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Krazy comics - modernist masterpiece?

by YPU Admin on February 15, 2019, Comments. Tags: American Studies, comics, English, Humanities, and modernism

Introduction

Hey, I’m Stevie, a first year PhD student in English and American Studies at the University of Manchester, and I study comics! More specifically, I study George Herriman’s Krazy Kat (1913-1944), an American comic strip that loosely follows the daily lives of Krazy Kat, Ignatz Mouse (with whom Krazy is in love) and Offissa Pupp (who is in love with Krazy!) as they unfold against the fantastical desertscape of ‘Coconino County’. Krazy wasn’t very popular among most readers, but it drew praise from artists, writers, and intellectuals, including the poet e. e. cummings, the critic Gilbert Seldes, and, purportedly, Pablo Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein, among others! As a result, a number of scholars have linked Krazy to the field of modernism, an early twentieth century art movement that sought to respond to the rapidly-changing modern world. My work focuses on deeply contextualising the strip’s production, content, distribution, and reception to ask where, in the vast field of American modernist production and culture, it is most usefully historicised.

In Depth…

Deciding what to study at university was tricky because I was torn between English literature, sociology, and creative writing. Ultimately, I chose the BA American Literature with Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, which gave me quite a lot of freedom with choosing modules and meant I could combine interdisciplinary American Studies classes with writing workshops. It also gave me the opportunity to spend a year at Occidental College in Los Angeles, where I encountered my first Krazy strip through a brilliant class on comics and graphic literature. In final year, I wrote my dissertation on Krazy and took a fantastic body culture studies module - both left me knowing I wanted to study further, but I spent a few years working to save money and to decide exactly what course I wanted to do – more American studies, something more focused, something to do with my work in education? In September 2017, I joined the MA Gender, Sexuality and Culture at the University of Manchester, a course that indulged my interest in gender and body studies from a philosophical/conceptual perspective, but also let me choose a range of modules from postcolonial literature to transnational radical subcultures. Knowing I wasn’t through with Krazy Kat, I also took a class on modernist studies to help me prepare a PhD proposal, and used my MA dissertation on frontier manhood in ‘Buffalo Bill’s Wild West’ to hone skills and touch on areas of knowledge that I’ll use going forwards: using digital archives and special collections, and learning more about transatlantic entertainment and the cultural meanings of the American West. For me, the most enjoyable thing about the PhD is having the time and freedom to follow my curiosity, which has taken me through digital archives of 1920s Vanity Fair magazines, over 100-year-old maps of Arizona, and into poetry, short stories, art, and comics I’ve never encountered before. There is a huge amount of fascinating work going on in both comics studies and modernist studies that is seeking to draw attention to the myriad things we can learn about history through popular culture; I hope that my work can play a small part in bringing these exciting fields into conversation with one another. In the meantime, what an honour to read and write about Krazy for work!

Going Further…

In Print

Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics is an educational and entertaining introduction to the history and grammar of comics...written as a comic!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Understanding-Comics-Invisible-Scott-McCloud/dp/006097625X

If you want to know more about George Herriman, Krazy Kat, or the American newspaper comic industry in the early c20, check out Michael Tisserand’s brilliant biography Krazy: A Life in Black and White.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Krazy-George-Herriman-Black-White/dp/0061733008/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1548416074&sr=1-1

Online

Comics Grid and ImageTexT are online, open-access journals of comics studies.

https://www.comicsgrid.com/

http://imagetext.english.ufl.edu/

The Modernist Review is the British Association for Modernist Studies’ (BAMS, for short!) postgraduate blog, featuring wide-ranging articles written in an accessible way.

https://modernistreviewcouk.wordpress.com/

The John Rylands Library has a Special Collections blog where you can read more about the research the collections are being used for. I’ve linked below to the main blog, and to a post I wrote about using their ‘Buffalo Bill Scrapbook’ for my MA dissertation.

https://rylandscollections.wordpress.com/

https://rylandscollections.wordpress.com/2018/10/26/from-wild-west-to-west-end-buffalo-bill-scrapbook-and-performances-of-frontier-manhood/

 

City Space in St Louis

by YPU Admin on January 19, 2017, Comments. Tags: American Studies, City Space, Humanities, PhD, Research, St Louis, and UoM

Introduction

I’m Katie Myerscough, a PhD candidate in American Studies. I study part-time and work in Personnel at Marks and Spencer. I’m also a teaching assistant at the University of Manchester where I lead class discussions on American history, African-American literature and culture, and the southern United States. Like all busy students I prioritise my workload to meet my commitments; good time management is an essential skill to have at university and beyond.


How I got here

I went to the University of Oxford as an undergraduate and studied History. I was the first member of my family to go to university. After I finished my degree I tried a few different jobs; I’ve worked in museums, retail, and administration. I travelled around the world for a year and when I returned I started a Masters at the University of Manchester. I loved studying at Manchester, because it’s a very inclusive environment where I felt free to express my ideas and opinions, and I was supported to continue my own independent research into topics which interested me. American Studies is a very varied discipline, where you can study film, literature, politics, history and today’s society. Due to the really vibrant academic community at Manchester I decided to take the plunge and enrol for a PhD.

When I finally finish my PhD I will have a doctorate, which means that I will be Dr Myerscough and I can apply for jobs as a university lecturer and write books and articles about my work. I want to go into education of some sort, as I am fascinated by how people learn and how teachers can support different types of learners. 

In Depth

My PhD is about city space and how it can be used to convey and construct ideas about gender, class, ethnicity and race. The particular city I focus on is St. Louis between 1890 and 1925. This period in American history is loosely described as the Progressive era. Groups of reformers, politicians, business leaders, artists and journalists were worried about the state of the urban environment and the people who lived in them, so set about finding innovative ways to help American cities progress in a positive and healthy way. The progressive programs were interested in housing and schools, but also in the development of mass entertainment, fairs, and festivals.

Progressive policies almost always focused upon helping white Americans. During this time there was a massive amount of discrimination against African-Americans, and I look at how Progressive ideas could work to further that discrimination through segregation of city space.



To fully research St. Louis, the city plans, and Progressive programs created there I’ve visited the city and used the archives in its various libraries and universities. The archives I’ve used are very varied and include newspaper reports, maps, city plans, investigative reports, photographs and posters. Using archives is exciting because they offer a window into what people thought about the space they lived in, and how they tried to shape it.

It’s important to understand what people thought about urban space and how they demonstrated their hopes and fears for the places where they lived. Many of these fears are long-standing and are still around today. For example, why are certain areas of any city seen as dangerous? Why and how has that feeling been generated? Is it because there has been chronic under-investment in that area? Do the people who live there have the same access to schools, hospitals, parks and recreation as others? If not, why not? Asking questions about the city’s past can help understand its present and future.

Going Further

Here are some websites you may want to look at:

http://www.baas.ac.uk/  For the British Association of American Studies: great for resources and opportunities in American Studies in Britain.

http://www.baas.ac.uk/usso/meet-me-at-the-fair-the-native-american-model-school-the-philippine-reservation-and-maintenance-of-the-colour-line-at-st-louiss-worlds-fair/ This is something I wrote for U.S Studies online. This is a great forum for new writing from postgraduates and early career scholars. This piece relates to my work on race and ethnicity at the World’s Fair held in St. Louis in 1904.

http://www.mohistory.org/ This is one of the places in St. Louis where I did my archival research.

http://www.aaihs.org/blog/ For African-American intellectual history and great think pieces concerning contemporary events.