Colloquium | Scott Bukatman

Wednesday, April 4, 2012 - 12:00pm

Scott Bukatman

The Motionless Voyage of Little Nemo

Winsor McCay’s comic strip "Little Nemo in Slumberland" ran from 1905 to 1914 as a full-page fantasia of brilliant colors and enchanting metamorphoses. The strip’s protagonist, the boy Nemo, leaves the mundane world of reality to sojourn in a land of wonderful dreams, but McCay’s innovative spatiotemporal manipulations also remake the world of the reader, who makes an analogous voyage—albeit a motionless one: drawn into the world of the comics page, with its wondrous transformations and morphing spaces. Slumberland is more than just a marvelous world for Nemo and its other citizens; it is an aesthetic space primarily defined through the artist’s innovations, an animated space that opens out to embrace the imaginative sensibility of a reader who is never farther than an arm’s length from this other realm, and a space of play and plasmatic possibility in which the stable site of reading or viewing yields to an onslaught of imaginative fantasy. Walter Benjamin proclaimed, with more than a touch of envy, that the “resplendent, self-sufficient world of colors is the exclusive preserve of children’s books,” to which I must add the later medium of the Sunday comics supplement. And, in that comics supplement, Winsor McCay was deploying some very seductive colors and enacting some very sophisticated forms of address in his quest to draw both Nemo and the reader into the magic of Slumberland, as this talk hopes to demonstrate.

Cinema Studies Program
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