Dr Sarah Dillon to give Plenary Address at ‘Graphic Reading’ Symposium, University of Birmingham

Dr Sarah Dillon is to give a Plenary Address at a symposium on Graphic Reading at the University of Birmingham on Friday 19th May. Dr Dillon will be delivering a paper entitled ‘The Ungrammatical Knife: A Feminist Rereading of Ghost Dance‘ which will present material extracted from a chapter of her book, Queer Intimacies: Deconstruction, Feminism, Film, forthcoming with Edinburgh University Press in 2018.


Symposium Description: Perhaps no other word in our critical vocabularies is changing as quickly as “reading”. As critics such as Franco Moretti, Stephen Best, Sharon Marcus, and Heather Love offer highly visible ways of approaching the digital through distant reading and surface reading, they have limited their focus to the textual. The purpose of this conference is to take reading out of its literary comfort zone and to move away from the traditional parameters of fiction, poetry, and prose. Comics, film, the book, book art, maps, sculpture, the digital, and, often, the archive, comprise of words and images that require us to learn new or unfamiliar reading practices. We invite participants in Graphic Reading to interrogate and explore these practices, cutting across visual, material, cultural, and literary contexts to follow their global intricacies and interdisciplinary implications.

Critical attention is increasingly turning to the graphic but the graphic itself has long been treated as a peripheral, “low” or crude form of art. Less and less of a guilty pleasure, critics are finding that the unconventional, controversial, and popular aesthetics that comics, pulp genres, films, and games often entertain make for nothing like easy reading. The presence of pleasure in this work – whether overt or insidious – gives trouble to its readers. We therefore want to consider how the naïve, the confessional, the indecent, the violent, the gratuitous, and the explicit function in both familiar and less established mediums. In short, what happens when we read the graphic?