A new exhibit on the second floor of Bostock Library, next to the East Asian Magazine Reading Room, explores the truly global popularity of graphic novels.
Since ancient times, human beings all over the globe have been bringing text and images together to tell stories. The term “graphic novel” connotes a full-length graphic narrative that uses sophisticated artwork to address serious literary themes for mature audiences. Starting in the 1980s, it gained popularity as an alternative to comics in Britain and America. However, this distinction between “lowbrow” comics and “highbrow” graphic novels is not relevant to Europe, Latin America, and Asia, which have long histories of narrative art that appeals to a wide range of audiences in many genres.
In this selection of graphic novels and cartoons from Duke’s collection, you will see retellings of classics and tales of adventure that have gained massive popularity in Japan and China. You will see stories of revolution and bold political movements from Russia, India, South Africa, and Colombia. You will see tales of atrocities, survival, and redemption in Germany and Israel. You will see humor, both lighthearted and political, in Turkey, Portugal and Spain, and everyday life in Korea and Côte d’Ivoire. This variety demonstrates the power of graphic narratives to reflect and lend new visual interpretations to all aspects of the human experience. We welcome you to explore one of the world’s most popular modes of storytelling in the Duke collection.
The exhibit was curated by Katie Odhner, a graduate student in the UNC School of Information and Library Science who is interning this summer with our International and Area Studies department.