What Happens When Nothing Happens

Boredom and Everyday Life in Contemporary Comics

Greice Schneider

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Monograph - paperback

Boredom and melancholy in the experience of reading. Contemporary graphic novels show an interesting shift from the extraordinary to the ordinary in slice-of-life stories in which nothing happens. Present-day graphic accounts are inhabited by melancholic characters whining about the lack of meaning in life. This book examines this intriguing transition and brings a historical, aesthetical and narratological approach to comics in which boredom is not only a topic, but also awakens a deliberate affective response in the very experience of reading. This volume brings together close readings of work by Lewis Trondheim, Chris Ware and Adrian Tomine. With a foreword by Raphäel Baroni (University of Lausanne).

This publication is GPRC-labeled (Guaranteed Peer-Reviewed Content).

What Is Interesting about Boredom?
Defining a Slippery Corpus
Two Approaches and Three Authors

Part One: The Relationship between Comics and Everyday Life and Boredom

Chapter One. A Brief History of Boredom
Boredom and Modernity: New Words for a New Feeling
Avoiding or Enduring Boredom?
Heidegger and the Phenomenology of Boredom
Benjamin and the Atrophy of Experience

Chapter Two. Boredom and the Everyday in Comics
Keeping Boredom Away
Gag a Day: Repetition and Variation in Comic Strips
Escaping Tediousness: Super-hero Comic Books and BDs
From Underground Comix to Alternative Comics
In Praise of the Loser
Gender and Boredom in Alternative Comics
The Joy and the Burden of the Comics Artist

Chapter Three. Four Approaches Towards the Everyday
Grasping the Everyday
Observational Humour
Derisive Humour

Part Two: The Ambiguity of Boredom in Terms of an Aesthetic Phenomenon

Chapter Four.The Poetics of Boredom
A Dynamics of Boredom and Interest
The Paradox of Boredom
A Plea for Attention
Slowness and Speed
Repetition and Variation
Minimalism and Excess
On Gestures and Facial Expressions

Part Three: The Narratological Perspective of the Dialectics of Boredom

Chapter Five. Boredom as a Narratological Concept
Uneventful Eventfulness
And So What? Tellability and the 'Point' of the Story
On Boredom and Narrative Tension

Chapter Six. What Happens When Nothing Happens
Linearity and Tabularity in Narrative Tension
Defying the Cliffhanger
Open-Ended Everyday and Diary Comics
When Suspense Is Suspended
Expectation Becomes the Event
Eventfulness: Too Much or Too Little?

Part Four: Focus on the Works of Lewis Trondheim, Chris Ware and Adrian Tomine

Chapter Seven. The Little Nothings of Lewis Trondheim
Minimalism, Constraints and Repetition
Rabbits and Dungeons in a Neo-Baroque Farce
The Drama of Having Nothing to Tell

Chapter Eight. Adrian Tomine: Lost Gazes, Detached Minds
From Mini-Comics to Graphic Novels and Back to Floppies
In Praise of Apathy in the Name of Honesty
Graphic Transparency and Linear Reading
Reticent Endings and Suspended Gaze

Chapter Nine. Chris Ware: Resisting Narrative Immersion
Against Immersion
Temporal Immersion: In Defence of Slow Reading
Emotional Immersion: Clear Line and Graphic Empathy
Spatial Immersion: Playing with Page Layout
(Un)eventfulness in Building Stories
Against Distraction

Works Cited

Format: Monograph - paperback

Size: 230 × 170 mm

224 pages

ISBN: 9789462700734

Publication: July 06, 2016

Series: Studies in European Comics and Graphic Novels 5

Languages: English

Stock item number: 109989

Greice Schneider is associate professor of communication at the Universidade Federal de Sergipe (Brazil).

Dat de strip volwassen was geworden wisten we al lang, maar met dit soort studies wordt pas duidelijk dat strips en graphic novels serieus als zevende kunst kunnen worden aangemerkt. Een aanrader voor iedere stripliefhebber.
Moors Magazine

"Elle propose une exploration originale des romans graphiques contemporains nord-américains et européens sous l’angle inattendu de l’ennui et du quotidien. Greice Schneider module une approche à la fois historique, culturelle, esthétique et narratologique du phénomène. C’est la pluralité de ces angles articulés dans une combinatoire cohérente qui fait pour partie le grand mérite de l’ouvrage, renouvelant des approches par trop monolithiques dans l’exégèse des bandes dessinées." 
La Brèche – Lectures, Irène Le Roy Ladurie, 1/11/2018

...boredom is such an intrinsic part of modernity that it has interested these comics artists of major importance and attracted such a significative amount of readers and enthusiasts. This is thus an “exciting phenomenon” (195), both for comics and for comics scholarship. 'What Happens When Nothing Happens' is a highly sophisticated piece of academic writing, as well as an absolutely indispensable read—and an utterly un-boring one at that.
Pinho Barros, David (2017), Studies in 20th & 21st Century Literature: Vol. 42: Iss. 1, Article 23  https://doi.org/10.4148/2334-4415.1977

  Studies in 20th & 21st Century Literature
'What Happens When Nothing Happens' gives proof of clear-sighted intelligence and is a quite readable text, especially given the broad swaths of conceptually difficult theoretical material with which it engages. [...] As is, the book provides a compelling literature reviews, highlights important issues, and addresses an original combination of keywords [...] an ambitious and grand examination of a pertinent and timely topic.
Margaret C. Flinn, INKS • Fall 2017, Vol. 1.I.3

De bijdrage van Schneider aan de groeiende stroom van wetenschappelijke studies over strips is belangrijk omdat ze een relevant thema bespreekt dat duiding behoeft. Die duiding biedt 'What Happens When Nothing Happens' zeker. Het is een gedegen verhandeling vanuit verschillende invalshoeken die elkaar aanvullen, al had eigenlijk elk hoofdstuk de dubbele lengte mogen hebben. Het boek gaat in op de cultuur van het alledaagse, op reacties op de moderniteit en op het fenomeen van de auteurs-comic, waarin het niet gaat om het communiceren van grootse gebeurtenissen, maar eerder op een visie op het bestaan, een bestaan dat niet voldoet aan de verwachtingen. Zo gaat Schneider in gesprek met de tijdgeest en laat ze tevens zien dat studie van uitingen uit de populaire cultuur verrijkend is, omdat juist de populaire cultuur een weerslag is van maatschappelijke tendensen. Dit is geen boek waarmee men zich zal vervelen.
Olivier Rieter, Volkskunde 2017, 2

Schneider se centra en la obra de Adrian Tomine, Chris Ware y Lewis Trondheim, en el tramo final de su libro, para ilustrar las estrategias que se utilizan para hacer del aburrimiento algo significativo e interesante; ofreciendo al lector, al especialista y al que no lo es, las herramientas necesarias para poder percibir los significados de este tipo de cómic que, de algàºn modo, está empezando a liderar el mainstream. Pero lo más importante es que, al hacer esto, nos da también el medio para disfrutarlos como objetos de entretenimiento. Lo àºnico que esperamos es que algàºn editor se anime a traducir pronto al castellano este libro tan necesario.


With 'What Happens When Nothing Happens' Greice Schneider lays the groundwork for an aesthetics of boredom and everyday life in comics by steadily exploring and travelling between the concepts of comics, boredom, and narratology. The author sets important constraints on comics storytelling in relationship to boredom by drawing on works of contemporary comic scholars. Moreover, the book historically traces the development of the concept of boredom, pointing out that there is no universally accepted definition of boredom. The term has been applied in many cultural contexts and covers a variety of states of mind. The book furthermore offers tools to analyse boredom in contemporary comics, since boredom is not yet a narratological concept.
[...] this publication is worth reading, perhaps less for laymen interested in sequential art than for comics scholars and boredom experts. And this read in particular is truly an escape from boredom.

Laura Schlichting, KULT_online, Review Journal for the Study of Culture, No 49 (2017)