Masters Research

The Sequential Aesthetic: Contemporary Aesthetic Theory as Applied to Sequential Art


The Sequential Aesthetic focuses on the aesthetic concerns pertaining to comic books, comic strips, and graphic novels, both in and of themselves, and as they relate to the overall artworld.

Beginning with an in-depth discussion of the nature of the comics form, Part One of the text investigates those elements that are definitive of comics (sequential juxtaposition), and those that are merely conventional (narration, the interrelation of word and image, etc.). These defining and conventional elements are then used to offer insight into forms on the aesthetic periphery of comics, from the Bayeux Tapestry to single-panel cartoons.

Having established the basic nature of comics, the second half of the text seeks to answer the two questions critical to any emerging art form: (1) does it fulfill the requirements of “art”, and (2) if so, does it do so in a unique manner? Comprehensive in scope, Part Two discusses the comics form with relation to each of the four prevailing schools of aesthetic thought: mimeticism, expressionism, institutionalism, and functionalism. Structured modularly, the text proceeds to investigate comics in light of such philosophical debates as possible worlds theory, suspension of disbelief, gesturalism, arousalism, institutional theory, and the type/token distinction.

Ultimately, the text serves dual purposes: to provide insight into the comics form through contemporary aesthetics, and to provide insight into aesthetic theory through the medium of comics. Wide in scope, and highly readable, The Sequential Aesthetic provides readers with the rigor, breadth, and depth needed to understand and discuss the comics form, and the aesthetic issues that relate to it.

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