Strömberg – University of Copenhagen

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Fredrik Strömberg: The System of Comics? – Groensteen’s theories put to the test

In the French-speaking parts of the world, semiotics has long been the hottest discipline when it comes to analysing comics. From theoreticians such as Eco (1972), Fresnault-Deruelle (1977), Peeters (1991) and Baatens & Lefèvre (1993), this is a thread that has been continually built upon, culminating, some say, in Groensteen’s thesis/book System de la Bande Dessinée (1999) as for instance in the foreword to the English edition The System of Comics  (2007, p. vii), where it is stated that the book is: “…the most important semiotic anaylsis of the medium published to date.” The System of Comics is a theoretical book, though, and not a method. Whether or not it constitutes the optimal way of analyzing comics is a question still left unanswered at the end of the book.

In this methodological study I propose to use the theories and terms introduced in The System of Comics and put them to the test as a method of analyzing comics. For this purpose I have chosen the graphic novel Persepolis (2000-2003) by Satrapi, which due to its length and complexity should yield the right amount of “resistance” to a semiotic reading. The aims of this study thus are twofold, in that I both want to see what can be revealed about Persepolis, one of the most acclaimed graphic novels of the last decade, and determine how well Groensteen’s theories can be operationalised into actually analysing a comic, i.e. how the ideas presented in The System of Comics can contribute to the understanding of a specific comic.