The Literary “Lady of the Evening:” The Graphic Novel in Academia Jennifer Beattie, Arts and Sciences Tri-County Technical College Pendleton, SC
The Lady of The Evening? • Me • “I don’t read comic books!” • Neil Gaiman • “All of a sudden I felt like someone who'd been informed that she wasn't actually a hooker; that in fact she was a lady of the evening." • Daniel Raeburn • "the literary equivalent of calling a garbage man a 'sanitation engineer.'"
The Sanitation engineer? • Is graphic novel, then, just a euphemism for comic book, or is it something else altogether? • Does the graphic novel have literary merit, or is it just lowbrow, popular fiction? • Does it belong in academic library collections, in college literature classrooms?
What is A graphic Novel? • Definition • a narrative work in which the story is conveyed to the reader using sequential art in either an experimental design or in a traditional comics format. • suggests a complete story that has a beginning, middle and end, as opposed to an ongoing series. • implies a story that is outside the genres commonly associated with comic books, or that deals with more mature themes • History…
Image from the 1934 graphic novel Unesemaine de bonté ("A Week of Kindness") by Max Ernst
Classics Illustrated 1941-1971 Albert Kanter Confessions Illustrated 1956
What is Literature? • Debatable • Littera = letters • Art • Evolving definition • Standards of literary value change over time • “imaginative works of exceptional quality” • “what gets taught in schools and colleges” • “a particular kind of attention to language”
What is Literature? • Aristotle: mimesis, or imitation of life • The Secondary World Theory • The creation mirrors the author’s primary world, both are highly structured • Plot • Characters • Tone • Symbols • Conflict
What is Literature? • The Test of Time Theory • Aesthetics • Storytelling
The Academy • The literary canon • Agreed upon works that are important to read or study • Changes in last 40 years • Expanded • Diversified
Meanwhile, Back to the question… Does the graphic novel fit these definitions? Does it deserve a place in the canon?
And the Answer… To: “Lady of the Evening” & “Sanitation Engineer” What: The Literary Canon Where: Our Schools and Colleges When: Now!