Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Over a Peet’s coffee—black and no sugar--I chatted with Angela Becerra Vidergar, co-founder of the Graphic Narrative Project at Stanford, about end-of-days novels and films, Latin American Boom authors, and, well, comic-books. Since my days at Stanford in the mid- late- (nineteen)nineties, it seems there’s more interest in this storytelling form beyond the literature departments (English, Comparative, and Rhet-Comp); even there it was few and far between. Now it seems all sorts are taking more than a passing interest, including faculty from Archeology, Engineering, Math, and the Arts—including Scott Bukatman and John S. Knight Fellow Dan Archer.
Comic books on any syllabus seem to be drawing the undergrad crowds. Angela’s Rhetoric of Comics even teased out of an engineering student a paper that used the kind of research I’m partial to from the cognitive- and neuro- sciences. And, with some Humanities Center dollar-backing, Angela along with co-founder Haerin Shin’s Graphic Narrative Project will bring to Stanford various (2010-2012) invited guests to run colloquia and as well as host a series of speaker events; if I’m lucky, there might even be one on cognitive approaches to comics and another focused on Latino comics.
The brushfire that’s happening at Stanford’s been going on elsewhere, too. Of course, we have this all going down at OSU not just in my classes, but also with my colleague Jared Gardner’s Mario-X-sized popular course on comic books; so big that he had to move twice to get a lecture hall super-sized enough to fit them all. After talking about Angela’s possible dissertation focused apocalyptic narrative fiction, I learned of Argentinean Hector Osterheld, his sci-fi comic El Eternauta, and his joining Montoneros leftist guerilla that led to his kidnapping and disappearance during the Dirty War. And, we both agreed that while the so-called Boom put Latin American authors on the map—Cortázar, Fuentes, GGMárquez, and the like—in the glorying over the novel, a glare left out the short story. So we know Cortázar for Hopscotch and not for his mind-blowing moebius-strip fictions; we know of the Buendias, but not of GMárquez’s formidable Geneva-set fact-fictions of ex-dictators. We do know of Latin America as homo faber in the realm of the short narrative form, but only in the single, solitary Borges. Had he published a novel, those north of the Tortilla Curtain would probably know little of his ficciones.
In El Defectuoso (the megalithic D.F.) and also Buenos Aires and Caracas authors and theorists are tearing it up with the flash fiction form (a.k.a microcuentos, microrelatos, or minificciónes constrained by 250 words), only seemingly recently “discovered” by US practitioners like J.E. Wideman, Junot Díaz, Juan Felipe Herrera, Luis Rodriguez, Luis Urrea, Ana Castillo, Sandra Cisneros.
In a tetris-game shuffle that moves edges to centers, in the US academia comic books--and now flash fiction--are here, and seemingly to stay.