05 February 2011


The Modern Language Association threatens to tackle one of Oz and Ends’ favorite topics: how does the picture book form differ from the comics form?

Of course, the MLA is ready to deploy…jargon! Here’s the call for papers for a possible panel at the January 2012 MLA meeting in Seattle:

This panel will explore the possible relationships between comics and picture books, two imagetext genres implicated in children’s literacy learning which, despite overlapping formally and aesthetically, nonetheless stand apart socially and culturally. The potential application of picture book theory to comics, and, conversely, comics theory to picture books, promises to challenge this apartness—that is, to call into question the generic distinctiveness of the two forms. In that spirit, this panel invites participation from multiple perspectives, including but not limited to genre theory, education, history, formalism, aesthetics, semiotics, and ideological criticism.
Yadda yadda, Nodelman, McCloud, usual suspects among critics.
This panel will seek to enliven that dialogue by posing questions such as:
  • What formal resources and aesthetic strategies do comics and picture books share? Do they tend to deploy those resources and use those strategies differently?
  • What similar or different demands do the two genres make of readers?
  • How does the typical experience—if indeed we may posit a typical experience—of reading one genre differ from that of reading the other? For instance, how conducive are comics to what Ellen Spitz calls conversational reading, that is, reading shared by adult and child?
  • How do both comics and picture books participate in discourses and projects related to literacy learning and cultural literacy? For example, the possible role of comics in reading instruction has garnered much interest in recent studies…—how might this development be regarded culturally and critically? How might comics differ from or resemble picture books in their classroom use?
Yadda yadda, Spiegelman, Davis, Sendak, Tan, Selznick, usual suspects among practitioners.

Several factors make this an opportune and even urgent topic for MLA 2012, including the many artists who have worked in both genres; the genres’ shared aesthetic and narrative resources, and the relevance of image/text theories to both; the new prominence of comics in both children’s book publishing and reading instruction; and the current struggle of the picture book market to respond to social, educational, economic, and technological change.

Prospectuses due 5 March, response by 1 April, allowing chosen panelists to join the MLA by 7 April.


Chaucerian said...

"Imagetext" is not a word. I am very disappointed in the MLA.

Best wishes from your cranky reader.

J. L. Bell said...

It’s possible, based on the usage in the last quoted paragraph, that “imagetext” was a misprint for “image/text.”

Not that that makes it any better.

ericshanower said...

And there they go calling comics a genre again.

J. L. Bell said...

So they're not even getting the jargon right.