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Hybrid heroes and graphic posthumanity: Comics as a media technology for critical posthumanism

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Critical posthumanism analyses tensions within traditional accounts of human ontology and epistemology. The modes by which we recognize humanity are often founded on hierarchical binaries of self and other. These binaries concomitantly inflect disciplinary boundaries of humanities scholarship. While recent advances in biotechnology have destabilized the boundaries of the human subject, the humanities appear ossified in their categories of human forms. How can work in the humanities reflect ‘the crisis in humanism’, while offering different optics for engaging the posthuman world? Comics provide an ideal media technology for posthuman knowledge production. The knowledge that each panel of a comic produces is contingent upon non-linear navigation between text and image and panel presentation. Panels and gutters operate as an assemblage, in networks of patterns, resonances and repetitions. Jeff Lemire’s Sweet Tooth (2009–present) mobilizes hybrid modes of knowledge production around an additional hybridity: the hybrid human/non-human protagonist. In compelling the reader to identify with an inhuman subject, this work exploits the dynamic tension of the form and renders tensions within humanity itself graphically explicit.

Keywords: Jeff Lemire; Sweet Tooth; comics; cyborg; hybridity; posthuman

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of California

Publication date: December 1, 2012

More about this publication?
  • Studies in Comics aims to describe the nature of comics, to identify the medium as a distinct art form, and to address the medium's formal properties. The emerging field of comics studies is a model for interdisciplinary research and in this spirit this journal welcomes all approaches. This journal is international in scope and provides an inclusive space in which researchers from all backgrounds can present new thinking on comics to a global audience. The journal will promote the close analysis of the comics page/text using a variety of methodologies. Its specific goal, however, is to expand the relationship between comics and theory and to articulate a "theory of comics". The journal also includes reviews of new comics, criticism, and exhibitions, and a dedicated online space for cutting-edge and emergent creative work.

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