“Frame, Sequence, Medium”: Vortrag in Regensburg

Auf der Jahrestagung der Deutsche Gesellschaft für Amerikastudien in Regensburg wird Shane Denson einen Vortrag über Comics am 18.06.2011 halten. (UPDATE: Mittlerweile ist eine Video-Version des ganzen Vortrags auch online: hier.) Hier das Abstract:

Frame, Sequence, Medium: Comics in Plurimedial and Transnational Perspective

Shane Denson

In this paper, I argue that careful attention to some of the basic formal properties of comics calls not only for comparisons with analogous properties of other media, but for appreciation of the fact that comics themselves exhibit a strong tendency towards imbrication in robustly “plurimedial” contexts, such that comics as a medium must be seen as a nodal unit in larger, non-reducible networks of mediation. Setting out from a rather formalistic consideration of comics’ techniques of visual and narrative framing and sequencing, and drawing on observations made by Derrida and others, I identify a set of crucial liminalities and reversible oppositions—e.g. between the inside and outside of framed panels, between the temporal and spatial orderings of sequences—that are centrally at work in, and perhaps even partially constitutive of, the medium of comics. At the limit, this formal-phenomenological investigation suggests that liminality or marginality pertains not only to the “internal” relations or constitution of the medium, but that it is also a basic fact of comics’ “external” relations to other media. Above all the serial forms typical of comics’ narration witness the medium positioned in an emphatically plurimedial field, where boundaries are continually negotiated, annexes claimed, and permeable borders policed. The figures that populate comics series, in particular, move between diegetically closed narrative worlds, the integrity and continuity of which is often highly strained, and open multiverses that encompass not only alternative realities within the medium of comics but also alternative existences in other media as well. Attention to the way that serially and plurimedially instantiated figures (such as Batman and Superman, but also Frankenstein or Tarzan) negotiate the relations between diegetically open and closed serialities promises, finally, to shed media-theoretical light on the social question of the dynamics of comics’ transnational reception—which involves superheroes and other comic figures in both global and local contexts, in internationally standardized forms and national or regional adaptations. In a different context, Benedict Anderson has identified a competition between “bound” and “unbound” serialities at work in the modern constitution of nations as “imagined communities”—a competition, that is, between the totalizing closure of a territory and numbering of its occupants as effected by a national census, as opposed to the categorically open and ongoing iterability and reproducibility of events as modeled in the media of newspapers and photography. Refocusing Anderson’s perspective onto comics’ serial and plurimedial negotiations of “bound” and “unbound” formations—understood in relation to the marginalities and reversible boundaries that mark the frames, sequences, and media of popular culture—I aim to link comics’ plurimedial relations and their transnational imaginings through seriality as a locus of ambiguous intersection and border-crossing.


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