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Arguing Comics: Literary Masters on a Popular Medium. Edited by Jeet Heer and Kent Worcester. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2004. 176pp.

Paperback: ISBN-10: 1578066875  ||  ISBN-13: 978-1578066872
Hardcover: ISBN-10: 1578066867  ||  ISBN-13: 978-1578066865

Library of Congress:  ||  Dewey: 741.5/09 22
|| ||

Publisher's Description
   With essays by Ralph Bergengren, e. e. cummings, Umberto Eco, Sidney Fairfield, Manny Farber, Leslie Fiedler, Clement Greenberg, Irving Howe, C. L. R. James, Gershon Legman, Thomas Mann, Annie Russell Marble, Marshall McLuhan, Walter J. Ong, Dorothy Parker, Donald Phelps, Harold Rosenberg, Delmore Schwartz, Gilbert Seldes, Robert Warshow
   When Art Spiegelman's "Maus"--–a two-part graphic novel about the Holocaust–--won a Pulitzer Prize in 1992, comics scholarship grew increasingly popular and notable. The rise of "serious" comics has generated growing levels of interest as scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals continue to explore the history, aesthetics, and semiotics of the comics medium.
   Yet those who write about the comics often assume analysis of the medium didn't begin until the cultural studies movement was underway. "Arguing Comics: Literary Masters on a Popular Medium" brings together nearly two dozen essays by major writers and intellectuals who analyzed, embraced, and even attacked comic strips and comic books in the period between the turn of the century and the 1960s. From e.e. cummings, who championed George Herriman's "Krazy Kat," to Irving Howe, who fretted about Harold Gray's "Little Orphan Annie," this volume shows that comics have provided a key battleground in the culture wars for over a century.
   With substantive essays by Umberto Eco, Marshall McLuhan, Leslie Fiedler, Gilbert Seldes, Dorothy Parker, Irving Howe, Delmore Schwartz, and others, this anthology shows how all of these writers took up comics-related topics as a point of entry into wider debates over modern art, cultural standards, daily life, and mass communications.
   "Arguing Comics" shows how prominent writers from the Jazz Age and the Depression era to the heyday of the New York Intellectuals in the 1950s thought about comics and, by extension, popular culture as a whole.

Introduction ... vii

Part One: Early Twentieth-Century Voices
... 1

Sidney Fairfield - From "The Tyranny of the Pictorial'' ... 4
Annie Russell Marble - From "The Reign of the Spectacular'' ... 7
Ralph Bergengren - From "The Humor of the Colored Supplement'' ... 9
Thomas Mann - Introduction to Frans Masereel, Passionate Journey: A Novel Told in 165 Woodcuts ... 13
Gilbert Seldes - "The Krazy Kat That Walks by Himself'' ... 22
E. E. Cummings - "A Foreword to Krazy'' ... 30
Dorothy Parker - "A Mash Note to Crockett Johnson'' ... 35

Part Two: The New York Intellectuals
... 37
Clement Greenberg - "Steig's Cartoons: Review of All Embarrassed by William Steig'' ... 40
Clement Greenberg - "Limits of Common Sense: Review of Years of Wrath: A Cartoon History, 1931-1945 by David Low'' ... 41
Irving Howe - "Notes on Mass Culture' ... 43
Delmore Schwartz - "Masterpieces as Cartoons'' ... 52
Robert Warshow - "Woofed with Dreams'' ... 63
Robert Warshow - "Paul, the Horror Comics, and Dr. Wertham'' ... 67
Harold Rosenberg - "The Labyrinth of Saul Steinberg'' ... 81
Part Three: The Postwar Mavericks ... 85
Manny Farber - "Comic Strips'' ... 88
Manny Farber -"Comic Strips'' ... 91
Walter J. Ong - "Mickey Mouse and Americanism'' ... 94
Walter J. Ong - "Bogey Sticks for Pogo Men'' ... 99
Marshall McLuhan - From The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man ... 102
Marshall McLuhan - "Comics: Mad Vestibule to TV'' ... 107
Gershon Legman - From Love and Death: A Study in Censorship ... 112
Leslie Fiedler - "The Middle Against Both Ends" ... 122
Donald Phelps - "Over the Cliff'' ... 134
Donald Phelps - "Reprise: 'Love and Death''' ... 138
C. L. R. James - "C. L. R. James on Comic Strips'' ... 142
C. L. R. James - "Letter to Daniel Bell'' ... 144
Umberto Eco - "The Myth of Superman" ... 146

Essayists ... 165
Index ... 171

Reviews / Features

Boxer, Sarah. 2007. "Arguing Comics: Literary Masters on a Popular Medium edited by Jeet Heer and Kent Worcester." The New York Review of Books 54.10: 28.

Spurgeon, Tom. 2005. "A Brief Interview with Jeet Heer and Kent Worcester." The Comics Reporter (June 26). []

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