The Contemporary Graphic Novel
In 2021, comics & graphic novel sales in the United States and Canada reached $2.075 billion; a 62% increase over sales in 2020, and up over 70% from sales in 2019, the last pre-pandemic year. The overall market sales of graphic novels have steadily increased yearly in the new millennium, with the latest jump reaching an unprecedented all-time high. Comics are undeniably one of the greatest publishing success stories of the digital age—and the graphic novel’s increasing popularity has come hand-in-hand with its growing legitimacy as literature and in academia. Comics are also the source material for some of the most dominant pop cultural productions of the past two decades (think Marvel Studios or Batman, or even The Umbrella Academy, 300, History of Violence, Kill Bill, Ghost World, American Splendor, so many others). Their steady growth in publishing further suggests that contemporary comics and graphic novels are now a crucial vehicle for the dissemination of literature and culture writ large. In this seminar, we will read a series of recent graphic novels—all of our texts were released in the last decade or so—and will undertake a global journey through the latest, most innovative, and diverse voices working in comics today. Our reading list will include recent comics gems from a variety of nations and traditions, and assignments will include discussion posts, a book review, a brief report on (or interview with!) a living comics creator, and a final paper on a contemporary graphic novel of your choosing.
This course has no prerequisites and there is no expectation that you have any expertise in comics or graphic novels. If you enjoy reading comics and/or manga and want to unlock more of their secrets, then this course is for you.