Graphic Novels

Out of all the articles on recently reposed historian Zinn, I notice that towards the end of Zinn’s life a certain publisher began producing Zinn comics to encourage young people to explore important historical concepts in a medium that would be more attractive, less intimidating.

I actually learned a lot from their comic version on Sartre, which was done by a recognized Sartre scholar. I have it in my books here somewhere.

This week on PBS someone from M.I.T. spoke about how writing skills are noticeably deteriorating with each new generation due to Internet and game and video experiences which are less “linear” than reading a text.
If one studies the recent history of cinematography as an artistic medium in its own right to be analyzed, deconstructed, critiqued then I think one will discover that it is equal to or surpasses the poem, novel or painting as a vehicle for artistic expression. I suppose the test will be if one day, we see a movie come out, and then the novel version is written as an afterthought.

Consider how Ingmar Bergman and Akira Kurosawa have become worthy of our study.

Off the top of my head, here is how I see the big picture: From Homer to Herodotus (roughly 800bc when the oral recitations were redacted to written form in Homer, up to Herodotus’ History of Persian Wars) dactylic hexameter (for the Greeks) was considered the only respectable medium for the expression of important ideas. Prose was considered “… See Morepedestrian” or “walking” text. Herodotus’ history may have been the first pedestrian text to be considered important, respectable. Cicero writes a negative criticism of Herodotus, but it may be that Cicero wanted to exercise his abilities by speaking negatively about something greatly respected. Then, the question of the FIRST novel comes to either “Tales of Gengi” by Madame Kurasaki circa 1000 ad, or else some earlier Roman work that I forget. Now lets zoom ahead to 20th century, and folks like Fitzgerald who dreamed of writing the “great American novel.” … Now fast forward to postmodernism, … initially, there was the notion of some great ORIGINAL such as the Pieta, and then simulacra as kitsch. Later we reach a point where the SIMULACRUM is the important thing and THERE IS NO ORIGINAL (I just saw a quote on that last week, but will have to google the source, perhaps Derrida).

Consider how much all of us depend for information on many snippets found in Google searches. We may more quickly arrive at some “essence” of an idea rather than plodding through all the volumes of, say Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall..”

Consider the amount of learning that comes from PBS and The History Channel and Nova and youtube. We absorb more in a shorter time with less pain and effort but we lose out on the patience, discipline and LINEARITY of plodding through library card catalogs and long texts which lack pictures or illustrations.


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