What follows is an interview by Samara Michaelson.
A few months ago, I asked scholars John Gibson, Magdalena Ostas, and Hannah Kim to have a conversation with me about art and literature. Each of us brought a different perspective to the conversation. We discussed the difference between artistic and philosophical or historical modes of knowledge production, how art engenders or generates meaning, and the relationship between meaning, sense, and “aboutness” in the experience of art.
After sending along a list of questions over email, the four of us met over video and spoke together for an hour and half – and could have talked even longer. Below is an edited version of this conversation, which contains some disagreement, some consensus, and above all, inevitably, more questions than answers.
What follows is a roundtable discussion of the new book Philosophy of Comics written by Sam Cowling and Wesley Cray.
To do philosophy of comics is to engage with everything from philosophical aesthetics to cognitive science, from moral philosophy to the history of mass art, and from complex debates in metaphysics to nuanced issues in the ethics of representation. It’s in this spirit that we wrote Philosophy of Comics: An Introduction (Bloomsbury, 2022), and it’s in that same spirit that we’ve looked forward to engaging with the range of philosophers, comics scholars, and artists who graciously agreed to collaboratively engage in this roundtable. (Enormous thanks are also due to Matt Strohl for pulling this roundtable together.)
First, a lightning quick overview of our book! Our goal is not to explore philosophy through comics—that is, using the medium as a lens through which to tackle perennial philosophical questions—but instead to explore, expand, and fortify the growing field of philosophy of comics: that is, philosophical examination of the medium itself, as well as its relations to other social and artistic phenomena. For that reason, the book covers a lot of ground, ranging from social questions (e.g., the ethics of comics pornography, the norms of re-coloring) to artistic questions (e.g., how to approach the relation between comics and literature or the aesthetic evaluation of comics adaptations) to ontological questions (e.g., what kinds of artifacts comics are, what kinds of entities fictional characters are) and more. Our hope is that philosophers will find interest in the investigations into comics, and that comics creators, scholars, and fans alike will find interest in the philosophical explorations.
Editor’s Note: It’s been a little quieter around here than usual, sorry about that! Let’s get back to it. Up first in 2023…
Thanks to our readers for another great year with us. As we’ve done before, we wanted to dedicate a post to 2022’s most-viewed pieces. Scroll through to make sure you haven’t missed something big. (And check out our Top 5 of previous years: 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020, and 2021.)
What follows is a guest essay by Elizabeth Scarbrough.
The loudest voices on the internet have had the same response to Lizzo playing James Madison’s crystal flute and Kim Kardashian wearing Marilyn Monroe’s dress: unbridled outrage. How dare she (Lizzo/Kardashian) desecrate a piece of our country’s cultural heritage! Those are precious, irreplaceable items! How will we ever recover!
What follows is a guest post by G. M. Trujillo, Jr.
Jason Allen recently ignited a firestorm of controversy by winning first place in the Colorado State Fair’s digital art competition. His work, Théâtre D’opéra Spatial, is undeniably beautiful. Its color palette and composition evoke drama. Expressive brush strokes prove care for each element. And the subject—women staring out onto the countryside from a vaguely European but suggestively futuristic ballroom—invites interpretation. Maybe it is a comment on being “kept women”, the anonymous ladies secluded from nature and politics in their artificial home. Or maybe the painting is a comment on class, the wealthy women in the ballroom looking out at rustic people. But Théâtre D’opéra Spatial is a digital painting generated by AI.
The advent of sound recording has made audiences experience music differently than audiences did for all of history before that. This may sound like a grandiose overstatement, but it’s true. For the last 75 years, popular music listeners have tended to think of songs as belonging to particular recording artists and represented canonically by a particular recording. We think of that as the original recording, and every version after that by anyone else is a cover.
My apologies to chance for calling it necessity. My apologies to necessity if I’m mistaken, after all. Please, don’t be angry, happiness, that I take you as my due. May my dead be patient with the way my memories fade. My apologies to time for all the world I overlook each second. My apologies to past loves for thinking that the latest is the first. Forgive me, distant wars, for bringing flowers home. Forgive me, open wounds, for pricking my finger. I apologize for my record of minuets to those who cry from the depths. I apologize to those who wait in railway stations for being asleep today at five a.m. Pardon me, hounded hope, for laughing from time to time. Pardon me, deserts, that I don’t rush to you bearing a spoonful of water. And you, falcon, unchanging year after year, always in the same cage, your gaze always fixed on the same point in space, forgive me, even if it turns out you were stuffed. My apologies to the felled tree for the table’s four legs. My apologies to great questions for small answers. Truth, please don’t pay me much attention. Dignity, please be magnanimous. Bear with me, O mystery of existence, as I pluck the occasional thread from your train. Soul, don’t take offense that I’ve only got you now and then. My apologies to everything that I can’t be everywhere at once. My apologies to everyone that I can’t be each woman and each man. I know I won’t be justified as long as I live, since I myself stand in my own way. Don’t bear me ill will, speech, that I borrow weighty words, then labor heavily so that they may seem light.
Warning: This interview contains explicit language, including a homophobic slur.
Kendrick Lamar has established himself as an artist of the highest degree. His work centers Black American experiences and life, presenting them in ways that are loving, sympathetic, harsh, shocking, and beautiful. His rap has been widely lauded for its perspective as well as for its musicality and spoken word artistry, and he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his 2017 album, Damn.
But his newest offering, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers, has been met with mixed responses. Many listeners find it an impressive and fitting extension of his oeuvre, while others have criticized it for expressing problematic views about trans and queer individuals. Here, five scholars from a variety of disciplines examine the album through their own academic, art critical, and personal lenses.
What follows is an essay by Aaron Richardson (Simon Fraser University).
One part of the internet is invisible to the sighted, but keenly visible to the blind: alt text. Short for “alternative text,” alt text improves accessibility for blind readers by describing an image textually. That text appears in the code, which can then be read to visually impaired users through a piece of technology called a screen reader. But this text is likely to remain completely hidden to sighted users, except for the relative few involved in coding and composing.