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Approaching the Practices of Reading Comics: Perspectives from Phenomenology and Interface Studies // Call for Participation

Workshop of Cinepoetics – Center for Advanced Film 
Studies and the Committee for Comics Studies 
(AG Comicforschung) of the German Society for Media Studies (GfM)

Date: 29th/30th of November 2019 (Friday/Saturday)
Location: Kolleg-Forschungsgruppe Cinepoetics, 
Grunewaldstr. 35, 12165 Berlin
Max. 30 participants
Registration needed by 1st of October 2019, 
please write to 
lukas.wilde@uni-tuebingen.de and bjoern.hochschild@fu-berlin.de

How do readers engage with comics as texts, as material objects, as complex visual surfaces, or as structured experiences? The workshop „Approaching the Practices of Reading Comics“ would like to outline and discuss a ‚poiesis‘ of comics reading. With a different focus than the many narratological, formalistic, or semiotic approaches to comics and comics scholarship, two theoretical perspectives are put in relation to each other and to the medium: a potential ‚comic book phenomenology,‘ as well as the theoretical and analytical considerations of recent interface studies. Together, these approaches might conceptualize comic reading as an experience with and in relation to deliberately designed surfaces and a distribution of agency between artists and readers, facilitated by material and technological affordances. From this perspective, we would like to analyse and theorize comics in relation to readers’ experiences of time, space and motion. Differently from the moving images of film and related ‚real-time media,’ aspects such as the actual order, speed, and duration of reading a comic are traditionally controllable by the individual recipient. This poses particular challenges for a reception aesthetics of comics, further complicated in digital comics. In digital works autonomous movement and interactive affordances are either taken as a demarcation to ‚other media’ such as online games and animated motion comics (closer to film than to comics), or these aspects can become part of the design of a given digital comic themselves. The resulting aesthetic options—in digital as well as in analogue spaces—have rarely been explored in any detail.

Prior to the workshop, two comic texts are made available to all the participants: Chris Ware‘s Jordan Wellington Lint (2010, print) and Stuart Campbell‘s These Memories Will not Last (2015, digital). Each day focusses on one of these comics, which are explored together in thorough analytical discussions. The discussions are aided by theoretical impulses from two guest lecturers and analytical impulses by the workshop’s organizers.
The first day is dedicated to phenomenology. Simon Grennan will introduce his aetiological study of comics and comics pictoriality, A Theory of Narrative Drawing (2017), which represents the most comprehensive exploration of comics research with a phenomenological conception of intersubjectivity yet. After discussing Grennans work, Björn Hochschild (Berlin), who works on a phenomenology of comic (and film) characters, opens the analytical discussion of Jordan Wellington Lint.
The second day focusses on media theoretical interface studies. Christoph Ernst from the Committee for Interface Studies of the German Society for Media Studies (GfM) will provide an overview of a process-oriented notion of the ‚interface.‘ Here, the term is not exhausted in the description of technical user interfaces, but focuses rather on particular processes of subjectivisation derived from the distributions of mediated agency. The following discussion of These Memories Will not Last is initiated by Lukas R.A. Wilde (Tübingen), who explores questions of comic digitization from a media theoretical perspective.

Call for Participation

Deliberately designed to leave much space for extensive and dedicated discussions, the workshop is open to a maximum of 30 participants. We warmly invite comic scholars, particularly PhD candidates, to contribute to our program. In general, we’d like to focus not so much on self-contained presentations and instead offer everyone the opportunity to add challenging questions, discuss related problems, or introduce the participants to pertinent primary material that a focus on reception aesthetics might help to address in a new light. Both afternoons of the workshop are reserved for contributions of any kind and in any format. Please write us with ideas of your own by October 1, 2019:

lukas.wilde@uni-tuebingen.de and bjoern.hochschild@fu-berlin.de.

Preliminary Schedule:

Friday, November 29: Saturday, November 30:
10:00Welcome and introduction to the topic10:00Welcome
10:30Guest lecture and discussion: Phenomenological approaches (Simon Grennan)10:15Guest lecture and discussion: Interface-Studies – An Overview
(Christoph Ernst)
12:30Lunch break12:15Lunch break
13:30Brief approaches to analysis
(Björn Hochschild)

& Analytical discussion

13:15Brief approaches to analysis
(Lukas R.A. Wilde)

& Analytical discussion

15:00–Participants’ ideas and formats 14:45–Participants’ ideas and formats
AfterwardsShort ConclusionAfterwardsShort Conclusion