New Article: Multimodal Authoring and Authority in Educational Comics: Introducing Derrida and Foucault for Beginners

I’m pleased to announce my newest journal article, which is part of a special issue of Digital Humanities Quarterly on “Comics as Scholarship.”

The entire issue is particularly interesting because all of the articles are composed in the form of comics. Each of the authors adopted a slightly different visual approach in order to suit their topics. My article examines the educational comics in the long-running “Introducing” and “For Beginners” series, books that I’ve seen the offices of almost every academic and postgraduate student I know, but which have never been given a proper critical appraisal.

In this article/comic, I examine the history behind these books, and look closely at how they combine visual and verbal modalities in unique ways. As the books I chose to examine are devoted to Derrida and Foucault, the article also delves into a critique of structuralism and post-structuralism.

“Multimodal Authoring and Authority in Educational Comics: Introducing Derrida and Foucault for Beginners” is my second comics-style journal article this year. I think this is a fascinating area for further study, and hope to publish more in this style in the future. The “Comics and Scholarship” issue of DHQ is an encouraging step forward for a promising direction for academic writing and publishing.

You can read the article/comic online at the DHQ website or download a PDF from the University of Adelaide. I hope you enjoy it! The article abstract is behind the cut.


Academic writing has generally been understood as operating primarily within the linguistic modality, with writing remediating the “voice” of an educator or lecturer. Comics, by contrast, are more explicitly multimodal and derive much of their meaning from visual, spatial and linguistic modalities. Because of their multimodality, educational comics challenge the conception of an authoritative author’s “voice,” as is typically found in traditional educational and academic writing.

To examine how authorship and authority function in multimodal educational texts, this paper examines several books in the popular “For Beginners” and “Introducing” series of “graphic guides,” which use images, text, and comics to summarise the work of major philosophers – in this case Derrida and Foucault. The books chosen for this study are all collaborative efforts between writers, illustrators, and designers. In each book, the collaborations function differently, engendering different divisions of authorial labor and forging different constructions of multimodal relationships between image, text, and design.

In order to more fully interrogate the ways that these educational comics combine multimodal modes of meaning, this paper itself takes the form of a comic, mimicking at times the books that it is examining. In this way, it serves as a self-reflexive critique of the idea that authorial voice is central to academic writing, and as an example of the challenges and opportunities presented by composing multimodal scholarship which eschews this conception of linguistic authorship.

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