Getting Outside the Box: Videographic Criticism and Comics Studies

Curator's Note

Now ending its fourth year of publication, [in]Transition and Videographic Criticism has come a long way since Chris Keathley, Catherine Grant, Jason Mittell, Avi Santo, Christine Becker and I started planning an openly peer reviewed journal in mid-2013. We’ve published special issues, spearheaded efforts to make the methodology accessible to students and colleagues, and traveled the world preaching the gospel to assist in legitimizing this new form of scholarship. Yet, one of the obstacles I see on the horizon is a certain level of stagnation in the practice. I worry that the method seems to keep drawing the same scholarly Usual Suspects and we’ve been circling the same canon of texts and filmmakers for too long (this is particularly an issue in more “popular” venues. Every time I see a video focused on Wes Anderson or Stanley Kubrick, a small part of my soul dies (and this is coming from someone who has made videos on Kubrick).

And yet, I believe there is hope in our reluctance to put rigid definitions on what “counts” as Videographic Criticism. Most scholars practicing and theorizing the form are cautious to say what - precisely - it should be. Should it only be an end product of scholarship or can it be a tool used on a journey of intellectual discovery? Tiago Baptista, in his recent Ph.D. dissertation, writes a definition that “refuses any normative understanding of the form, which would negate its fertile diversity,” echoing what Chris, Catherine, and I said on an episode of Aca-Media. In order to embrace this ambiguity, [in]Transition recently put out a CFP for an issue focused entirely on audiography. Recently, I came across a video focused on the comic book Alien: Dead Orbit (2017) by Hassan OtsmaneElhaou. Keep in mind, this is a video focused on analyzing a “still” form of media (we tend to think of Videographic Criticism as involving moving images). Yet, Hassan’s use of animation to scan the page and attempt to capture the experience of reading a comic book and how that process creates suspense and horror is extremely effective. While I might quibble about scholarly rigor, “Tension & Horror in Comics” struck me as a productive starting point to think about how we can bridge Videographic Criticism to another subject dear to my heart: Comics Studies. In short - let’s continue to explore the space. 

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