An Alternative Gaze: (Italian) Comics beyond Reality (Panel)

Cultural Studies and Media Studies / Italian

Valentina Frasisti (Harvard University)

Carlotta Vacchelli (Indiana University)

“Pictures, illustrations, and cartooning presented an uncontrollable set of sources to the larger public”. Jeet Heer’s and Kent Worcester’s statement on 1950’s comics (Arguing Comics) applies to a broad range of comic books. Since their first appearance on newspapers, comics represented a way to go beyond the traditional and dominant narration of the real. It is not by chance, indeed, that Edward Said, in his preface to Joe Sacco’s Palestine wrote: “comics seemed to say what couldn’t otherwise be said, perhaps what wasn’t permitted to be said or imagined, defying the ordinary processes of thought”.

Fascinated by the subversive potential of the “system of comics” (Thierry Groensteen, The System of Comics), and by the concept of “comics enunciation” (Daniele Barbieri, Semiotica del fumetto), we wish to gather scholars interested in comics’ representation of marginality, especially, but not exclusively, in Italian culture. We aim at reflecting on the (aesth)ethics of comics art, examining a wide scope of realities that comics portray, propose, imagine, and re-create, along with its socio-political embroilment. Considering comic books as “a mindful form of escapism that uses a unique kind of language to invite us into a different world in order to better understand our own” (Rocco Versaci, Comics as Literature), we seek to engage with a reflection on different depictions of contemporary reality, through a form of art that has long been marginalized, despite its poignant commentary. We are persuaded that, within marginality, we can find enriching and unusual sensibilities, frames, and imaginaries. We therefore welcome crosscutting presentations on various kinds of genres and editorial formats, from the era of “comix” to the rise of the graphic novel as a catalyst of discourses.

This panel explores a wide range of perspectives on the representation of marginality in comic books, with a particular attention to comics’ metaphorical or literal commentary on reality. Proposals might focus on Italian culture, but reflections on transnationality and analyses of comics of different traditions are more than welcome. We hope to investigate different aesthetics and editorial products, from underground to mainstream, and to unfold their socio-political entanglement.