USC Sumter Professor Publishes Book on Autobiographical Comics
Sumter, SC (08/03/2017) — SUMTER, SC - In a newly published book about autobiographical comics, University of South Carolina Sumter Professor of English Dr. Andrew Kunka provides a complete guide to the history, form and contexts of the genre.
Kunka's "Autobiographical Comics" helps readers explore the increasingly popular genre of graphic life writing in an accessible and easy-to-navigate format. The book, published by Bloomsbury, covers such topics as: the history and rise of autobiographical comics; cultural contexts; key texts; and important theoretical and critical approaches to autobiographical comics.
"Autobiographical Comics" includes a glossary of critical terms, annotated guides to further reading and online resources and discussion questions to help students and readers develop their understanding of the genre and pursue independent study.
According to Kunka, "The book can be used by students and researchers as an introduction to the genre of autobiography as it functions in comics and graphic novels. The history covers the genre from some of its earliest appearances in the comics medium to its central role in the medium today. The book addresses key issues in autobiography as well as providing tools for analysis. It also discusses some key works in the genre to show how some of these analytical tools can be applied. If a teacher wanted to offer a class in autobiographical comics, this could serve as a good foundational text through which the class could be organized."
Inspired by other autobiographical works such as Art Spiegelman's Maus, Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, and Alison Bechdel's Fun Home, Kunka wanted to look at how we got to this place where autobiographical comics have become so popular and important to the comics medium.
"The academic field of Comics Studies has been growing tremendously in the past 10-15 years or so, and I thought a book like this could make a useful contribution to the discussions about autobiography that are currently occurring in this field," Kunka said.
Although "Autobiographical Comics" is his first solo-written book, Kunka co-edited a collection of essays on the British author May Sinclair in 2006 and has published several essays about comics and graphic novels in the last ten years. Kunka invested a little more than two years researching and writing the book. As part of his research, Kunka traveled to libraries at Ohio State University and Michigan State University to study in their comics collection. In addition to the research, he has read autobiographical comics for decades and has been teaching them for the last ten years.
"I have been a lifelong comic reader. I can't remember the first comic I read, but I basically learned to read on comics," Kunka said. "When I was in college back in the mid-1980s, comics were being recognized as having literary merit, especially following the publication of Maus and Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons's Watchmen. Many of my teachers were starting to use them in their English classes alongside more canonical works of literature. So, I was in a good position to witness this growth in public acceptance of comics as having artistic value.
However, while in graduate school and preparing to write my dissertation, I followed a more conventional route by focusing on modern British literature, but I maintained my interest in comics. Then, over the last fifteen years or so, I noticed an increase in the attention comics received from academic scholars, especially in literature. The academic field of Comics Studies was growing tremendously, and so I started getting involved in attending conferences and writing essays in that field. I met other scholars who had similar experiences to mine: lifelong comics readers who did their graduate work and early research on more canonical areas of literature, but later found their true passion in Comics Studies. I'm really happy to now be a part of that world and to be making contributions to it."
Kunka has taught courses on graphic novels, detective fiction, English and postmodern British literature at the University of South Carolina Sumter for 16 years. His other research interests include graphic novels, First World War literature, 19th and 20th century British novels, popular culture and film, especially film noir, war movies and horror films.
In 2009, he and several friends created the popular Twitter feed @FakeAPStylebook, which parodies grammar rules and journalistic practices. The popularity of the feed led to the publication of "Write More Good: An Absolutely Phony Guide to Writing," published by Three Rivers Press in 2011. "Write More Good" received positive reviews from The New Yorker, Library Journal, Kirkus Review and many major newspapers.
Kunka currently serves as the Division Chair for Arts and Letters and Humanities, Social Sciences and Education at USC Sumter. He and his wife, Jennifer, live in Florence, South Carolina.