About the GNN

Research Network for the Study of Graphic Narratives in a Global Context

The formation of the Graphic Narratives Network in early 2017 built on work in visual storytelling that several MSU colleagues were pursuing in individual research projects and integrating into their undergraduate and graduate courses. The GNN enables an interdisciplinary group of scholars to work collaboratively on topics related to graphic narration in its various forms: comics, graphic novels, photo-essays, animation, and film. These visual modes of storytelling are inherently multilingual, as they are not bound to one ‘national’ language. In fact, the exploration of graphic narratives also reaches beyond the bounds of language per se, connecting to broader areas of visual studies, text and image studies, film studies, etc. The thematic focus that guides the work of the GNN is “Visualizing Trauma, Writing History,” which investigates how history and trauma are increasingly negotiated in the space between word and image. As trauma often invokes realms of human experience that transcend the limits of language, visual forms combined with narratives open up new ways to represent trauma and move toward a collective understanding of individual experience. The hybrid form of graphic narratives enables heterogeneous presentations of large-scale experiences of violence, displacement, and loss. Establishing a cross-cultural network allows faculty to respond as engaged scholars to methodological, aesthetic, epistemological, and ethical challenges fundamental to writing history and visualizing trauma in both the past and the present.

The establishment of the Graphic Narratives Network at Michigan State was enabled by a generous College of Arts and Letters (CAL) Collaboration Grant. From the beginning, the GNN has functioned both as a receptacle for individual and group projects already underway, and as an incubator for new ideas and new collaborations. While the initial formation of the GNN was driven by research questions, the power of visual storytelling also sparks many colleagues’ interest in the pedagogical potential of graphic narratives. Watch this website for updates on group members’ research and pedagogical projects alike.


The Comic Art Collection at MSU

The GNN takes pride in the unique resource offered by the MSU Libraries’ Comic Art Collection. With more than 300,000 comic books, and significant holdings of proof sheets, scrapbooks, memorabilia, and the scholarly literature on comic art, the Collection is recognized as the largest and most comprehensive of its kind in the entire world. Its European and Latin American holdings are the best in North America, and offer endless research opportunities for resident and visiting scholars and students. The GNN highlights MSU’s world-class Comic Art Collection to promote both accessibility to and research on graphic narratives as a salient lens through which contemporary cultures and interdependent global realities must be understood.

Randy Scott presenting on the Comic Art Collection at MSU
Randy Scott, assistant head of special collections, recounting the history of the Comic Art Collection.