With most academic conferences in Germany clustered in spring and fall, the summer has been comparatively restful. So this column in our ongoing series on comics studies in Germany and at ComFor, the German Society for Comics Studies, will be comparatively short.
First off, the Roland Faelske Award for Comics and Animation has been announced for the third time in a row. Organised by the ingeniously named ArGL, the “Arbeitsstelle für Graphische Literatur” or “Workplace for Graphical Literature”, at Hamburg University, the prize rewards a best graduate and a best PhD thesis from the previous two years. Winners will be announced in November.
Continuing 2014’s ongoing remembrance of the First World War, the bilingual French and German publication Tagebuch 14-18 / Carnets 14-18 presents four stories from Germany and France in a comics format. Created by Alexander Hogh and Jörg Mailliet, the volume offers a “social panorama” of the time of the war from the perspective of its younger generations. From early August and continuing through September 3rd, the work is also being exhibited in Troisdorf, alongside a greater exhibition on picture books and children’s books explaining the war.
Some further noteworthy exceptions to the summer lull included the annual Workshop of the Chair for American Studies at the university of Bayreuth in July, which focused on “Graphic Narratives” this year. A part of a research project on risk fiction and cultures of speculation, the program presented talks on destiny concepts in X-Men: Days of Future Past, dystopian visions of technology in comics, and dystopian desires in graphic novels. Meanwhile, and providing a focus on comics studies in connection to a completely different topic, Dietrich Grünewald offered a look at “Ein Wert an sich – Geld im Comic” [‘Its own value: Money in Comics’] at the award ceremony and vernissage of H-Team’s project on debt prevention for minors in June. The H-Team had organized a competition and exhibition for comics dealing with the subject in Munich.
Visual linguist Neil Cohn connected three stops on his German tour in early summer, moving from Saarbrücken through Freiburg to Bremen, where he was invited as part of the research project on transmedia textuality, organized by ComFor-member Janina Wildfeuer and her colleagues. In several workshops and talks, Cohn presented his ideas on a common deep structure shared by comic strips and lingual syntax, drawing on empirical and cognitive research as well as a generative model of the structure of comic strips. Discussion was lively, sometimes controversial, and always inspiring; and we’re happy to say that Neil will join us again in September for this year’s annual conference.
Some other events are still ahead of us. The International Graphic Novel Salon at Hamburg on September 18th presents publications and translations of works by Philippe Ôtiè, Gabriella Giandelli, Sohyun Jung and Alfonso Zapico. The Cöln Comic Haus at Cologne draws attention to several events this fall, including a 24-hours-comic-day on October 4th, and an international fair for comics and novels on November 8th. All of the ongoing events at Cöln can be viewed on their website. Perhaps most prominently, the Frankfurt Book Fair, October 8th-12th, having recently announced the end of the well-established “Comic-Zentrum” as a part of its annual program, is now preparing to replace the centre with a more topically oriented, interconnected “focus” on the artform, consisting of several joint presentations, events, and guest speakers.
Calls for Papers have prepared us for several conferences later this year: In mid-November, Cologne is planning to debate the “Mediale Zeitenwende”, the “turn of media eras” connected to the narrative turn in dealing with visual narrations (14th & 15th Nov); and Hamburg will host trans- and interdisciplinary discussions on “Visuelle Narrative – Kulturelle Identitäten” [‘Visual Narratives – Cultural Identities’], at the end of that month (27-29th Nov).
But before all of these, we are getting ready for ComFor’s annual conference in late September. This year, we will meet in Berlin to discuss comics with a focus on “Drawing Borders, Crossing Boundaries”. Intermediality, interdisciplinarity, topics of migration and transnationality, and not least depictions of transhumanism present the four main focal points, with panels and talks in German as well as English. We are very happy that Roger Sabin and Neil Cohn have agreed to join us as keynote speakers; a public debate on transgressions of all kinds in comics and an open discussion on efforts surrounding transdisciplinarity in the practice of comics theory complement the program. In a parallel event, Peter Lorenz and Matthias Harbeck will be discussing opportunities and challenges for archiving and presenting comics at libraries, an urgent topic not least due to the lack of strong comics collections at most German (and indeed, most international) academic libraries, and the need to preserve valuable private collections beyond the demise of their original owners. The conference is also coupled with a series of lectures and workshops on the use of comics in schoolrooms: “Grenzenlos: Comics im Unterricht”, organized by the BDK – Fachverband für Kunstpädagogik, Berlin. The full schedule for the ComFor 2014 conference can now be found online; international guests are very welcome. As always: Won’t you join us there?
Stephan Packard is President of the German Society for Comics Studies (ComFor) and Junior Professor for Media Culture Studies at Freiburg University. Interests focus on semiotic and psychoanalytic research into new and traditional media; the semiotics of affect; censorship and other forms of media control; as well as comics studies. He is editor of the journals Medienobservationen and Mediale Kontrolle unter Beobachtung, and recently published an edited volume on Comics & Politik – Comics & Politics (Berlin 2013).