I received my copy of Profession 2011 in the mail a week or two ago, and I finally got around to reading it in the past couple of days (I was already reading something else, thank you kindly). I am not yet done doing so, although I have gotten through a number of the articles in it, of which one is Hillary Chute's "Comics Form and Narrating Lives."
I point out the article because of the coincidence or synchronicity of my having had an article on graphic narrative while I complained about another treatment of graphic narrative. In addition, I think it offers things that are valuable as an introduction to the study of the graphic novel. For instance, Chute presents a description of the genre as one "in which words and images create unsynthesized narrative tracks; that is to say, it is not an illustrative form in which each is redundant of the other....The form is built on the ongoing counterpoint of presence--in frames or panels--and absence, the white space between frames where a reader projects causality and that is called the gutter" (108). Chute goes on to narrow the description, marking comics as "largely a hand-drawn form that registers the subjective bodily mark on the page....It demands tactility, a physical intimacy with the reader in the acts of cognition and visual scrutiny" (112).
It seems to me that the description, moving into definition, that Chute employs is a good starting point. But it also seems to me to be problematic in some respects. For example, The Legend of Zelda (which remains on my mind) partakes of the framing and unsynthesized synchronic presentation of word and image Chute remarks upon. While it may not appear to be "hand-drawn" in the conventional sense, it is certainly a hand-making, since people had to put it together. And there are certainly demands for tactility and "reader" involvement in "cognition and visual scrutiny" involved in playing the game. Moreover, there are generally recognized comics which are themselves computer-generated; do they not count as "comics," or is there more at work?
As I said, I think it a good point of entry. I would welcome the input of those in my acquaintance who, more adept in the study of graphic narrative than I, can comment more thoroughly.
Chute, Hillary. "Comics Form and Narrating Lives." Profession 2011 (2011): 107-17. Print.