Drawing on Religion: Reading and the Moral Imagination in Comics and Graphic Novels

Drawing on Religion: Reading and the Moral Imagination in Comics and Graphic Novels

by Ken Koltun-Fromm


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Comics traffic in stereotypes, which can translate into real danger, as was the case when, in 2015, two Muslim gunmen opened fire at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, which had published depictions of Islam and Muhammad perceived by many to be blasphemous. As a response to that tragedy, Ken Koltun-Fromm calls for us to expand our moral imaginations through readings of graphic religious narratives.

Utilizing a range of comic books and graphic novels, including R. Crumb’s Book of Genesis Illustrated, Craig Thompson’s Blankets, the Vakil brothers’ 40 Sufi Comics, and Ms. Marvel, Koltun-Fromm argues that representing religion in these formats is an ethical issue. By focusing on the representation of Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu religious traditions, the comics discussed in this book bear witness to the ethical imagination, the possibilities of traversing religious landscapes, and the problematic status of racial, classed, and gendered characterizations of religious persons. Koltun-Fromm explores what religious stereotypes do and how they function in comics in ways that might expand or diminish our imaginative worlds. The pedagogical challenge, he argues, is to linger in that space and see those worlds well, with both ethical sensitivity and moral imagination.

Accessibly written and vibrantly illustrated, this book sheds new light on the ways in which comic arts depict religious faith and culture. It will appeal to students and scholars of religion, literature, and comic studies.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780271087757
Publisher: Penn State University Press
Publication date: 11/10/2020
Pages: 264
Product dimensions: 7.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.78(d)

About the Author

Ken Koltun-Fromm is Robert and Constance MacCrate Professor of Social Responsibility and Professor of Religion at Haverford College. He is the author of Imagining Jewish Authenticity: Vision and Text in American Jewish Thought and coeditor of Comics and Sacred Texts: Reimagining Religion and Graphic Narratives.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction: The Ethics of Representation 1

1 Stereotypes and the Moral Challenges of Aesthetic Narration 13

2 The Ethics of Scriptural Play: Gender, Race, and Moral Sources 53

3 Imagining (Superhero) Identity 97

4 The Nativist Imagination in Religious Comic Stories 129

5 Graphic Violence and the Religious Self 169

Conclusion: The Ethics of Lingering 219

Notes 229

Bibliography 235

Index 241

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