nineteenth-century comics

Perspective Games: Cham’s Heritage and Legacy

[European Comic Art, Volume 7, Issue 1 (Spring 2014): 6-30]

Two inked-over panels (an entire strip) in Cham’s Histoire de Mr. Lajaunisse (Paris: Aubert, 1839), 8.

Cham. Histoire de Mr. Lajaunisse, 1839. Source: Yale University Library.

Abstract: This article draws attention to the transition in print culture that took place between the 1830s and the 1850s, allowing for a new flexibility in format and new relations between word and image. Within this wider context, Cham was an innovator who adapted literary techniques such as mise en abyme, oxymoron and synecdoche to visual storytelling. The article focuses on links between Cham’s work and Tristram Shandy, shows how Cham introduces Sterne’s reflexivity into his comic strips, using unorthodox framing and inserting blind panels as a deliberate interference in transmission, impeding the reader’s privileged point of view. Cham deploys a number of parodic devices to demystify canonical texts: for example, in an incursion across diegetic boundaries, he kills off characters from Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables with a few well-aimed swipes from a vast pen.

Laurence Sterne. The Life and Opinions of tristram Shandy, Gentleman, 1759. Source: Glasgow University Library