Teenagers Reading

research for my PhD thesis

What is a graphic novel?

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Eric Reynolds reflected on the problems inherent in using the term graphic novel [1]. Despite suggestions of more appropriate terms, it is firmly fixed in library and publishing jargon. Australian graphic novelist Eddie Campbell agrees that “confusion reigns” in reaching a definition. Creators, publishers, readers or collectors of graphic novels, define the term differently. One possibility Eddie Campbell suggests is:

A bound book of comics either in soft or hardcover. [2]

This is similar to librarian Steve Raiteri’s definition:

Any trade paperback or hardcover book consisting of work in comic-book form. [3]

In my thesis I am using Steve Raiteri’s definition.

Graphic novels may be book-length stories, collections of stories or (despite the oxymoron) works of non-fiction [4]. This does not include collections of newspaper strips such as Garfield or Peanuts [5]. Graphic novels are a format and thus include many different genres [6].

There are graphic novels written and drawn for all age groups, but in my research I’m concentrating on graphic novels for teenagers.


  1. Reynolds, Eric (2005) “Growing pains” In Heller & Dooley (Eds) The education of a comics artist: Visual narrative in cartoons, graphic novels, and beyond New York: Allworth Press, p.174.
  2. Campbell, Eddie (2007) “What is a graphic novel?” World Literature Today, vol.81, no.2, p.13.
  3. Raiteri, Steve (2002) “Graphic novels” Library Journal, vol.127, no.14, p.148.
  4. Arnold, Andrew (2007) “Comix poetics” World Literature Today, vol.81, no.2, p.12; Weiner, S. (2002). “Beyond superheroes: Comics get serious” Library Journal, vol.127, no.2, p.55.
  5. Hatfield, Charles (2005) Alternative comics: An emerging literature Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, p.4.
  6. Kan, Kat (2003) “Getting graphic at the school library” Library Media Connection, vol.21, no.7, p.15.

Written by ClareSnow

29 February 2008 at 4:14 pm

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