Visual Witness, Comics, and Documentary Form
Harvard University Press 2016
New Books in ArtNew Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in Genocide StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Literary StudiesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in SociologyNew Books Network March 14, 2016 Jerry Lembcke and Ellis Jones
In her new book Disaster Drawn: Visual Witness, Comics, and Documentary Form (Harvard UP, 2016), Hillary Chute analyses the documentary power in the comics-form sometimes known as “graphic novels.” Chute is particularly interested in Art Spiegelman’s Maus, Keiji Nakazawa’s I Saw It, and Joe Sacco’s series Palestine, but she also introduces us to the long history of hand-drawn documentation of war-time trauma dating to Goya and Callot.
Chute treats comics as a serious literary form that is especially efficacious for representing the act of witness-to-war and those who witness. It is through the power of graphic illustration combined with the written word–the comics-form–that the otherwise unspeakable atrocities of modern war can be conveyed. The book also serves as a primer to the language of comics–words like “gutter” and “tier”–and the craft of decoding comics as practiced by scholars such as Chute.
In this interview Chute responded to questions about her path into comics as an academic pursuit, her thoughts on the newest trends in documentary comics, and her views from the college classroom on the pedagogy of comics.