The History of Graphic Novels as Literary Works

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Graphic novels belong to a wide category of literary works that have no boundaries. In other words, similarly to animated movies, they are not necessarily targeted solely at children or teenagers but also at adults. This little piece of work will aim to present graphic novels as creative rather than childish pieces of literature.

When considering whether a comic or graphic novel is literature, the subject shall be analyzed from a historical point of view. Literature and everything that is understood by the concept of art has common roots. They come from the same impulse that mankind's primitive Paleolithic ancestors pushed forward on the path of evolution. These roots should be sought in the caves inhabited by the first people, where rock paintings began to appear, depicting scenes of hunting and other events relevant to these small communities.

The first literary texts telling the lives of saints were very similar to contemporary graphic novels. A small amount of text that was richly decorated with full-page drawings could be virtually compared to small works of art. Until the spread of printing, it lasted almost unchanged. Comic usually tells a closed story. It is, most often, created in a given language and graphically recorded in accordance with the intention and plan of the illustrator or publisher. Therefore, it meets the conditions to be considered a cultural text, although this applies mainly to graphic novels, not kiosks and newspaper series.

Drawing stories are often accused of having no narrative. It is mistakenly associated with the presence of the written word. And yet the narrator is no one else but a fictitious person or someone talking about the presented events. There is no conditional existence of any text in any definition of literary works. The narrator and the narrative appear when a story occurs.

The comic narrative can be accused of being more film than literary because the author's vision is shown in drawings in black and white and does not allow the reader to use the imagination. However, is it not so with stage directions in the theatrical texts? They often contain accurate information about the appearance, clothing, and behavior of the character and the environment. Also, the lack of dialogue in comics cannot constitute its non-literary character because their presence is also not its determinant. And yet most of the picture stories are full of dialogues.

Graphic novels touch upon very serious matters, for instance, in the case of "Persepolis." Politics is mixed therewith centuries-old tradition and religion used to control people. Teenage boys are changing fanatics ready to give their lives to their homeland in exchange for the prospect of living in paradise, women are forced to wear headscarves, the religious police are circling the streets, etc. The author's view of Iran is from a European point of view. Little Marjane's parents were modern liberals who brought up the girl with respect for completely different ideals than those publicly proclaimed in a religious regime. Satrapi spent almost half of her life outside the borders of her homeland, especially in France, which became a refuge for her after leaving the country due to the increasing persecution in it.

Summing up, the author hopes that by bringing a bit of history and discussing both comics and graphic novels from the perspective of classification as literary works, he managed to defend the statement that they should be treated as creative instead of childish pieces of work. The example of "Persepolis" provides valuable input to serious matters being considered in those works.

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The History of Graphic Novels as Literary Works. (2023, Mar 08). Retrieved June 25, 2024 , from

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