[T]he present and, presumably, the near future are times in which we have to deal now with the lingering problems of a complex of technologies that have yet to realize their speculated potential and, I hasten to add, may never do so as a result of interactions that cannot be foreseen. Moreover, the compromises necessary for reading [comics] on the digital platforms that actually exist may, in fact, impede other kinds of reading that require a level of detail that scaled down, compressed images simply cannot offer.
The most common locution nowadays is to speak of media texts as on the Web, as if it were a mere anywhere upon which a mere anything might be projected but which is in no way dependent upon that anywhere, but I will prefer to speak of [comics] and so-called [webcomics] in particular as in the web [sic] of complex textual inter-relations drawn from and not merely depicting a print milieu whose own observable articulations in what I have so far called a print periodical (sing.) signaled quite clearly [comics’] will be as already are.
It was suggested to me recently that it might be worth while, though I find it rather boring, to say a little something about the nuts and bolts of this blog, the book project I imposed upon it, despite its “limited” manga purview, and how my career as a scholar and on again off again academic has been affected by it, so instead of taking my usual week off before writing the next “intermissive” of [Comics] as Reading, I thought I might take this opportunity to note what has gone well, what has gone not so well, and what has genuinely surprised me over the past few years.
I arrive, then, as close as I can come to a definition of alter-textuality, only to shortly depart hereafter, one in which form itself is susceptible to a number of readings, interpretations which lie not merely in the higher order of exegesis, i.e. the determination of meaning, but also in a lower and therefore more fundamental order where reading determines, provisionally but also necessarily, what a given text is at all. As readings multiply, so too, potentially, do determinations of form, in accordance with any number of overlapping and ever developing logics: social conventions, constraints of differing contexts, idiosyncrasies of reading, material modes–a cacophony of textual conditions none of which is necessary or sufficient but all of which demand greater attention.
A newspaper is a heterogeneous text, filled with reportage, entertainment, etc. of various kinds. For the newspaper, like any print periodical (sing.), is both an historiographic and historical event, meaning it is both partial record of a contemporaneous discourse, so-called current events that with the passage of time become history, as well as participant within that discourse. So too with the comics that appear within newspapers: the mere fact of self-referentiality does not set them apart from media or the world at an aloof, critical distance but may, in fact, be the clearest sign that comics are profoundly embedded in the very milieux they might presumably re-present.
This attempt to draw the “automatic” back into the “conscientious” is necessary if we are to see what is harmful in the distinction between theory and practice Miodrag makes and in the assumptions upon which that distinction is predicated. What both Edwards and McGann (along with the silent Drucker) demonstrate, each one a practically oriented theorist in her/his own way, is that there is a how to perception and how perception translates into understanding (and, perhaps more importantly, how understanding a priori influences perception) is key to loosening the theoretical binds in which we so often find ourselves. Moreover, while Miodrag’s diatribe falls short of exhorting the academy to expel the practitioner barbarians, her call to discipline them—or kindly request that they discipline themselves—is both outrageous and self-defeating. The practical know-how—be it artistic or editorial or writerly or whatever—that [comics] practitioners bring to bear has obvious ramifications for the arcane arts of theoretical speculation.
The legitimacy of the academy (i.e. [comics] as an acceptable object of analysis) and legitimacy in the academy (i.e. departments and institutes devoted to establishing [comic] studies in perpetuity) appear to be the great desideratum and have been for some time. I would argue, though, that what is sought after in these calls to discipline (and publish) is not, in fact, just legitimacy or, more blandly, acceptance of [comics] and their scholarship as something worthwhile (for this is, by now, a fait accompli) but the power and authority to legitimize in one’s own right.