Comic-Con 2012: Legitimizing graphic novels as literature

Northern Kentucky University has long been one of the few schools in the country where one can take several classes specifically about comic books and graphic novels as literature.

Now the faculty is seeking to spread the awareness of the possibilities, and challenges, of teaching this relatively newly legitimized art form – as comic books have only been considered literature by any significant portion of academics since the late 80’s, and is still a contested point in such circles.

Dr. John Alberti, Candice Van Loveren Geis, and Rich Shivener will present during the convention’s Comics Arts Conference, a series that advocates comics scholarship and criticism. After submitting an abstract, they were invited to present during the CAC’s 90-minute poster session, to be held on Saturday, July 14. The title of their poster session is “Graphic Narratives as Learning Tools in Higher Education: A Case of Kabuki: The Alchemy.”

Kabuki is a highly artistic graphic novel series which was created by NKU alumnus David Mack, who remains heavily involved in NKU’s art and literature programs, and regularly comes to speak at the school.

Kabuki: The Alchemy was used in NKU’s Book Connection program, in which the school’s freshmen class are all given the same book to read, so that they have the opportunity to discuss a book with a whole community of other readers. The book is selected each year by a committee of faculty, staff, and students.

Van Loveren Geis is an advisor and lecturer who teaches, among other things, college writing for visual arts majors.

“Comic-Con is a unique venue to reach a wider audience concerning academic research,” she explained.

“It is exciting to present at such an event and spread the educational experiences that students can gain at NKU. Weaving popular culture into an academic setting is a natural fit for the visual arts. My students were excited to be challenged conceptually and in writing by focusing on a topic they were more familiar with, graphic novels.”

Shivener, assistant director of first-year programs, teaches UNV 101 and manages the NKU Book Connection programming. “Our poster at Comic-Con is a great way to reflect on the year of Kabuki: The Alchemy at NKU. We hope to make connections with scholars and fans alike.”