Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Amy J. Elias

Committee Members

Katherine L. Chiles, Benjamin F. Lee


This study attempts to establish the cross-currents of African American literary traditions and an emerging African American graphic novel aesthetic. A close analysis of the visuality foreground in the visual/textual space of the graphic novel will provide insight into how the form of the graphic novel reconciles and revises more traditional textual literary elements. Such motifs and tropes as the visuality of slave portraiture, Gates’ trope of the talking book, and the paradox of invisibility/visibility within African American creative registers will be used to highlight the creative tradition inaugurated by the African American graphic novel. Each of these elements generally associated with African American textual production, become central thematic concerns with the graphic work of artists such as Ho Che Anderson, Kyle Baker, Dwayne McDuffie, Roland Laird, Taneshia Laird, and Elihu Bey. From the historical biography of Anderson’s King and Baker’s Nat Turner, to the broad history of Laird, Laird, and Bey’s Still I Rise, and finally within the traditional superhero graphic novel of Dwayne McDuffie’s Icon, a definite tradition of African American graphic novels emerge. Understanding how these graphic novels associate themselves with, and ultimately revise, the literary aesthetics of African American texts makes possible the fuller examination of African American graphic novels as a specialized literary tradition.

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