fi by Nov 1, 2012. Please include your title and institutional affiliation(s). Selected participants will be informed by Dec 15, 2013. For any practical questions please contact Warda Ahmed at warda.ahmed@sarjakuvaseura.fi.

    NNCORE is a Nordic comics research network funded by the Danish Research Council (De Frie Forskningsråd) for a two year period ending summer 2013. For more information about NNCORE activities please see the website (www.sdu.dk/nncore) that includes further contact information or contact the NNCORE manager, Anne Magnussen, magnussen@hist.sdu.dk.

 

TWOSEMINARS, FALL 2012

The first of the two fall seminars will be held at the end of September 26-28 (2012) in connection with the international ComFor conference, the German comics research organization (ComFor, Gesellschaft für Comicforschung). The NNCORE thematic group, The power of comics: propaganda and censorship, willhold a seminar as well as participate in the conference with a session Friday afternoon named Between Propaganda and Entertainment: Nordic Comics in the 1930s-1960s. For more information about the ComFor and the conference, see http://www.comicgesellschaft.de/?page_id=2334.  The coordinator of this group is Michael Scholz, michael.scholz@hgo.se.

A thematic seminar will be held at Malmö Univeristy, October 25-26 (2012). The thematic group, Telling stories, challenging convention, will have an interesting two-day seminar that includes a session open for anybody who would like to learn more about comics. For more information, also about how to and what to do to participate, please write the group coordinator and organizer of the seminar, Fredrik Strömberg, fredrik.stromberg@serieframjandet.se.

 

NOTES ON PUBLICATIONS AND ACTIVITIES

Marianne Eskebæk Larsen recently edited an issue of the Danish journal UP (Unge pædagoger) dedicated to the problematic of bringing comics into the class room,  and most of the articles are written by NNCORE members, including by Marianne herself. To read the articles, go to: http://issuu.com/hvidhverdag/docs/up_nr._2_2012

And to get a copy, to: http://www.u-p.dk/?id=1. The recent issue of Ekfrase, the Nordic journal of visual culture (http://www.idunn.no/ts/ekfrase?languageId=2) includes contributions from several NNCORE members, and so does the first issue of SJoCA, the Scandinavian Journal of Comic Art (http://sjoca.com/). The editors of SJoCA are by the way all members of NNCORE and we congratulate them on this first and exciting issue.

That comics research reaches beyond the comics world itself is documented by Sam Myklebost’s contribution with a piece on Shakespeare manga and comics to the upcoming Cambridge World Shakespeare Encyclopaedia as well as to The Shakespearean International Yearbook. Another example is that Fredrik Strömberg took part in the public debate when he commented on the Swedish Supreme Court decision in the summer to free the manga translator Simon Lundström: http://www.sekventiellt.se/2012/06/news-victory-in-our-time-manga-case-has.html?m=1.

 

THEMATIC GROUP SEMINAR REPORTS

Work in Progress Seminar for the thematic group on Intertextuality & Intermediality

Kristiansand, Norway, 23 & 24 March 2012

Report by Michael Prince

The seminar group convened on the evening of Friday, 23 March at Patrick’s Pub for a Strategy meeting. We discussed diverse conferences and some experience with journals to which we have submitted. In particular, there is the Inter-Disciplinary.Net First Global Conference on the Graphic Novel (7-9 Sept. 2012); and a possible special issue of The European Journal of American Studies on American identity in the graphic novel in cooperation with editor, Pawel Frelik.

The seminar proper began on Saturday 24 March 0930 University of Agder Campus, Room F1-031. This was a work in progress seminar in which the nine participants were each given 40 minutes to present and receive feedback. All materials were distributed electronically beforehand and were read by the participants before the seminar. Some participants discussed more than one project. Many of the works have already been submitted to the University of Mississippi book project or diverse journals.

The participants and topics are as follows (new members and non-members of NNCORE have their institutional affiliation in parenthesis):

  • Martin Lund, “Chapter 1—Theory as Pre-Text”
  • S.A.M. Sv.-A. Myklebust, “Samurai Macbeth: ‘Painted Devils’ in Sequence”
  • Katja Kontturi, “Shades of Conan Doyle! A lost world!”: Fantasy and intertextuality in Don Rosa’s ‘Escape from Forbidden Valley'”
  • Helge Kleivane (University of Oslo), Thesis extract on Intertextuality in Fun Home
  • Johan Schubert Moen (University of Agder), “Unwilling interaction; miscommunication and the Truth in Transmetropolitan”
  • Maaheen Ahmed, “Mutations and Monstrosity in Comics: Possible Causes, Ancestors and Implications” and / or “Liaisons between artists’ books and graphic novels”
  • Steen Christiansen, “Between Media: David Mack’s Kabuki
  • Bjarne Markussen (University of Agder), “Law and Multimodal Aesthetics: Nils-Aslak Valkeapää’s Trekways of the Wind
  • Michael Prince, “HOWL: A Novel Graphic: Eric Drooker’s Adaptations of Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” and / or “Identities and Territorializations: The Individual Subject in Smooth and Striated Space in Alan Moore’s The Ballad of Halo Jones and The Swamp Thing

The presentations were stacked from graduate students in the morning to tenured staff in the afternoon. Feedback from participants was good-natured and constructive. The seminar established some collaborative projects among and between these “levels”; also, some of the participants will be “readers” for a special edition of the European Journal of American Studies.

Future plans depend largely on the individuals’ diverse personal and professional situations. The “younger scholars” in particular have set up a supportive network via social media (and the google group site). Obviously, completion of degree requirements (MA & Ph.D. theses) is priority one for this group.

All parties are looking forward to May 2013 in Helsinki. We agreed to “sit on” concrete ideas for the seminar (though S.A.M. and Michael did threaten to bring their synthesizers with them for a Group C improve dance performance), and enliven the discussion start of Fall semester 2012.

 

Work in Progress Seminar for the thematic group onContesting and creating identities and communities

Oslo, Norway, 8-9 June 2012, Report by Gunhild Borggren

Group C is concerned with Contesting – and creating – identities and communities. We are in total 12-15 people joining the group. Most members of the group were gathered for a two-day meeting on June 8-9 in Oslo in conjunction with the Oslo Comics Expo. In attendance in Oslo were (in alphabetic order): Frederik Byrn Køhlert, Gunhild Borggreen, Kristina Mejhammar, Margareta Wallin Wictorin, Mervi Miettinen, Michael Prince, Rebecca Scherr, Ylva Sommerland, and Øyvind Vågnes. The practical and conceptual elements of the meeting were organized by Øyvind, who also acted as excellent host and guide on our trips through Oslo.

Friday June 8: Future Prospects

We met Friday evening for a dinner meeting at a restaurant. However, the surroundings of a lively restaurant on a Friday evening did not prove optimal for serious discussions, so after food and drink, we went to a nearby park and held the meeting on the grass.

Some announcements were made: European Journal of American Studies has a call for papers for a special issue on American identities in the Graphic Novel. Abstract should be forwarded to Michael Prince (michael.j.prince@uia.no) by September 30, 2012, and if accepted full text should be submitted by January 31, 2013.

Michael also pointed our attention to the Comix Scholars Listserve at University of Florida, and proposed that we use our own listserv for broader discussions among the group and the NNCORE community.

We talked about the upcoming NNCORE conference in Helsinki in spring 2013. We can submit panel proposals in the fall and we may think of 3 panels. We can consider other types of formats rather than conventional paper presentations, with focus on how we work, on methodologies, on theoretical overlaps of media, etc. We would also like to meet in the group at the conference, either in a special section for group meetings at the conference, or before/after the event. Three topics are proposed for our panels:

  • Comics and contemporary cultural theory (Deleuze, Butler, Agamben, etc)
  • Comics and aesthetics theory (different media, visual culture representation etc.)
  • Ontological work (materiality, the object, etc.)

We talked about the conference as a spring board to new research projects, and a number of topics for such research were suggested: European migration politics, ecology awareness, environment, human rights, imaging-picturing, etc. We also talked about funding possibilities, including the national research councils, EU framework programs, as well as private research funds (Danish Velux, Oticon, Novo Nordisk, Swedish Riksbanken and others). Or a combination of these. We can start working on an application text that can be reused and circulated in different applications.

Saturday June 9: Seminar

The group seminar was held at the top floor of Hotel Bondeheimen, at which most of the group members stayed. Papers and drafts from each member had been circulated for reading well in advance, so presentations were combined most efficiently with comments and discussion.

Frederik presented ideas for future research on “Autobiographical Constructions: Authorial Absence and Presence in Julie Doucet and Michel Gondry’s Comics/Video Hybrid My New New York Diary”. This included a screening of Doucet and Gondry’s video product, and talks about the relationship between still and moving images.

Mervi had just turned in her Ph.D. dissertation last Friday, so she shared her ideas about a new project on “What We Become – Post-Apocalyptic Narratives and the Crisis of Identity in Contemporary American Comics”. This included discussions about cold war and atomic disasters, as well as zombies.

Kristina presented sketches for the introduction to her Ph.D. dissertation, and in which five Swedish comics artists feature with a special attention to autobiography. Kristina showed images and talked about Joakim Pirinen and proposed the idea that autobiography in comics may have been early in Sweden compared to the USA.

Margareta also talked about autobiography as genre in her presentation “The Graphic Novel as Medium for Autobiographical or Autofictional stories” where she discussed the Swedish female comic artist Joanna Rubin. Discussions centered on autobiography as a relational form, including relations to family members and contract with readers.

Ylva is also about to finish her Ph.D. dissertation, so she presented ideas for a new project on the visual zone of sports in her presentation “Sport Manga: Sketches of Play and Resistance within the Visual Zones of Sport”. The project will include issues such as movement vs. stillness, and the pace of reading compared to motion of sport represented. Other types of media will be included as well.

Michael presented his ideas of “Identities and Territorializations: The Individual Subject in Smooth and Striated Space in Alan Moore’s The Ballad of Halo Jones and Swamp Thing” by including theoretical aspects of Deleuze and Guttari to focus on subject formation in Alan Moore’s work. Discussions evolved around philosophy and political theory and its relation to aesthetics.

Gunhild unfolded some details in her text “Ano Hi, That Day: Manga Response to the March 11 Disasters in Japan” and discussions concerned issues of collective trauma and how it is reactions that trigger traumatic experience rather than the event itself. Several suggestions as to where to publish the text came forward.

Rebecca presented the outlines of her text “Shaking Hands with Other People’s Pain: Joe Sacco’s Palestine and the Ethics of Representation”, which is accepted for publication and is a part of a larger project about visual culture and human rights. Parts of the discussions focused on how tactility can create intimacy and how the haptic element relates to the imaginary of the reader.

Øyvind discussed “Comics Reenactment: Joe Sacco’s Footnotes in Gaza” in his presentation, which was based on a conference paper from Bergen where W.J.T. Mitchell and Joe Sacco participated. The use of the term re-enactment as a performative means used by Sacco in visualizing collective memory and moments of remembrance. Discussions included reenactment as bodily memory and trauma therapy.

Several journals and publications where mentioned during our talk, and some references have circulated on e-mail after. Apart from the newly launched Scandinavian Journal of Comic Art, also European Comic Art and ImageText were mentioned as well as a special issue on autobiography in comics and graphic novels in Biography (31:1, 2008) Rebecca circulated her text on “Teaching ‘The Auto-graphic Novel’: Autobiographical Comics and the Ethics or Readership”, Frederik has forwarded a list of references on autobiography, and Kristina has forwarded a list of Swedish foundations to apply to for economic support in further research projects.

Saturday Jun 9: Oslo Comics Expo

After the seminar, we went to the venue of Oslo Comics Expo 2012 at Schous Plass, and enjoyed the display of various publishers and organizations in the market tent. Some of us made it for an artist’s talk with Chris Ware. Ware presented a slide show with many images, including autobiographical photos as well as images from his projects such as Jimmy Corrigan and ACNE Novelty Library. Afterwards a long line formed to get autographs of Christ Ware and Seth, who was also invited to the Oslo Comics Expo 2012. For a rather small venue, the level of energetic engagement and presence of top names in comics and graphic novels was amazing and inspiring.

After spending some time at the Expo, most of the group went to a nearby restaurant and had a final dinner together before we went back to the hotel. The two day-seminar was a great success in terms of most of us having worked on new proposals, core text or other concrete projects to forward others, as well as getting relevant and competent feed back on our thoughts and ideas. The social networking was important in order to keep up the energy and commitment of all group members and to generate new ideas for future projects. We all thank Øyvind for his work in organizing the fruitful event, and look forward to meet in Helsinki.

Edited by Øyvind Vågnes, University of Bergen, and Anne Magnussen

Newsletter No.3 (March 2012)

Now, five months after NNCORE’s founding meeting in Odense in October 2012 we are in the middle of the second phase of activities,

consisting of a series of thematic group seminars relating to the network themes (see the website, www.sdu.dk/nncore for descriptions of the themes). The seminars constitute the core activities of NNCORE as the contacts and interactions established in them hopefully will lead to future cooperation regarding research projects, publications and conference participation. In this phase, we prepare for future concrete results, and this newsletter will therefore be a description of what we are doing rather than of actual results.

The first seminar was held last week in Kristiansand, Norway, and was the Comics in Between: Intertextuality and Inspirationthematic seminar. A report from the coordinator, Michael Prince, will be in the next newsletter, but judging from the program and the participants lists, it has surely been a very productive and interesting seminar.

Øyvind Vågnes is the coordinator of the following seminar to be held in Oslo, Norway in June. This is the meeting of the thematic group, Questioning or Constructing Communities and Identities, and 11 people have signed up for it. The seminar coincides with the Oslo Comics Expo 2012 (http://www.oslocomicsexpo.no/2012/index.html), which gives the participants from all over Scandinavia the opportunity to visit this event after the seminar. The Expo program is not available yet, but based on the list of invited guests and speakers, it looks to be very exciting.

The third seminar under way is that of the Propaganda and Censorship group that will have its seminar in September, in Freiburg, Germany. The reason for having the meeting in Freiburg instead of in Gotland where the group coordinator, Michael Scholz, is based is that we combine it with the participation in the German comics research network ComFor’s grand comics conference on Comics and Politics, September 27-30 (http://www.comicgesellschaft.de/?p=2442). ComFor and NNCORE have already established a first contact, and hopefully the participation in the conference will strengthen the relationship further. Apart from having the thematic group seminar in Freiburg (26-27), the ComFor organizers have accepted a panel on Scandinavian comics and
politics with presentations from five NNCORE members.

NNCORE has grown, and we are now 45 NNCORE members, up from the 28 founding members. With the exception of one or two very recent members, you can have a look at the new members’ profiles on the website (www.sdu.dk/nncore). The new members represent different Nordic countries as well as different stages of research, from MA students to associate professors. In terms of publications, the first NNCORE anthology based on the founding meeting at the University of Southern Denmark is progressing nicely and looks to be a truly interesting book. There is a couple more joint publications initiatives under way, which will be announced in future newsletters.

We are furthermore taking the first, small steps in the preparations of the NNCORE international conference to be held in 2013, and it now has an official name: NNCORE 2013. International Conference in Comics Studies. Organized by the Nordic Network for Comics Research and held at the University of Helsinki, May 23-25, 2013

NNCORE is open to new members. The requirements to become a member are that you are involved in some way with the study of comics and comics research, and either belong to a Nordic institution or study Nordic comics. You are welcome to contact Anne Magnussen, magnussen@hist.sdu.dk if you have any questions in this regard or if you would like to sign.

Edited by Anne Magnussen, University of Southern Denmark, Denmark

Newsletter No.2 (December 2011)

This second newsletter from NNCORE reports on the founding network meeting at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense on October 27-29, 2011.

As you will see, the meeting went very well, and the network members have now starting working in thematic groups, preparing for the first NNCORE anthology and joint research projects more generally. We will keep you informed through these newsletters.

NNCORE is open to new members. The requirements to become a member are that you are involved in some way with the study of comics and comics research, and either belong to a Nordic institution or study Nordic comics. You are welcome to contact Anne Magnussen, magnussen@hist.sdu.dk if you have any questions in this regard or if you would like to sign.

Below, a general overview by Gunhild Borggreen is followed by reports from the different thematic groups within the network and a reflection on NNCORE and Nordic comics scholarship by Advisory Board member Roger Sabin.

 

NNCORE Meeting Report, University of Southern Denmark, October 27-29, 2011

By Gunhild Borggreen, Dept. of Arts and Cultural Studies, University of Copenhagen

The first meeting of NNCORE was attended by approximately 35 scholars of different academic backgrounds and at various career levels. Thanks to the efficient planning by Anne Magnussen and Rikke Platz Cortsen, the practical as well as the organizational aspects went smoothly during the entire event. The atmosphere among all participants was that of openness and curiosity, and everyone agreed that NNCORE should embrace the widest possible understanding of the “Nordic” aspect: comics produced and consumed in the Nordic countries, as well as scholars working in the Nordic context.

Day One started with a brief introduction by Anne Magnussen, and continued with a panel discussion on the status of comics scholarship. The panel consisted of three of NNCORE’s Advisory Board members: Ann Miller (University of Leicester, UK), Bart Beaty (University of Calgary, Canada) and Roger Sabin (Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts, London, UK), as well as two representatives from other comics networks: Laurence Grove from IBDS (UK) and  Anne Hoyer from COMFOR (Germany). The discussions afterwards included issues such as the status of comics, the relationship between text and image, the relationship between fandom and scholarship, autobiography as meta-genre, and many other topics.

The panel discussion was followed by two presentations on didactics: Marianne Eskebæk-Larsen on visual literacy and Chris Kjeldsen on scientific work using comics as medium. After lunch the participants assembled in thematic groups. The official part of the day’s programme ended with a reception, while many NNCORE members met later for a beer at a famous local pub.

Day Two began with presentations in plenum of the thematic groups’ work and plans. After lunch, a panel of scholars with experience in collective research and fundraising opened the debate of how NNCORE can reach out to international research communities, including communication strategies and concrete plans for publications. This was followed by four presentations that outlined the status of comics in each of the four Nordic countries: similarities and differences due to local patterns of comics production and readership. A new Nordic anthology entitled Kolor Klimax was presented. Day Two ended with a dinner for all participants at a restaurant in town.

Day Three was devoted to presentations by PhD students: Mervi Miettinen, Kristina Arnerud Mejhammar, Erin La Cour, Frederik Byrn Køhlert, Ylva Sommerland and Rikke Platz Cortsen. With the research of eminent young scholars and the enthusiasm displayed by everyone at the NNCORE meeting, the initiative on Nordic comics research has started in the best possible manner.

 

Thematic group A: Telling Stories, challenging convention

By Fredrik Strömberg, Dept. of Media and Communication Studies, Malmö University

The group had a fruitful first meeting at the conference. All-in-all about 15 participants was able to take part in the discussions, introduce themselves, their respective backgrounds and future research interests. This was stimulating, as the group consists of people from many different academic fields, such as literature studies, film studies, art studies, media and communications, geography and so on – all with an interest in comics in general and how comics work in particular. The debate was productive, several new connections were formed and plans for co-written articles, and anthologies etc. were initiated.

The group will set up a timeline for working with our writing, giving and receiving help and feedback. There will be deadlines for submitting ideas, abstracts, roughs and so on, with a system for discussions, critique etc. at every stage. Many exciting themes will be researched in the group, by single researchers or groups of researchers. One area is the use of time and space in comics and how these two parameters interact. Several projects will look into this, from various angles. A specific and very interesting area is how geography can relate to comics, as a pedagogical tool but also on a more general level. Here a co-written article is in the plans, using knowledge from several different fields. Another area of interest is how style affects the narrative in comics. Again, several projects will be involved in this question, looking at things like thought representation, place construction, Tintin in movies and comics and so on.

Since the meeting, Group A has been augmented by Katja Kontturi, PhD student at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland and Jakob Dittmar, assistant professor at Malmö University, Sweden.

 

Thematic group B: Intertextuality / Intermediality

By Michael Prince, University of Agder

At the seminar in Odense, we were eight participants in the Intertextuality / Intermediality group. Some preliminary contacts and exchanges of interests and ideas began on the “google-groups” site “NNCORE Intertextuality” in September. The group members first discussed their interests and current projects. The “inter” in intertextuality and intermediality demonstrated multiple qualities in the course of the dialogue. The first was in terms of the stylized transitions from prose to image, including photography and illustrations; herein were references to illustrations in recent French realist novels, as well as the institutionalization of comics in museum exhibitions or free-standing installations. The second encompassed intertextual references as part of a satire/parody project, for instance, with popular culture manifestations of iconic canonical authorial figures within the comics medium. The third, deals with genre shifting (to and from comics to another medium such as film, television, drama, poetry), i.e. adaptations. This encompassed the use of comics for plot continuity in television series and the adaptations of canonical literary texts to comics, for example manga. A second discussion topic was a conversation around the various members familiarity with Scandinavian comics. The third topic centered information, comments and questions orbiting critical perspectives and useful paradigm sets for analysis.

Each of these has been addressed and worked on by the group members in the interim. With regard to critical materials, book titles, articles, chapters and links have been posted on the group site. Some of the “chatter” afterwards indicated that this has been helpful. The members of the group have also shared diverse titles of Scandinavian comics. The discussion of topics has coalesced around several collaboration projects: “Eric Drooker’s Howl: A Graphic Novel“; “Apocalypse Why? – The Neutralization of the Antichrist in Three Comics Narratives”; “Unwanted: Superheroes and Mutants Transformations of the cliché in alternative comics”; and a strongly stated willingness to investigate Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventure of Kavalier & Clay. In addition, members of the group are working on individual articles for the much-discussed collection. Group B will be meeting for a work-in-progress seminar on the 24th of March.

 

Thematic group C: Contesting – and Creating – Identities and Communities

By Øyvind Vågnes, Dept. of Information, Science and Media Studies, University of Bergen

When the group gathered for the very first time I was immediately struck by its composition and of its potential – we had people from a variety of disciplines gathered there, and at the same time there were so many overlapping interests and various possible venues for collaboration. Five thematic streams seemed to emerge from the mapping of our interests:

1)  Autobiographical Comics, Identity, Community. How does the form of comics challenge and destabilize dominant notions of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity and the body in contemporary autobiographical comics? How do we link theories of minority autobiography with formalist comics studies? How do we study contemporary autobiographical/autofictive graphic novels made by young persons, and what characterizes the self-representation of these?

2) Costumed Heroes and Constructions of Identity. How can we map the relationships between subject identity and national identity in comics depictions of costumed heroes? What is the role and relevance of superhero comics in the popular geopolitics of American identity? How do such comics contribute to the popularized idea of what American identity is through their portrayal of superheroes?

3) Comics and Technology. Many outstanding robot scientists in Japan cite their childhood encounter with manga such as Tetsuwan Atomu (aka Astro Boy) or Tetsujin 28-go (Iron man no. 28) as their main source of inspiration for becoming a robot engineer in the first place. What are the implications of the influence of comics on visual robot culture, the visual and social relationship between human beings and technology? Has the science fiction genre of manga and anime, especially the robot and mecha figures, come to form a part of a “techno-nationalism”, and how do they contribute to (or contest) the notion of Japan as a haven for the development of robot technologies?

4) Comics Representation and Ethnic Identity. How do we study ethnic identities and communities through comics? How do we study comics from the Third World from a postcolonial perspective (i.e. Senegalese comics, in which that nation’s history and identity have been expressed in different versions)?

5) Comics, Political Struggle, and History. What is the role of comics in describing, addressing, and propagating political struggle from propaganda to comics journalism?

There are plans to meet in June 2012, probably in Oslo (and possibly at a time which coincides with the Oslo Comics Expo); that will serve as a good chance to discuss on-going work in person, to present something, and to look to the future – most immediately to the 2013 Helsinki conference. We have a listserv and I imagine this will be a productive forum for discussion, suggested reading, commentary, and all manners of collegial activity.

 

Thematic Group D: The power of comics: propaganda and censorship

By Michael F. Scholz, Gotland University

Before the NNCORE Meeting in Odense the “propaganda group” had a lively discussion about possible research projects and future collaborative writing at their own online project room (http://executive.hgo.se/). There was agreement that emphasis be put on comics and propaganda in Northern Europe. Among the possible topics discussed were: the comics debate in the 1950s, comics in Northern Europe during World War II, and comics and collective memory as well as comics and uses of history.

The group session in Odense (attended by advisory board members Roger Sabin and Laurence Grove) resulted in a long list of interesting topics. Besides the comics debate in the 1950s (coordinator: Ralf Kauranen) and wartime propaganda (coordinator: Michael Scholz) discussions focused on the use of comics in education, comics and censorship, how comic artists are compromised under undemocratic regimes, as well as anti-Semitism and racism in Comics.  By studying how comics construe friend-enemy images and heroism, and how they use history to create identities, we will discuss the political and social power of comics and how they can influence society as state propaganda. A special topic for research could be how comics helped selling rationing during World War II.

The presentation of these ideas in the NNCORE-plenum got a positive response. The discussion broadened the interest to the current debates about manga as pornography. Three new members joined the group in Odense: Aske H. Nielsen, Odense, Carsten Fogh Nielsen, Aarhus, and Fredrik Strömberg, Malmö. The next group meeting will be held in September 2012 at Gotland University in Visby, Sweden.

 

Thematic Group E: Manga and the globalization of comics

By Svenn-Arve Myklebost, Dept of Foreign Languages, University of Bergen

The manga group, which was officially disbanded prior to the meeting, became resuscitated during the first NNCORE conference, albeit in a semi-official form. After discussing the matter it was decided that we should at the very least use this opportunity to maintain a network for scholars interested in the formal and cultural importance of manga. We did not have a thematic group meeting, nor will we develop specific manga projects in the foreseeable future, but we think it might be wise to have such a network in place, in order to share our work, readings, discoveries (of manga or scholarly work on manga) and new insights. Svenn-Arve Myklebost is the coordinator for the manga network.

 

Thematic Group F: Learning from and through comics: comics as a didactic tool

By Marianne Eskebæk, Centre for Children’s Literature, Aarhus University

The group only consisted of three people before the meeting in Odense and the future of the group was in question. In a plenary session Marianne Eskebæk and Chris Kjeldsen presented their experiences with comics in relation to didactics. Chris Kjeldsen talked about the use of comics when teaching students of the agricultural sciences. Marianne Eskebæk described her activities for promoting the use of comics by librarians and teachers in an educational context. Because of the rich response to the presentations it was decided that the didactic group would continue to exist. Marianne Eskebæk is the coordinator for the group. There was no group meeting in Odense, and it still has to be discussed what kind of activities the group will focus on, besides sharing our readings and experiences.

 

REFLECTIONS ON NNCORE 2011

By Roger Sabin, Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts, London

The energy in Odense was amazing. There are more young scholars than I can ever remember getting into this field and having valuable things to say. The PhD seminar, in particular, was a highlight. I learned a great deal, and it reinforced the fact that the Network is a hugely important development. Which is not to take anything away from the other, more established speakers, who often came from great distances and gave the conference an international dimension and a solid foundation. (And, yes, Bart Beaty was probably right to say we should ban the phrase ‘young scholar’ because it makes the rest of us seem so old…)

But at the same time, I sensed an identity crisis. What does ‘Nordic scholarship’ mean? Often the speakers would not differentiate between ‘Nordic’ and ‘Scandinavian’. Also, does it mean scholarship about Nordic comics, or ‘scholarship about international comics’ that emanates from the Nordic countries? And, if it’s Nordic-based, does that include scholars who have non-Nordic passports, but who live there? These are questions that were discussed, but not resolved.

Similarly, Nordic comics scholarship is having to grapple with some of the questions that vex comics scholarship more generally. For example, does comics scholarship equal literary scholarship? (I, personally, would like to have seen more audience research.) Does comics scholarship equal ‘American comics’ scholarship? There were significant nods towards the Nordic traditions, but this perspective is not ‘natural’ – yet. Does comics scholarship equal ‘post-1930s comics’ scholarship? I happen to be interested in the Victorian period, so I welcome this kind of research. Does comics scholarship equal ‘adult comics’ scholarship? With a few exceptions, we seemed to be talking about graphic novel culture. The list could go on.

But these are not criticisms. They are talking-points. In some ways, Odense was ‘the next step’ from the now-famous Copenhagen comics conference in 1998 (also co-organised by the estimable Anne Magnussen). It represents a statement of intent – to put Nordic scholarship on the map. There are difficult times ahead for higher education in the wake of the banking crisis and the subsequent ‘attack on the Humanities’, but if the Network can stay focused there is no reason why it can’t achieve great things.

 

Edited by Ralf Kauranen, Dept. of Social Sciences, Åbo Akademi University, Finland