The literature center will now look at comics and graphic novels and how they shape our youth
When we think of English class we don't normally think of reading comic books or graphic novels, but classic stories like The Great Gatsby or Fahrenheit 451. And while these classics have long influenced our education and our overall culture, one could make an argument that so have graphic novels like Maus and The Watchmen. These comic book stories have served to shape and influence our youth and culture just as much as any of the classics we read in school, yet they are rarely represented and acknowledged as influential.
The University of Cambridge, the second oldest University in the UK and one of the most distinguished in the world, has recognized the influence comic books, graphic novels, video games, blogs and even fan fiction as having an impact on our youth, and as a result have made a point to study them at the University of Cambridge's Literature Center.
Professor Maria Nikolajeva, who is the [University of Cambridge's Literature] centre’s first director, said: “Everybody can remember a book or a film from their childhood that played a role in shaping the way they understand the world around them. “For children, these are often secret and sacred places that they can go to and we need to study them if we want to improve their education and development. It’s easy to say that these things are just kids’ fashions or that they’re trash, but I don’t believe that’s good enough.”
“We live in a multimedia society. If we just pretend these things do not exist, we could lose a very important dimension of children’s competence at interpreting stories. Even to be a video-game player you need to learn something.
“Children’s literature and culture are not created in a vacuum: you need the social context. If what we regard as trash is popular with young people, we need to know why and whether, as researchers and teachers, we can offer them something that addresses the same needs but also deals with these themes in a critical and ethical way.”
Could comic books and graphic novels finally receive the literary credit they deserve? The institute will not only focus on the content within these books, but will also serve to analyze the way they affect and shape our youth, influencing their views on "gender, race and sexuality." The fact that the medium will be viewed as a tool that helps shape the the identities of children is pretty powerful, and personally, I think it's about time. Comic books and graphic novels have long been disregarded and discredited as literature, when truthfully, many are masterpieces in their own right. What do you think of the new outlook the University of Cambridge has on comic books?