Thursday, January 19, 2023

Shiamin Kwa's "Perfect Copies"

Shiamin Kwa is an associate professor of East Asian languages and cultures and comparative literature at Bryn Mawr College. Her books include Regarding Frames: Thinking with Comics in the Twenty-first Century for the Comics Studies (2020).

Kwa applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new book, Perfect Copies: Reproduction and the Contemporary Comic, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Perfect Copies is a close reading of representations of “noise” in the artist Conor Stechschulte’s Generous Bosom four volume series (also republished as Ultrasound), in which sound recordings play a key role in a plot about mind control. I describe a conversation that has already been represented in an earlier section of the book, and is now shown again in a different setting. On this page, I perform a close formal reading of some pages of Stechschulte’s work, and discuss words as representatives of sound: in the language of conversation, but also in onomatopoeia (‘ssshhhh’ suggestive of the running water of a shower). I consider the contradictory meaning of noise as something that gives meaning, but that also can be used to mean something that interrupts or obscures meaning. This is all complicated by the facts of printed pages, whether they are all text or text and image, and how “noise” can be represented on a silent and unyielding page.

The Page 99 Test does genuinely give the reader a sense of how my book “works” across its five chapters and speaks to my approach to the analysis of texts in this book as well as in my other books and articles. The majority of the page is given over to close formal reading of a section of Stechschulte’s work. This example of my method of close analysis of the text conveys to the reader how reading small units of a text can reveal broader, wide-ranging meaning that adheres to the work of that particular artist, as well as to our understanding of the affordances of the Comics form. The last full sentence on page 99 reads: “The tools of technological reproduction are uncannily linked to the control of biological reproduction in Stechschulte’s text.” This sentence brings the close reading back to the central argument of the entire book: that the technological reproducibility of the Comics medium facilitates and complements fascinating and sometimes troubling explorations of biological reproduction. The browser of my book will understand, from page 99, that Perfect Copies will provide close and detailed analysis of primary source texts that are selected and arranged so as to highlight certain theoretical questions about the relationship between form and meaning.
Learn more about Perfect Copies at the Rutgers University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue