Date of Award

Spring 4-1-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Jesse E. Matz


In Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth (2000), comics artist Chris Ware often dispenses with the "gutter," comics’ border between two sequential frames. Bordered structures give way to Ware’s signature diagrammatic form, in which information flows logically instead of sequentially. Indeed, Ware’s borderless comics are not, as Scott McCloud famously asserts in his definition of comics, "juxtaposed pictorial and other images intended to convey information and/or to produce an aesthetic response to the viewer." To diagram thought rather than to present it sequentially is to make a decisive difference to the comics form. My thesis will focus on the intersection between Ware’s diagrammatic structures, his formal engagement with pulp material objects, and his thematic interest in what I will call "failed masculinity." The text’s diagrams, which reveal events and crucial genealogical information that are otherwise excluded from the narrative, present privileged epistemological information in a super-potent fashion as compensation for the text’s failed masculinity. It entails an answer to what remains a fundamental question: what do text and image, literary content and visual form, have to do with each other in the comics aesthetic? The way Ware answers this question in Jimmy Corrigan becomes crucial to his later projects including Building Stories (2012), which, as a box full of separate but related narrative objects, takes Ware’s diagrammatic aesthetic beyond the limits of narrative and consciousness.

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