Calendar of Events

Fall 2012

Thursday, September 13, 2012
Hans-Joachim Backe (Comp Lit, Ruhr-University, Bochum)
"Becoming Batman": Computer Games, Comics, and Concepts of Intermediality
4:00 pm Curtin 108
Cosponsored with the UWM Department of English

Computer games challenge established notions of mediality to an even greater extent than most digital media. Not only can they incorporate or simulate other media, hybridize with them, and become subject to allusion and adaptation, they raise such basic questions as “are games media in the first place?” Many aspects of this problem have been addressed by the concepts of Remediation and Convergence Culture, yet as powerful as those theories are on the diachronic and systemic level, they are not tools geared toward individual analyses and comparisons across media borders.

For more than a decade now, narratologists have tried to develop such heuristic tools by adapting theories of intertextuality to make them applicable to relationships between texts from different media. This approach, commonly referred to in Europe as intermediality, has produced a variety of models that offer a great degree of precision when analyzing film adaptations of novels, traditional mixed-media artifacts such as illustrated books, or the Gesamtkunstwerk of Wagnerian opera.

Backe's talk presents the most widespread of these models, developed by Irina Rajewsky and Werner Wolf, and shows that, for all its benefits, it is too deeply rooted in the literary paradigm to adequately reflect the specific characteristics of games. Focusing on the relationship between computer games and only one other medium, comics, the talk sketches a modified intermedial approach and demonstrates its potential by comparing Grant Morrison and Dave McKean’s graphic novel Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth (New York: DC, 1989) with the game based on it, the universally acclaimed Batman: Arkham Asylum (Rocksteady/Eidos, 2009).

Logo from Batman: Arkham Asylum Cover art from Batman: Arkham Asylum (Rocksteady/Eidos, 2009)

Hans-Joachim Backe is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of General and Comparative Literature at Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany. He is the author of Strukturen und Funktionen des Erzählens im Computerspiel [Structures and functions of narrative in computer games: a typological introduction] (2008), which won the International Comparative Literature Association’s (ICLA) Anna Balakian Memorial Award of 2010, and Under the Hood: Die Verweisstruktur der Watchmen (2010). He is also co-editor of From Ritual to Romance and Beyond: Comparative Literature and Comparative Religious Studies (2011). Since 2010, he has been chairperson of the ICLA’s Research Committee on Comparative Literature in the Digital Age. His research interests include literary theory, transmedia narratology, games studies, comic studies, and literature of the 19th to 21st century.

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