Author

Sarah Jacobs

Date of Award

2011

First Advisor

Joan DelPlato

Second Advisor

Brendan Matthews

Abstract

In this thesis I examine internal and external factors influencing the cultural understanding of different genres of comic books and graphic novels as situated in “high” or “low” culture. I begin by exploring the concept of “cultural legitimacy” and its theoretical underpinnings. In the later chapters I discuss examples of specific works and authors to evaluate similarities within genres and differences between them. I believe that graphic novels published within the genre of “literary comics” can achieve an elite status in mainstream culture inaccessible to the “mainstream” superhero comics, or even underground comics (out of which the literary genre evolved). This is largely due to the subject matter and tone in which each of these genres tend to be written. Work has been done on the stigma surrounding comics, but my project differs in that it also questions what certain comics have done differently to escape that stigma, and whether the recent rise in awareness of graphic novels indicates a change in perception of comics as a whole.

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