Kuipers Publishes on Graphic Literature as the Next Paradigm Genre

Posted on 5/10/2012 5:11:08 PM

Christopher Kuipers, Department of English, has published an article entitled “The New Normal of Literariness: Graphic Literature as the Next Paradigm Genre” in the most recent issue of Studies in Comics.

The article argues that graphic literature (comics and graphic novels) represents a new paradigm in literary history. It stems from a presentation entitled “Epic, Roman, Graphic Novel: Three Royal Genres,” delivered in November 2011 at the first International Conference on Comics and Graphic Novels, University of Alcalá, Madrid, Spain. This presentation was supported by a University Senate Research Committee grant for international travel.


I attempt to place graphic literature in a long, polysystemic view of the culturally ascendant genres in global literary history. Linked to the structuralist ‘dominant,’ Ireneusz Opacki’s concept of the gatunek koronny/ “royal genre” suggests that, at different times, certain literary genres dominate their historical genre system, exerting sway over other contemporary genres. I would argue that in “the visual turn” the next iteration of “normal literature” will be irrevocably marked by a new royal genre, namely graphic literature. Comparatively, the scale of this change is on the lines of two other great royal genres of the past: the epic for the classical period, and the novel for modernity. Retranslating Opacki’s gatunek koronny and supplementing Hardt and Negri’s concepts of Empire and Multitude, I elaborate a new genre system terminology: “king genre” (epic), “empire/queen genre” (novel), and “paradigm genre” (graphic literature). In addition to their sequential differences, I draw out salient parallels between the three genre systems, including their epigenesis (unpredictable emergence), their polygenesis (independent emergence in multiple locations), close interrelationships with their contemporary technologies of media, and their thematic connections to empires and the global condition of war. Graphic literature has a particular affinity to nonfiction, particularly life writing, and, although still melded to the ongoing print paradigm, will interface well with new media. Since all three genre systems have developed a range of short and long forms, the term “graphic novel” will be an awkward term going forward.