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Non-Narrative Comics 2021 : Call for Papers – CLOSURE: The Kiel University e-Journal for Comics Studies #8 (November 2021) / Thematic Section: »Non-Narrative Comics«


When Sep 15, 2020 - Nov 22, 2020
Where Kiel/Germany
Submission Deadline Nov 22, 2020
Final Version Due Mar 1, 2021
Categories    comics studies   narratology   cultural studies   graphic novels

Call For Papers

Open Section

In the fall of 2021, CLOSURE will once again offer a forum for all facets of comics studies. From literary, cultural, media, social, and image research to the sciences and beyond: the seventh edition of CLOSURE continues our ongoing search for the best and most innovative articles and reviews representing the state of the art in comics research. We welcome detailed close readings as much as comics theory and pioneering approaches to the medium — our open section comprises a diverse range of interdisciplinary studies of all things ›comic‹.

Thematic Section: »Non-Narrative Comics«

What connects two panels, placed side by side? The default answer, more often than not, is ›narrative‹. Scott McCloud, for one, calls for an unravelling of the »Mysteries surrounding the invisible art of comics storytelling.« In issue #8 of Closure, we want to contest this narrative reduction – and uncover a non-narrative art of comics beyond storytelling. We seek articles that investigate how comics subtract narrative, withhold closure, stall storytelling – and theorize the unfamiliar constellations that emerge as a result. »Must Narrative Be Renounced?« (Groensteen) We invite contributors who experimentally answer ›yes‹ to this question and who outline the logical, formal, affective, designed connections that emerge in place of narrative.
Our issue investigates non-narrative comics beyond the diegetic, beyond sequence, towards abstraction. Rather than a sub-genre of comics, non-narrative can be explored as a fundamental formal affordance of the medium, exploiting its basic building blocks: its double view on the sequence and the layout of the panel and the page; its braiding of signs; its uncertain distribution of textual and visual elements; its marks on the page that do not have to coalesce into narrative worlds. This movement »beyond the diegetic and the narrative« (Molotiu) finds prototypical expression in abstract and experimental comics. However, we equally invite articles that locate the possibility of non-narrative in the margins of popular storyworlds and propulsive plots.
We welcome readings that trace the function of panels and signs unmoored from sequential, linear, or episodic modes of storytelling. Such non-narrative potential requires a reconsideration of the form of comics as much as an eye for the materiality of the medium – »the attention to surface, the deemphasis on linear sequence, the move towards abstraction« (Bukatman). Further, our “critical re-thinking of the medium” (Baetens) proposes replacing degrees of narrativity with degrees of abstraction. Which alternative logics are laid bare by a move beyond narrative coherence? Which »coherent mental model« (Kukkonen) do readers infer once story falls by the wayside? Which diagrammatic, abstract, tabular, static, conceptual models accompany our graphic reading, viewing, and knowing? If »the business of living well is, for many, a completely non-narrative project« (Strawson), can we understand the business of viewing comics well as a process of non-narrative form-finding?
Finally, what are the consequences of making non-narrative? Rather than noting the absence of narrativity, the articles should bring out the presence of comics features beyond sequence: the material(ity), colours, lines, sound effects, symbols, design, diagrams, performativities, gestures, the sheer simultaneity of signs that come to the fore once we suspend the question ›what happens next‹. We welcome contributions that think comics beyond narrative norms, and which explore the forms and functions of a new, abstract world in the shell of the old.

Possible topics include but are not limited to:

- Comics as a non-narrative medium
- Locating non-narrative: formal affordance, reading strategy, or genre?
- Non-narrative comics and New Formalism
- Non-narrative form-finding
- »Must Narrative Be Renounced?« (Groensteen)
- Against the graphic ›novel‹: subtracting narrativity
- Flow interrupted: antinarrative hiding »within the folds of narrative« (Baetens)
- Against narrative essentialism: performativity of panel-to-panel transitions
- Comics’ resistance – against representation and narrative closure
- Foregrounding of comics’ materiality
- Functional communication: signs, diagrams, visualisations at the margin of comics
- Towards a non-narrative canon (Lewis Trondheim, Chris Ware, Martin Vaughn-James, Amanda Vahamaki)

Please send your abstract for the open section or the thematic section (~ 3000 chars.) as well as a short bio-bibliographical blurb to until November 22nd, 2020. The contributions (35.000-50.000 chars) are expected until March 1st, 2021. For more information about the e-journal CLOSURE and our previous issues, please visit

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