Emergence of the Comic Strip in the 19th Century, April 9 at the Library of Congress

Library of Congress

Swann Foundation Fellow Joshua Abraham Kopin will give an illustrated lecture at the Library of Congress discussing the cultural and technological contexts surrounding the rise of the comic strip in late nineteenth century America.  

Kopin will present “Comics in Nineteenth Century Time and Space” at noon on Tuesday, April 9, West Dining Room on the sixth floor of the Library’s James Madison Building, 101 Independence Avenue  S.E., Washington, D.C. The lecture is free and open to the public. Tickets are not needed. 

To better understand comics of the present, it is necessary to better understand its nineteenth-century form. As it split off from caricature and cartoon, the late nineteenth-century comic strip joined many new technologies of time and space. These changes included advances in printing, early attempts to capture motion in film, and early sound recording, all developments that were rapidly accelerating society and culture. As part of this cultural environment, the comic strip thus represents an insight into the period’s changing temporal and spatial theories of knowledge. 

By reframing the comic strip in terms of the cultural and technological history of the nineteenth-century United States, Kopin contends that the art form is a uniquely nineteenth-century object that has retained many of the artifacts of its development as it has evolved. The talk will focus on one particular example from R.F. Outcault’s Hogan’s Alley,placing this 19th century comic strip in a technological lineage, aligned with caricature, cinema, color printing and the gramophone, among others.

Joshua Kopin is a PhD candidate in American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. He has works published or forthcoming in American Literature and Inks, as well as an entry in the upcoming Keywords for Comics Studies volume. He is a member at large on the board of the International Comic Arts Forum and the president of the Graduate Student Caucus of the Comic Studies Society.

This presentation, sponsored by the Swann Foundation and the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division, is part of the foundation’s continuing activities to support the study, interpretation, preservation and appreciation of original works of humorous and satiric art by graphic artists from around the world.