New Book Arrives
“Beringer’s repositioning of the history of comics gives a more nuanced account of the way the comics form developed in America than anything currently available.” —Ian Gordon, author of Superman: The Persistence of an American Icon
I am a professor of English at the University of Montevallo. My research and teaching focuses on nineteenth century American literature, visual culture, and comics. I received my Ph.D. in English in 2011 from the University of Michigan and have held fellowships with the University of Cambridge and the National Endowment for the Humanities. My work has appeared in American Literature, Arizona Quarterly, PopMatters.com, and elsewhere. My book Lost Literacies: Experiments in the Nineteenth Century US Comic Strip will be released by the Ohio State University Press in 2024.
Lost Literacies: Experiments in the 19th Century US Comic Strip
Lost Literacies (2024) is the first full-length study of US comic strips from the period prior to the rise of Sunday newspaper comics. Where current histories assume that nineteenth-century US comics consisted solely of single-panel political cartoons or simple “proto-comics,” Lost Literacies introduces readers to an ambitious group of artists and editors who were intent on experimenting with the storytelling possibilities of the sequential strip, resulting in playful comics whose existence upends prevailing narratives about the evolution of comic strips.
Over the course of the nineteenth century, figures such as artist Frank Bellew and editor T. W. Strong introduced sequential comic strips into humor magazines and precursors to graphic novels known as “graphic albums.” These early works reached audiences in the tens of thousands. Their influences ranged from Walt Whitman’s poetry to Mark Twain’s travel writings to the bawdy stage comedies of the Bowery Theatre. Most importantly, they featured new approaches to graphic storytelling that went far beyond the speech bubbles and panel grids familiar to us today. As readers of Lost Literacies will see, these little-known early US comic strips rival even the most innovative modern comics for their diversity and ambition.
Selected Images from Lost Literacies
Many of the images that appear in Lost Literacies have not been available to the public for over 150 years. As you view the slideshow, consider the variety of approaches that nineteenth century American comic artists used as they experimented with the then-new medium of the comic strip.
Visit my booking site to make an office appointment. All appointments are 20 minutes long. Please email me if you are unable to meet at any of the available appointments and I will gladly arrange an alternate time.