This week American comic books’ writer Harvey Pekar passed away in his home in Cleveland. He was mainly known for his American Splendor series, in which he developed an alternative to the genre by focusing on autobiographical everyday experiences and rejecting fantasy based narratives. Over more than thirty years, he collaborated with a variety of artists who visualized his ideas, greatly enhancing the comic book form in the US. He also used autobiographical material in longer graphic works, such as Our Cancer Year, which he co-wrote with his third wife Joyce Brabner in 1994, and which dealt with their experiences when he was diagnosed with cancer. In 2003, this graphic novel was adapted for the big screen (under the title American Splendor) and the film received numerous nominations and awards.
In fact, Pekar’s ideas regarding the flexibility of a visual and textual form which provides rich possibilities of expression finds an echo in a recent article by Jason Dittmer (2010) in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. In his piece, Dittmer contributes to geographies of reading and visuality by exploring the micro-geographies of the comic page, their characteristics and their potential as representational tools which transcend linearity through plurivectoral narration and shifting temporalities. He suggests that “the spatial grammar of the comics page can open geography up to new understandings of phenomena, replacing the seemingly ‘correct’ succession of images and meanings with a more contingent and provisional ‘event’, highlighting the importance of the ‘readers’ of phenomena in producing those very phenomena” (2010, 235); this may help to represent, he adds, relationships of emergent causality important in political geography. In this way, the potential of the comic book form can also find expression in geography.
Captain James Cook, Lord Sandwich, Daniel Solander and John Hawkesworth writing the world through their scientific research and publications.
by Jo Norcup.
Researchers digitising over 300 logbooks from 18th and 19th century explorer vessels such as Captain James Cook’s Discovery and Resolution and William Bligh’s Bounty, have begun scrutinising the climatic data collected for navigation purposes which may allow oceanographers and climatologists’ access to a unique record of weather data. While there are plentiful ways of accessing past climate data from the earth’s landmasses, it is difficult to access information concerning climatic changes in different locations across the earth’s oceans. In the absence of marine chronometers invented by John Harrison in the mid 18th century but not widely used for another century, the meticulous accounts of wind direction, wind speed, atmospheric pressure, temperature and ice formation in logbooks give insights and raise further areas of enquiry for researchers working with these archives in Kew, London.
The historiography of such an archive raises broader questions concerning the importance of collaborative humanities and scientific research, and the unique position geographical enquiry has in making connections across different cultures of research practise. Moreover, as David Livingstone notes (2005) reading such publications raises broader philosophical questions about the histories of scientific discoveries, their practice, and their relationship to the making and remaking of geographical knowledges.