Chris Ware Gets the Scholarly Treatment | Bleader

Chris Ware Gets the Scholarly Treatment


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The University Press of Mississippi has recently released The Comics of Chris Ware: Drawing Is a Way of Thinking, billed as a "valuable reference for scholars and teachers of Ware's works, constituting an essential volume in any library of comics scholarship."

For sure. The book contains such chapters as "The Limits of Realism: Alternative Comics and Middlebrow Aesthetics in the Anthologies of Chris Ware" and "Masked Fathers: Jimmy Corrigan and the Superheroic Legacy."

What the self-effacing Ware might think of this treatment can be found in this passage from the chapter called "Chris Ware's Failures" by editor David M. Ball:

"Why bother taking the time to read this? Aren't there better things you could be spending your money on? Isn't there something worthwhile you could be doing right now? This is the immediate reaction we might expect from Chris Ware at the thought of a critical volume of essays devoted to his work. Indeed, he had much the same reaction when first informed about the 2007 Modern Language Association roundtable on his comics that served as the origin of this present collection: 'I must say, I'm not sure whether to be pleased or terrified that my stuff would fall under the scrutiny of people who are clearly educated enough to know better. I'd imagine that your roundtable will quickly dissolve into topics of much more pressing interest, or that you'll at least be able to adjourn early for a place in line at lunch, etc.'"

Meanwhile, passages such as the following in a different chapter almost make my brain hurt:

"Ware's phrase 'frozen life' suggests an analogous fragmentation, a necessary episodic moment that can be observed in and of itself, yet also placed in a temporal continuum. As I will argue, Ware manipulates this relationship in complex ways that map other concepts—the relationship of the aesthetic to the vernacular, melancholy to pleasure, solitude to belonging, and history to the present—onto the formal structure of comics and the slideshow. In so doing, Ware's comics and slideshow emphasize the collective visions, hopes, and dreams embedded in fragmented everyday life. For Ware, architecture is analagous to comics. This is made clear in The ACME Novelty Datebook, where Ware quotes Goethe's claim that 'architecture is frozen music' and then adds his own thought that 'this is, I think, the aesthetic key to the development of cartoons as an art form.' Decaying and dilapidated architecture resonates as loss, as evidence of the irreversible passage of time, yet architectural ruins emanate past grandeur. Ware's comics, then, focus on ruins and the melancholy they elicit in an attempt to render the irreversible passage of time into an aesthetic object. In both 'Building Stories' and Lost Buildings, melancholy is remade into the imagination of the ruin as whole through an engagement with the built environment."