Krazy Kat: Comics, Modernism, and Popular Culture
The scenario is simple: cat loves mouse, mouse throws brick at cat, police dog claps mouse in jail. George Herriman’s Krazy Kat, a massy, virtuosic work of modernist comics, builds on the structure of a love triangle a whole world of surreal visual experimentation, linguistic play, social critique, and every possible kind of laughter. Set in a dreamy version of Coconino County, Arizona, Krazy Kat ran in daily newspapers between 1913 and 1944. Its poetry is singular, its invention matchless. How did this run of comics by a working newspaper illustrator born to mixed-race, Creole parents in New Orleans become a touchstone across the cultural spectrum, from avant-garde modernism to ballet to contemporary poetry and sequential art?
In this course, an introduction to the world of Krazy Kat, as well as a broader exploration of the critical and aesthetic power of comics, we’ll read selections from its 31 year run alongside its modernist contexts in art, poetry, music, film, and criticism. The syllabus will also feature contemporary theories of literature, comics, and visuality. How did Herriman invent Krazy Kat’s distinctive style? How does that style relate to the experiments of modernism and popular culture of the early 20th century? What do these comics have to say about race and racialization, especially given the fraught legacy of Herriman’s own relationship to his heritage? What should we make of gender fluidity in these comics? What about love, desire, and violence? How can we understand the intricate worldbuilding of Coconino County with its odd, poetic dialect and its otherworldly depiction of the American southwest? Why have figures ranging from e.e. cummings and Will Eisner to Monica Youn and Chris Ware found Krazy Kat such a generative text? Supplementary materials are likely to include Eyal Amiran, Benjamin, Hillary Chute, Cummings, Sianne Ngai, Gilbert Seldes, Michael Tisserand, Ware, and Youn.
Course ScheduleMonday, 6:30-9:30pm ET
January 25 — February 15, 2021
Please email us to be placed on the waiting list.