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For my final paper, I'm tentatively thinking of exploring the concept of the mundane in "Jimmy Corrigan", "Fun Home", and a Czech graphic novel called "Alois Nebel." The Czechs have a word, vsĕdnost, that basically translates as "everyday-ness;" appreciating and reveling in the small, the seemingly boring, and the routine. I find this a fascinating and transformative concept, and I want to explore how Czech graphic novels respond and react to this way of life as opposed to American graphic novels. I would incorporate a Czech culture narrative as well, to provide some context to my paper, and discuss how folktales and one or two other literary works (maybe "Too Loud a Solitude" and another) embrace vsĕdnost.

In Jimmy Corrigan, there was an almost obsessive interposition of fantasy and reality. Czech culture and literature is both similar and different. The objective is to allow oneself to not be subsumed by the banality of everyday life and appreciating every action as meaningful, whether it is good or bad. Fantasy and the surreal are absolutely important aspects of Czech culture, but it is incorporated as part of the everyday-ness.

            A big obstacle I'm already running into is actually getting my hands on "Alois Nebel." The graphic novel is in three parts, and only the first part ("Bílý Potok," meaning "white stream") is translated into English. I'd like to find both, so I can at least use the drawings from the second two parts to add to my conceptualization of everyday-ness in Czech graphic novels and better contrast it with American graphic novels. So far I've requested the entirety of the graphic novel in Czech and the first part of the American translation through IDS, but only three libraries worldwide have it. I think that I can get it shipped from a store in Prague, but it depends on how long it will take to arrive.

            The second idea I had for a final paper was looking at graffiti in graphic novels and also discussing the concept of graffiti as a graphic narrative itself. Going off of McCloud's assertions that practically any art medium, including stained glass windows and ancient cave drawings, I would extend this to incorporate graffiti art. I wouldn't limit my scope to American phenomenon, as there is quite intricate graffiti art in Berlin and Athens. I would explore why it is so useful and communicative a medium, and try to uncover what different narratives are presented in various types of graffiti.

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  1. Unknown User (jrm21)

    I think you have a very solid idea in the the comparison between the Czech and American graphic novels and how they utilize "everday-ness" in their comics, but I think you could make it even stronger by incorporating a third culture - perhaps if you find that Czech and American stand at opposite ends of the spectrum you could find a middle ground. There are a lot of Japanese comics you could probably get on IDS, and Alan Moore the author of Watchmen is actually British.

    In regards to the second idea, I'm not sure what comics you would use. Aside from Watchmen which has a plethora of graffiti, I don't recall it being very prominent in any of the other comics we've read as of yet. I definitely see, though, how you could use Watchmen in the essay - asking why the Knot-Tops choose the graffiti medium as opposed to something else. Looking at what qualities are associated with it, and like your frist topic, exploring what it means across cultures.

  2. Unknown User (mvm1)

    I like where you're going with this and I came up with a few suggestions/areas to turn to in case you have trouble meeting a page requirement or feel you've exhausted the main topic.  Since you discussed a Czech graphic novel, I immediately thought of Czech New Wave film.  It was a movement that was assimilated by American films that focused on the individual, prominently through close ups of character's faces.  My interpretation is they did that to analyze the humanity in film.  I think there's a connection to be made between the graphic novel celebrating the mundane and film focusing on the humanity of characters.  It may be the way the Czechs view humanity in art or just an odd coincedence.  If you consider this, you can compare Czech and American culture/focus in art.

    Another idea that came to mind would be to use Watchmen or other mainstream super hero comics that are the antithesis of mundane as part of your argument.  You might want to focus on why we are so intruged by super humans in bright costumes fighting in the clouds, rather than explore similar issue in our reality.  Concrete is interesting because it has the super human aspects but is a pretty mundane tale.

    As for graffiti, I'm not sure which comics you could use, but I think Maus has Nazi propaganda via graffiti somewhere in the text.  Aside from that, you'd have to do search the web for specific examples, but I think the argument can definitely be made.  There's a graphic novel about the Berlin Wall.  I'm not sure the name of it, but it probably relates to your idea.

  3. These both are really fascinating topics, but to me it looks as though your heart is in the first one -- true?  So just to keep things manageable I'll focus upon that.... It's getting late in the evening & your project takes me into very deep water, indeed; unfortunately I'm not familiar with the Jaroslave Rudis work you reference and so must spout w/o hindrance of knowledge.  The first thing I thought when reading about vsednost is its seeming relation to Heidegger's conception of Dassein, which you can read about here and more extensively here. Doing a bit of poking about, it appears that Heidegger's early work The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude contains a lengthy discussion of boredom centered upon the example of waiting for a train.  Hmmm...!  Is this something self-conscious in Rudis's text?  This brings us to the question of how burly you want your project to be; have you had a course in critical theory or philosophy?  I'm trying to determine how theory-driven your motivations are.  Because I don't want to minimize your excellent connection to Jimmy Corrigan, either, not to mention a whole oeuvre of work celebrating the poetics of everydayness.  Richard Linklater's my favorite.... I have trouble thinking of comics equivalents.  Harvey Pekar?  Maybe Daniel Clowes' Ghost World?  Another student may be doing an essay on Charles M. Schulz, whose work is sort of comparable.  As to the quotidian vibe described, do you see this as something unconsciously devolved down to the schlemiel, or is there something more politcal/resistent to the everydayness -- what Michel De Certau calls "tactics" in The Practice of Everyday Life?  I think you might be interested in an essay by Henri Lefevbre entitled "The Everyday and Everydayness," and available electronically via Milne Library.

    Wow, this is getting pretty name-droppy.... I think this is a sign that I've begun researching & writing your paper because it's so interesting to me!  To put things succinctly: cool topic, maybe ditch the Bechdel novel in favor of another work, and try to expand your vocabulary for theorizing the everyday.