Probing “art” and “literature”

I belong to a “comics scholars” listserve that has been discussing whether there needs to be an established “Comics Studies” field (I say a resounding “no”). This has had me thinking about disciplines in general, and what it is that various fields actually study, despite their names.

I had a thought about the oft-stated presumption that “comics” are the merging of “art” and “literature.” To me, this seems to miss the point a bit. Why bother tying it to such surface forms as art or literature? The base idea is about text and image, which don’t necessarily have to appear in “art” or “literature.” Its identifying the surface context without extending to the deeper forms of expression (drawing, writing).

Furthermore, underneath it all, I think the study of “literature” and “art” (and “film”) are basically the same field. They all have the same basic characteristics of analyzing creative expression, usually with some sort of “looking for deeper meaning” bent to it (outside of their “how to” contexts that is). The only real differences between them are the manner by which this expression is made (words vs. pictures vs. moving pictures). In my view, this is somewhat discriminatory, since the basic processes are the same. To me, the differences between these fields are superficial.

This is partially why I don’t think that “comics” belong in a discipline of their own, if the context is for “literature” type analysis. Of course, the fact that language can be studied for its various manifestations in an astounding array of departments simplifies the issue for me. Just use whatever field your analysis applies to, only do so with “comics” or “visual language” (depending on what you’re studying of course).


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