Computing Literary Surplus Value: Alan Moore and the Density of the Comic Book as Graphic Novel

A. Dunst, R. Hartel, Anglia 139 (2021) 195–223.

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Journal Article | Published | English
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Abstract
<jats:title>Abstract</jats:title> <jats:p>The term graphic novel has increasingly functioned as a catalyst for understanding comic books as an emergent literary genre. This article focuses on one specific element within this historical process: the claim, made by artists such as Alan Moore, that graphic novels are characterized by greater formal complexity, or density, than serial comics. These claims are evaluated by combining computational text and image recognition of a corpus of 131 graphic narratives with sociological metadata on production and circulation. The results show that Moore’s own book-length comics, in particular <jats:italic>Watchmen</jats:italic> and <jats:italic>V for Vendetta</jats:italic>, rank among the densest graphic narratives in the sample in both their visual and textual content. Graphic memoirs, in contrast, only show an increase in textual complexity. With Pierre Bourdieu, the article understands complexity as a social and aesthetic strategy that aims at increasing the cultural capital of comics creators. At the same time, the article contextualizes computational results against the background of a changing marketplace for comics, in particular the decline of serial comics, the shift towards digital printing, and increased access to book distribution. This analysis shows that graphic narratives pursue both literary and popular aesthetic strategies, challenging Bourdieu’s account of a clear opposition between profit and prestige in cultural production.</jats:p>
Publishing Year
Journal Title
Anglia
Volume
139
Issue
1
Page
195-223
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Dunst A, Hartel R. Computing Literary Surplus Value: Alan Moore and the Density of the Comic Book as Graphic Novel. Anglia. 2021;139(1):195-223. doi:10.1515/ang-2021-0010
Dunst, A., & Hartel, R. (2021). Computing Literary Surplus Value: Alan Moore and the Density of the Comic Book as Graphic Novel. Anglia, 139(1), 195–223. https://doi.org/10.1515/ang-2021-0010
@article{Dunst_Hartel_2021, title={Computing Literary Surplus Value: Alan Moore and the Density of the Comic Book as Graphic Novel}, volume={139}, DOI={10.1515/ang-2021-0010}, number={1}, journal={Anglia}, author={Dunst, Alexander and Hartel, Rita}, year={2021}, pages={195–223} }
Dunst, Alexander, and Rita Hartel. “Computing Literary Surplus Value: Alan Moore and the Density of the Comic Book as Graphic Novel.” Anglia 139, no. 1 (2021): 195–223. https://doi.org/10.1515/ang-2021-0010.
A. Dunst and R. Hartel, “Computing Literary Surplus Value: Alan Moore and the Density of the Comic Book as Graphic Novel,” Anglia, vol. 139, no. 1, pp. 195–223, 2021.
Dunst, Alexander, and Rita Hartel. “Computing Literary Surplus Value: Alan Moore and the Density of the Comic Book as Graphic Novel.” Anglia, vol. 139, no. 1, 2021, pp. 195–223, doi:10.1515/ang-2021-0010.

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