EU Day 2016

Learn about EU Day and the keynote delivered by His Excellency Henne Schuwer, Ambassador of the Netherlands to the U.S. on the 14th Annual EU Day on February 29th.

Master of Arts in European Union Studies

The European Union Center at the University of Illinois offers the only Master of Arts in European Union Studies (MAEUS) program in the Western Hemisphere. Learn more here.

EUC Dimensions of New and Heritage Language Education

Dr. Liv Thorstensson Dávila discussed langauge education as a part of the EUC Faculty Lecture Series.

Whose Legacy? Museums and National Heritage Debates

Watch the online roundtable discussion sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh.

2015 recipient of the Larry Neal Prize for Excellence in EU Studies

Read about the 2015 recipient of the Larry Neal Prize for Excellence in EU Studies, Michelle Egan, and her book Single Markets

Videos of Previous Lectures

Missed an EUC-hosted lecture? Our blog's video tag has archived previous EUC-sponsored lectures.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Going Graphic with the European Union: Blacksad by Juan Díaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido

Image Courtesy of Comics Alliance
Over the past few decades, graphic novels have become a respected form of literature. Europe, in particular, has published a wide variety of graphic novels, and these works have become available to wider audiences due to the growth in popularity. In this summer series presented by the EUC, graphic novels from a wide variety of EU members will be reviewed and discussed. 

By Rachel Johannigmeier

Noir...with human-like animals?  While it is not a typical story combination, Blacksad by Juan Díaz Canales and Juanjo Guarrido proves that it is a combination that works as a story that is both compelling and complex.  Created by two Spanish creators and published originally in France as three different bande dessinée, the publisher Dark Horse Comics has collected these three stories in one English translated graphic novel.  The stories collected are Somewhere Within the Shadows, Arctic Nation, and Red Soul.

Image Courtesy of Comics Alliance
Story Information

Title: Blacksad

Creators: Juan Díaz Canales (writer) and Juanjo Guarnido (artist)

Translation: Anthya Flores and Patricia Rivera

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Audience: Adults

The three stories in Blacksad follow the adventures of the title character, John Blacksad, a black cat who has seen many things in his life.  The stories take place in the United States of the 1950s, and even though all the characters are depicted as animals, real historical events and problems are addressed within the stories.  For example, World War I, the atomic bomb, and racism are all significant points of the plot.  Each story provides insight into the main character, a private investigator with a rough past, as he interacts with a colorful supporting cast.  In Somewhere Within the Shadows, Blacksad is tasked with investigating the death of a starlet (and former lover).  In Arctic Nation, Blacksad looks into the disappearance of a child in a town strongly influenced by race politics.  Finally, in Red Soul, Blacksad encounters an old teacher with a dark past that is causing problems in the present.

Crime comics can sometimes rely too heavily on stereotypes, plot points, and genre elements that make the whole story feel as if it is a cliché. I have read many noir comics, and I can say that the three stories presented in Blacksad, are excellent examples of a superior crime comic narrative.  It still utilizes the trappings of the genre, but the emotions and ideas of the story set it above the average story for its genre.

Another area of praise for the story is the artwork.  The characters are incredibly distinct, and the coloring makes the features of the artwork stand out.  These characters are animals but they are incredibly human-like, with a wide variety of expressions and appearances.  The creators have developed a unique world with characters that seem incredibly realistic.

Sometimes the stories feel short which is understandable as they are around 50 pages long, but even with that in mind, the stories definitely work well as short stories.  I would definitely recommend this graphic novel for fans of noir comics and well-crafted narratives. 



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Sunday, July 10, 2016

Going Graphic with the European Union: The Incal by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Moebius

Image from Comics Alliance
Over the past few decades, graphic novels have become a respected form of literature. Europe, in particular, has published a wide variety of graphic novels, and these works have become available to wider audiences due to the growth in popularity. In this summer series presented by the EUC, graphic novels from a wide variety of EU members will be reviewed and discussed. 

By Rachel Johannigmeier

If you have ever seen David Lynch's Dune, you may be aware of the troubled history of the production, including the version of Dune by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Jean Giraud (also known by the pen name, Moebius).  According to Comics Alliance, the two had collaborated on the incomplete vision of the project, and eventually, from 1981-1988, they collaborated on a work known as The Incal.  What they created is a work that stands strong as an example of what the science fiction can accomplish in graphic novels.

Image from Amazon
Story Information

Title: The Incal

Creators: Alejandro Jodorowsky (Writer) and Moebius (Artist)

Publisher: Humanoids

Audience: Adults

The Incal is a work that follows its protagonist, the unlikable detective John DiFool, as he becomes a part of a group saving the universe with the power of an entity known as the Incal.  He is not the chosen one of the story, but almost every segment of the story requires his involvement in some manner.  Whether it involves beating a thousand of other trained competitors in winning the honor of ushering in the Golden Age of the race the Berg or stopping the Darkness from corrupting the Emporess, he is always a reluctant, but necessary part of the fantastic journeys he finds himself on with his companions. 

The story begins and ends in the same way, but the journey in between is what adds power to the story's ending.  It is clear that the story was originally serialized, as the plot bounces at a rapid pace that sometimes left me confused as to what was exactly happening.  However, the art is astonishing, and makes up for any plot points that might have been missed along the way. 

It is a story that is set above average by the art, as many of the familiar cliches of sci-fi appear in the story.  Whether or not they were cliches when the story was created is debatable, but it is still an enjoyable story to read. It is a fantastic world, and as a reader, it is a treat to see into this interesting world. 

It also provides commentary on society and the corruption of those in power and those who are not in power.  There were incredibly cartoonish moments, but they serve to address issues of power.  I laughed at these moments, but I also thought about the implications of the source of humor.

I would recommend this graphic novel for fans of classic sci-fi that also provides social commentary on the world. 
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Saturday, July 2, 2016

Going Graphic with the European Union: Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life by Ulli Lust

Image from the Comics Journal
Over the past few decades, graphic novels have become a respected form of literature. Europe, in particular, has published a wide variety of graphic novels, and these works have become available to wider audiences due to the growth in popularity. In this summer series presented by the EUC, graphic novels from a wide variety of EU members will be reviewed and discussed.

By Rachel Johannigmeier

While Ulli Lust may have been scared of dying when she was a child, by the age of 17, she was living by the motto, “live as if every day was my last” (Lust 70). In her graphic novel, Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life, Austrian-born comic artist Ulli Lust relates the experience of her summer across Europe in 1984. The journey is not only physical; it is an emotional journey uses the experiences of the author as landmarks. It also is a story that is conveyed with “honesty,” and no topics are considered too sensitive; Lust mentioned in her interview with Comics Journal that she had to be honest to create “a better story.”

Image from Fantagraphics
Story Information:

Title: Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life

Creator: Ulli Lust

Translation: Kim Thompson

Publisher (English Translation): Fantagraphics Books

Audience: Adult

Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life is the tale of Ulli Lust’s travels from Vienna to Italy with her “friend” who is simply called Edi within the book. The two girls travel without passports, traveling supplies, and money, and throughout their trip, they encounter various ways of surviving on the streets and avoiding the police. Ulli Lust and Edi are both a part of the Punk scene of the time, and they meet a variety of people who share their interests. They are separated for a while, and in that time, Lust must survive on her own. Eventually, the two girls are reunited, but their reunion is impacted by Italian crime. Eventually, Ulli returns home, weary of her travels, but more aware of the nature of the world.

It is hard to summarize the plot of Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life. It is a real story with true facts and events, but it is also an odyssey of emotion. With her simplistic style of art, Lust manages to do a wonderful job with portraying her trip to Sicily. Lust’s art also helps convey the emotions of her teenage self and the art, while  cartoon-like, really captures the essence of each scene. Lust never draws herself the same, and it’s fascinating to see how she changes along with the story.

It is also a refreshing story in that Lust does not tone down her message or the events of her past. The graphic novel discusses feminist topics such as rape culture and gender roles. It is never gratuitous in its portrayal of sexual violence, but it presents it in a blunt manner; as a reader, I felt Lust’s recollections had strong emotional power.

It is a longer graphic novel than previous books I have read for “Going Graphic with the European Union,” but it is a tale worth reading. I would recommend this book for audiences interested in feminism and memoirs. I would also recommend it for readers who enjoy travel stories such as On the Road by Jack Kerouac.
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Saturday, June 25, 2016

Going Graphic with the European Union: Snow Piercer Volume One: the Escape by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand, and Jean-Marc Rochette

Image courtesy of Comic Book Resources
Over the past few decades, graphic novels have become a respected form of literature. Europe, in particular, has published a wide variety of graphic novels, and these works have become available to wider audiences due to the growth in popularity. In this summer series presented by the EUC, graphic novels from a wide variety of EU members will be reviewed and discussed.

By Rachel Johannigmeier

“Across the white immensity of an eternal winter, from one end of the frozen planet to the other, there travels a train that never stops. This is the Snowpiercer, one thousand and one carriages long” (Lob 3). This is how Snowpiercer Volume One: the Escape, or (in its original French title) Le Transperceneige begins its journey.

Created by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette, along with help from Benjamin Legrand, this dystopian graphic novel presents a society forced to live in the train, the Snowpiercer, to survive. Humanity, morality, and politics are addressed and challenged in the narrative, and by the end of the journey, it is unclear who or what will survive in this future.

Image courtesy of Comic Book Resources
Graphic Novel Information:

Title: Snowpiercer Volume One: the Escape

Creators: Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand, and Jean-Marc Rochette

Writer: Jacques Lob

Artist: Jean-Marc Rochette

English Translation: Virginie Selvay

Publisher: Titan Books (English Translation)

Audience: Adult


Snowpiercer Volume One: the Escape takes place in a future that is a snow-filled wasteland, and the human survivors aboard the Snowpiercer are starting to run out of necessities. The train is divided into different classes, and our protagonist, Proloff, is an escapee from the “Tail,” the end of the train with the poorest of this society. Along with an activist named Adeline, Proloff is escorted by the law enforcement of the train to the front of the train to meet with the President. As they travel through the different passenger carts, the readers can see the different types of living styles along with the hypocrisy and corruption of the train’s occupants. Ultimately, Proloff, Adeline, and the reader learn the true history of the train’s origins; by that point, the train is besieged by sickness. In the end, Proloff is the only one alive and it is clear that his story will not have a happy ending.

In an interview with the LA Times’ HeroComplex, artist Jean-Marc Rochette discusses the influences behind this 1982 graphic novel; interestingly enough, it was the concern about “ecology” and not “politics” that influenced the message of the book (Clark). However, in covering the concerns about the environment, it also becomes a story that critiques the people who shape the environment. It is a story about man cut off from nature, and after destroying nature, it begins to destroy itself through social class.

The message also becomes clear as the writing and the art depict the different sections of the train, and one cannot help but be drawn to and repulsed by the scenes and characters. A great achievement of this graphic novel is that it uses art to mimic travel and the repetition of the text about the train’s movement drew me into the story. I felt as if I was really going through the train, and I could see the differing lifestyles of the characters.

One concern I had was my lack of interest in the main characters. I find dystopian fiction lacking in interesting characters and instead focusing on people as symbols. No characters are truly memorable, and the sole female character serves as a love interest rather than an individual.

Snowpiercer Volume One: the Escape is a graphic novel I would recommend for people who enjoy philosophical discussion about human nature and are incredibly interested in the creativity of the dystopian genre.
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