Owing to their visual essence and status as a popular, modern medium, comics – newspaper strips, comics magazines and graphic novels – provide valuable insight into the transformation of collective consciousness. This project advances the hypothesis that children in comics are distinctive embodiments of the complex experience of modernity, channeling and tempering modern anxieties and incarnating the freedom denied to adults. In testing this hypothesis, the project constructs the first intercultural history of children in European comics, tracing the changing conceptualizations of child protagonists in popular comics for both children and adults from the mid-19th century to the present. In doing so, it takes key points in European history (such as the world wars) as well as the history of comics (the rise, and fall, of comics magazines for children) into account.
Bringing together a team of doctoral and postdoctoral researchers, the project uses an interdisciplinary methodology combining comics studies and childhood studies while also incorporating specific insights from cultural studies (history of family life, history of public life, history of the body, affect theory and scholarship on the carnivalesque).
This enables the project to analyze the transposition of modern anxieties, conceptualizations of childishness, child-adult power relations, notions of liberty, visualizations of the body, family life, school and public life as well as the presence of affects such as nostalgia and happiness in comics starring children. The project thus seeks to open up a new field of research lying at the intersection of comics studies and childhood studies.