A few weeks ago, I finished rereading Mary Talbot and Bryan Talbot’s graphic novel Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes. The work combines memoir with a serious examination of not only James Joyce’s daughter Lucia but also of the very act of literary biographical scholarship itself. I grew up on lessons learned in comic books, from Larry Gonick’s epic Cartoon History of the Universe (among other indispensable guides and histories) to Scott McCloud’s metaworks.
Taking the graphic novel as a scholarly text and transforming it into digital can make things even more interesting. The digital editions of graphic novels, including the CD version (with animations, billed as “interactive literature”) of Cartoon History of the Universe and the many layers of Art Spiegelman’s Meta Maus, add another dimension to the form. Comic books evolving online are already texts of study for the digitally-minded humanities, but can they also offer inspiration for rethinking our own forms of communication?
Often, the comic form is still associated with simplicity or beginners. Series of graphic scholarship spawn titles like McLuhan for Beginners that suggest comics are only a tool for transitioning to the “real” monographs. But of course, McLuhan himself used experimental forms in his scholarship–The Medium is the Massage has more more in common with graphic novels than it does with his text-heavier volumes.
These forms offer a starting point for experimenting with public, accessible scholarship that launches away from the confines of the traditional monograph. I propose a session for THATCamp brainstorming ideas for future forms of scholarship inspired by these types of experiments and comic books.