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Local Book Notes: Drawing Disaster

"From the inaugural issue of the Illustrated London News in 1842 to the first chapter of Art Spiegelman's Pulitzer-winning serial Maus in 1980, comics have had a long affiliation with documentary and reporting," Dominic Umile writes for the Reader.

"So why isn't the illustrated medium associated with nonfiction as reflexively as news articles and photographs? In Disaster Drawn: Visual Witness, Comics, and Documentary Form, University of Chicago professor Hillary Chute argues for recognizing comics as a substantial documentarian form that 'endeavors to express history.'"


"I am interested in the ways people address history and understand their lives through cultural invention," Chute says on her U of C bio page.

"My current teaching and research interests lie in contemporary American literature, specifically in how public and private histories take shape in the form of innovative narrative work. I am particularly interested in the relationships between word and image, fiction and nonfiction that we see in contemporary comics, a field with roots in the 1970s that is also connected to deeper histories of drawn reportage and visual witnessing."


"I wasn't particularly a fan of comics as a kid," Chute tells the Boston Globe.

"I became really obsessed with figuring out why the narrative worked so well for that kind of story. I don't think it's a coincidence that the most famous graphic narrative in the world, which is Maus, is about war and disaster. I'm still thinking about that question, which is why I published this book."


"In hard-hitting accounts of Auschwitz, Bosnia, Palestine, and Hiroshima's Ground Zero, comics display a stunning capacity to bear witness to trauma," says the publisher, Harvard University Press.

"Investigating how hand-drawn comics has come of age as a serious medium for engaging history, Disaster Drawn explores the ways graphic narratives by diverse artists, including Jacques Callot, Francisco Goya, Keiji Nakazawa, Art Spiegelman, and Joe Sacco, document the disasters of war . . .

"Chute explains how the form of comics - its collection of frames - lends itself to historical narrative. By interlacing multiple temporalities over the space of the page or panel, comics can place pressure on conventional notions of causality. Aggregating and accumulating frames of information, comics calls attention to itself as evidence.

"Disaster Drawn demonstrates why, even in the era of photography and film, people understand hand-drawn images to be among the most powerful forms of historical witness."


Here's Chute with Spiegelman in 2011.


Downstate Reverend Inherits Images From 1723
"When the Rev. James Steele of Morris was a young man, he saw seven panels from the French books "Cérémonies et coutumes religieuses de tous les peuples du monde" in the home of his assistant priest, the Rev. Thomas Brady, in the Edgewater neighborhood in Chicago where he grew up," the Morris Herald-News reports.

"Cérémonies et coutumes religieuses de tous les peuples du monde (1723-1743) is a nine-volume folio work published by Jean Frederic Bernard, a French-language bookseller in Amsterdam, and lavishly illustrated by Bernard Picart, one of the most famous engravers of the time . . . Today, those seven panels, which each depict six scenes, are in Steele's possession, inherited after his friend and mentor died last spring.

"Both men attended seminary in New York about six years apart, and Steele recalls stopping at the used bookstores in lower Manhattan, where Brady shopped years earlier and found the panels taken from two volumes of the books.

"I suspect Tom didn't spend more than $1 apiece for them," Steele said.

Good job. The panels, it turns out, are originals printed in Amsterdam in 1723. Click through for the rest of the story.


From UCLA:

"Cérémonies et coutumes religieuses de tous les peuples du monde (1723-1743) is a nine-volume folio work published by Jean Frederic Bernard, a French language bookseller in Amsterdam, and lavishly illustrated by Bernard Picart, one of the most famous engravers of the time.

"As their title suggests, they sought to capture the ritual and ceremonial life of all the known religions of the world.

"Because Bernard chose to remain anonymous as author, the work has long been catalogued under the name of its engraver, Picart.

"'Picart,' as many readers called it, helped create the study of comparative religion and had a long-lasting influence on the representations of the world's religions in the West."


Posted on January 27, 2016

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