Jon Najarian

My work concentrates on the intersection of modernist literature, visual art, comics, and philosophy. My dissertation project, Images of Modernist Fiction: Literary and Pictorial Narrative from Joyce to Spiegelman, develops a new context for understanding the rise of the graphic novel by linking the emergence of comics as a form to the multimedia experiments of modernist writing. Presenting a counterhistory of the graphic novel, I show how the form can be traced not just to the emergence of newspaper comics, as critics routinely claim, but also to the intermedial strain of modernist avant-garde fiction. With developments in photomechanical engraving and offset lithography, the space of the printed page increasingly became a zone of uncertain contact between text and image. Taking up a number of different genres——philosophy, modernist prose, book illustrations, and the wordless novel in woodcuts——I argue that modernist writing and early experiments in graphic narrative alike responded to this transformation of the book’s materiality by imagining new modes of literary and pictorial storytelling. My central focus is texts that glance askew at their own medium: prose works that call themselves “portraits,” sequences of pictorial images that label themselves “novels.” Exploring modernism from the Parisian avant-garde to German Expressionism, I show how writers from Gertrude Stein, Virginia Woolf, and James Joyce to visual artists like Rockwell Kent and Lynd Ward exploited these developments in print technology to challenge the norms and conventions of their own medium by reaching outside it.

Ph.D. in English and American literature, Boston University, 2019
M.A. in English and American literature, Boston University, 2013
B.A., Marywood University

“Is Comics Literature?” Review Essay. Twentieth-Century Literature, 64.4 (2018)

“Seeing Selves and Imagining Others: Aesthetic Interpretation and the Claim to Community in Cavell.” Conversations: A Journal of Cavellian Studies issue 5 (2018).

“‘Pressing the Wrong Button’: Pynchon’s Postmodernism and the Threat of Nuclear War in The Crying of Lot 49.” Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction, 59.1 (2017), 41-56.

“How the Built Environment Shapes Spatial Bridging Ties and Social Capital.” Co-author with Joseph Cabrera. Environment and Behavior 47.3 (2015), 239-267.

“Can New Urbanism Create Diverse Communities?” Co-author with Joseph Cabrera. Journal of Education Planning Research 33.4 (2013), 427-441.

“(Re)Fashioning the Self: L’Epistre au Dieu d’Amours, The Legend of Good Women, and the Narrative Frame Tradition.” Criterion: A Journal of Literary Criticism (Winter 2012).

Selected Presentations

“Literary and Pictorial Narrative from Modernism to Comics.” Brandeis Novel Symposium, Waltham, Massachusetts, April 12, 2019.

“The Illustrations of Rockwell Kent.” Modernist Studies Association, Columbus, Ohio, November 8-11, 2018.

Panel Organizer, “The Art of Modernist Comics.” Modernist Studies Association, Columbus, Ohio, November 8-11, 2018.

Organizer and Presider for special session, “Graphic States of Insecurity.” MLA, New York City, January 4-7, 2018.

“The Image of Ireland in ‘Cyclops’.” Diasporic Joyce, 2017 North American James Joyce Conference, Toronto, June 21-25, 2017.

“Aspect Perception and Visual Anachrony in Henry James’ The Ambassadors.” International Society for the Study of Narrative Conference, March 23-26, 2017.

“‘As None Perceived’: Omniscience and Perception in Joyce’s ‘Ithaca.’” MLA, Philadelphia, January 5-8, 2017.

Organizer and Presider for special session, “Limits of the Diaphane: Modernism and the Boundaries of the Human.” MLA, Philadelphia, January 5-8, 2017.

Courses Taught
English 127: Reading American Literature: The Southern Gothic, Fall 2020
Writing 150: Freshman Research Seminar: Contemporary American Comics, Spring 2019
Writing 120: Freshman Writing Seminar: Contemporary American Comics, Fall 2018
English 170: The Graphic Novel, Boston University, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2019
English 120: Haunted: Literature Dead and Undead, Boston University, Fall 2016
English 120: Philosophy of Literature, Boston University, Fall 2015
Writing 150: Freshman Research Seminar: Paranoia and the American Conspiracy Theory, Boston University, Spring 2015
Writing 100: Freshman Writing Seminar: Madness and the American Conspiracy Theory, Boston University, Fall 2014
English 125: Readings in Modern Literature, Boston University, Spring 2014