Comic Strip Beginnings Topic of NIU Talk

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), May 15, 2012 | Go to article overview

Comic Strip Beginnings Topic of NIU Talk


Byline: Submitted by NIU

On Tuesday, May 15, Northern Illinois University Art Museum will present "Rodolphe Topffer and the Birth of the Comic Strip -- 1820-1850s," a lecture by Philippe Willems, associate professor of the NIU Department of Foreign Languages, at 6 p.m. in Altgeld Hall, Room 315.

Who doesn't love comic strips? These entertaining mini-narratives have become a universal language, but how did they originate?

According to Willems, Topffer's French-language comedic "stories in etchings" were the turning point between the pre-1820s sequential image and the modern comic strip.

In this lecture, Willems will examine Topffer's work within its historic and cultural context, including how the Swiss art critic's novels in captioned pictures differ from previous types of serial images and the role that his parallel careers as a schoolteacher and professor of rhetoric played in the elaboration of his groundbreaking narrative system.

Willems will also showcase the humor behind these Romantic-age, hardcover comic books and evoke how they owe their success to the most influential thinker in Europe at the time, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Under the general heading of "word-and-image studies," Willems' research interests lie at the intersection of cultural history, semiotics and media studies.

His master's thesis surveyed the place of the graphic novel in 20th-century French culture, and his Ph.D. dissertation examined the concept of mimesis in 19th-century culture and the strategies of realism deployed in the futuristic novels of Jules Verne, Albert Robida, and H. …

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