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Michael Chaney (Dartmouth College)

Short Bio

Michael Chaney is editor of Graphic Subjects: Critical Essays on Autobiography and Graphic Novels (Wisconsin University Press, 2010) and director of the Dartmouth Conference on Illustration, Comics, and Animation. Michael Chaney is a published theorist of comics and visual representation. He has published over a dozen essays on visual media, appearing in several acclaimed academic books and a range of print and online journals such as Michigan Quarterly Review, Callaloo, Drunken Boat, College Literature, and American Literature. A TedX talk he gave on "How to Read a Graphic Novel" has well over thirteen thousand hits. 



Abstract: "What Can Krazy Kat Tell Us About Seriality and Comics Poetics?"

Seriality has often been theorized as a property of comics as well as an affordance. As a semiotic capacity of the form, seriality is also closure inverted insofar as closure necessarily indicates two comics' panels catalyzing meaning between them. But even this initial formulation hangs precariously upon a fragile distinction. To what extent is seriality always a matter of (narrative) closure in the comics? And what assumptions regarding time and being, cause and event, and subject and history do such questions inevitably lead us to stumble towards on our fumbling way through a tangled semiotic desert of meaning? Well, ask no further, comics reader, for the desert of meaning is mappable, it turns out in a comics county we've visited before - Krazy Kat comics. This talk surveys Krazy Kat's much celebrated orchestration of the surreal polysemy, linguistic entropy, and race and gender fluidity as a means to address seriality. Throughout, seriality is shown to function as the field of power within which the trickster poetics of Krazy Kat thickens into legibility.