Comics and Narration

Written by Thierry Groensteen | Translated by Ann Miller | February 18, 2013
Comics and Narration by Thierry Groensteen
(University Press of Mississippi, 2013)

How all the elements in the grammar of comics merge to create a storyline

This book is the follow-up to Thierry Groensteen's ground-breaking The System of Comics, in which the leading French-language comics theorist set out to investigate how the medium functions, introducing the principle of iconic solidarity, and showing the systems that underlie the articulation between panels at three levels: page layout, linear sequence, and nonsequential links woven through the comic book as a whole. He now develops that analysis further, using examples from a very wide range of comics, including the work of American artists such as Chris Ware and Robert Crumb. He tests out his theoretical framework by bringing it up against cases that challenge it--such as abstract comics, digital comics, and shōjo manga--and offers insightful reflections on these innovations.

In addition, he includes lengthy chapters on three areas not covered in the first book. First, he explores the role of the narrator, both verbal and visual, and the particular issues that arise out of narration in autobiographical comics. Second, Groensteen tackles the question of rhythm in comics, and the skill demonstrated by virtuoso artists in intertwining different rhythms over and above the basic beat provided by the discontinuity of the panels. Third, he resets the relationship of comics to contemporary art, conditioned by cultural history and aesthetic traditions but evolving recently as comics artists move onto avant-garde terrain.

Thierry Groensteen, Brussels, Belgium, is a comics scholar and translator. He is the author of The System of Comics, published in English by University Press of Mississippi, among other books. Ann Miller, Oxford, United Kingdom, is a University Fellow in French at University of Leicester in Leicester, England. She has published widely on French-language comics.

Review:

"Thierry Groensteen has been the leading comics scholar for more than three decades now, but his new book, Comics and Narration, is much more than just a broadening and deepening of the research that gave so many illustrations of serious reading in the field he helped invent.  In Comics and Narration, Groensteen makes room for new dialogue with both classic disciplines such as narratology and emerging domains such as the digital humanities and new museum studies.  As always, his work testifies to an unprecedented capacity of making an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the field available to beginning as well as to advanced readers." - Jan Baetens, professor of cultural studies at the Unviersity of Leuven and author of Pour le roman-photo

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