The Universal Language of the Graphic Novel

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The Universal Language of the Graphic Novel

April 21, 2016

On April 12, Sweet Briar College and the Paris Center welcomed Jean-Luc Fromental, scriptwriter and director of the collection Denoël Graphic, and Marcelino Truong, illustrator, author, and painter, to speak about graphic novels. The discussion centered around the accessibility of this literary form, its capacity to create a universal, visual language, and how the graphic novel might allow disparate cultures and ideas to be understood by a larger, global audience.

The evening began with with Fromental’s defining of the graphic novel, a concept born in the States in the 60s, developing from the comic books of specifically adolescent entertainment to subject matter geared towards adults. It was a transition arriving primarily from a change in format, where the large pages of Tintin suddenly became the smaller booklets comparable to holding a novel in hand.

Truong spoke about this understanding of the graphic novel with specific reference to his two works Une si jolie petite guerre and Give Peace a Chance. The genre gave him the liberty to explore his family’s life in the context of the Vietnam War, and the multiple layers which exist in reading a graphic novel, allowing the text to be at once personal and historical, letting two narratives take place alongside one another simultaneously. In presenting a series of images which served as the inspiration for his work, Truong was able to contrast his particular perspective on reality with the artistic propaganda which continues to dominate the discussion of the Vietnam War.

-- Isabelle Eyman

For a short video of the presentation, click here.