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The Comics of Chris Ware$
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David M. Ball and Martha B. Kuhlman

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9781604734423

Published to University Press of Mississippi: March 2014

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781604734423.001.0001

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Chris Ware’s Failures

Chris Ware’s Failures

(p.45) Chris Ware’s Failures
The Comics of Chris Ware

David M. Ball

University Press of Mississippi

This chapter examines the persistent rhetoric of failure throughout Chris Ware’s comics, locating this impulse in a longer American literary genealogy that valorizes literary prestige over popularity. It argues that Ware’s self-abnegation becomes a cipher for his ambivalence about comics’ newly found role as literature, reviving anxieties around canon formation that have taken place in American literature since as early as the mid-nineteenth century. The chapter suggests that Ware uses the rhetoric of failure as a means to negotiate his attempts to place comics in the literary canon and to express his characteristic ambivalence toward the very notion of “graphic literature.” It also considers how he both evinces and performs a dialectic between artistry and commerce in his own role as author, and aligns the tension between mass market and high art within the comics medium to the rhetoric of success and failure, respectively.

Keywords:   rhetoric of failure, Chris Ware, literary prestige, self-abnegation, American literature, literary canon, graphic literature, commerce, mass market, high art

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