The Rise of Comics Scholarship: the Role of University Press of Mississippi

Rodolphe Töpffer’s work as reprinted by University Press of Mississippi.



Scholarship often flourishes unexpected and of the way places, tucked in the corner of remote cities and universities. For some reason, St. Louis was the site of the Thomist renaissance and contemporary Hegelian thought has made a home for itself in Halifax, Nova Scotia. During the 1960s San Diego was an unlikely hotbed for Western Marxism (housing as it did Jean Baudrillard, Manfredo Tafuri, and Fredric Jameson, with Herbert Marcuse not too far away).


When the history of comics studies is written great attention will be given to the work of a few editors in Jackson, Mississippi. That’s the hometown of the University Press of Mississippi (UPM), which has been at forefront of publishing scholarly books about comics for nearly two decades. Prior to the 1990s, comics studies as such did not exist, instead there was a scattered and diffuse collection of books published here and there in many different disciplines (art history, media studies, and psychology). The achievement of UPM is not jus that they’ve published many books on comics but that the these books, taken together, have given comics studies a critical mass so that it now forms a coherent discipline, one where scholars can refer to a common set of debates and ideas. (I should add that I’m hardly an unbiased observer here since I’ve co-edited, with Kent Worcester, two books with UPM: Arguing Comics: Literary Masters on a Popular Medium and the forthcoming Comics Studies Reader).

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