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Intersections, Interferences, Interdisciplines

Literature with Other Arts

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Edited By Haun Saussy and Gerald Gillespie

This volume advances the study of how the high arts and literature are reciprocally illuminating and interactive. Seventeen scholars from North America, Asia, Africa, and Europe demonstrate the dynamics of cross-referentiality and mixtures involving also newer and popular arts and media: photography, film, video, comics, dance, opera, computer imaging, and more. They consider an expanded universe of discourses embracing contemporary science as well as traditional subject matters. Discussions of theoretical and methodological approaches keep company here with intensively focused case studies of works in which discourses and media establish new relationships. Together, the chapters constitute a dazzling introduction to the diverse realm of imaginative products that the human mind can conjure in pondering the «when», «where», and «how» of existence.
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A Literary Straitjacket? Reflections upon Comics and Literature in Michael Chabon and Brian K. Vaughan

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← 110 | 111 →A Literary Straitjacket?

Reflections upon Comics and Literature in Michael Chabon and Brian K. Vaughan

Hans-Joachim BACKE

Ruhr-University, Bochum, Germany

The comparison between arts and media almost inevitably implies competition and value-judgments. Since Antiquity, ekphrasis has regularly been understood as “a struggle for dominance between the image and the word” (Heffernan 1), and the Renaissance debate about paragone, initiated by Leonardo da Vinci, discussed the arts predominantly in terms of superiority and inferiority (Louvel 37). Even today, the concept of popular culture is defined by the implication that some forms of creative expression are inferior to an ideal of “high culture” in the vein of Matthew Arnold.

In a recent monograph, Monika Schmitz-Emans argues against these notions by assuming that artists constantly draw on other arts, both “high” and “low,” to fuel and channel their own creativity, to evolve and to define their own art. While she takes this to be a universal characteristic of all art, she uses comic books as her foremost example, because she attributes to them an extraordinarily rich repertoire for artistic self-definition, be it through self-referentiality or reflections upon other media, especially literature (Schmitz-Emans 30–61).1 In her words:

Their comparatively short history enables an overview of comics as a whole, from which they emerge as an archetype of the tendency of the various arts to ‘invent’ one another and to develop their individual and protean profiles through analogies to...

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