The field of comics studies, a relatively new scholarly discipline, has grown steadily over the last 20 years. Bryant’s own Martha Kuhlman, Ph.D., Professor of English and Cultural Studies, has been contributing significantly to the field and helping it grow, and recently notched multiple impressive achievements.
A prestigious editorship
Kuhlman was recently named series editor by the prestigious Cambridge University Press for its forthcoming series on graphic narratives. She will join two other editors of the series, Jan Baetens, Ph.D., Professor of Cultural Studies at KU Leuven in Belgium, and Hugo Frey, Ph.D., Director of the Institute of Arts and Humanities at the University of Chichester in the United Kingdom, both noted scholars in the field who nominated Kuhlman for the role.
Nine monographs will be published in the series designed primarily for academic audiences in the United States and abroad in an English-speaking context. As a new undertaking for the global Cambridge University Press, known for its “Cambridge Guide” publications, the series will be the first time the press publishes single-author books on specific scholarly topics that cover graphic novels. The first in the series, Drawing from the Archives by Benoît Crucifix, is scheduled to be released next fall.
“What's really exciting is that I would have the potential to have a positive impact on the direction of the field.”
“The field of the graphic narrative in comics in the past 20 years has really expanded and gotten a lot more institutional attention and academic respect,” says Kuhlman. As an editor of the project, she says, “What's really exciting is that I would have the potential to have a positive impact on the direction of the field,” noting the copious attention the press garners, given its worldwide circulation and elite reputation.
Shaping her field
As part of her editorship, Kuhlman seeks to discover the foremost upcoming comics studies scholars in North America with the help of her professional network.
Kuhlman says she looks forward to mentoring new talent, bringing forth new perspectives and top scholarly voices, and shaping the field of comics studies, of which she has been a part of for over a decade. One of her first contributions to the field was as co-editor with David Ball of The Comics of Chris Ware: Drawing is a Way of Thinking (2010), published by the University Press of Mississippi.
“Part of my hope is that this would encourage publishers to take on more English translations of comics from these countries.”
Her appointment as editor was based on her nominators’ recognition of her scholarship. Baetens and Frey accepted her volume for publication at KU Leuven Press. The book, Comics of the New Europe: Reflections and Intersections (2020), which she co-edited with José Alaniz, Ph.D., Professor of Slavic Languages & Literatures at the University of Washington, was regarded as ground-breaking.
Comics of the New Europe addresses a gap in current comic scholarship and discusses comics from countries formerly behind the Iron Curtain, like East Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia, and Ukraine, areas of the world that have a history of surviving communist governments.
The volume recently received accolades and honorable mention for the Edited Book Collection Prize by the Comics Studies Society, the premier organization in that field, during the organization’s 4th Annual Conference in 2021.
Of the book, Kuhlman has said, “These comics authors have never really been discussed before in academia, and for some this might be their first mention in a scholarly publication. Part of my hope is that this would encourage publishers to take on more English translations of comics from these countries. There's fantastic work that just doesn't have a large enough audience.”
“There's fantastic work that just doesn't have a large enough audience.”
Kuhlman, who knows Czech, translated the work of one of the authors into English—Vojtěch Mašek. His work “satirizes both the socialist past and the post-socialist present with wit, irony, and a hint of Kafka,” she explained during at zoom lecture at the New York University Jordan Center for Russian Studies last March.
In his review of the book, Vittorio Frigerio said, “This volume represents a very welcoming and stimulating introduction to comics production in a region that has been overlooked by critics.”