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.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Going Graphic with the European Union: Interiorae by Gabriella Giandelli

Image from Amazon
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

In this final entry in "Going Graphic with the European Union" for the time being, I read the graphic novel, Interiorae by Gabriella Giandelli.  Originally published in four individual issues, this translated collection was made available in the US in 2012 by Fantagraphics.  As I read through the story, I entered a world of reality and many dreams, and the line between these two worlds began to blur.  While not a straightforward narrative, it is still a delightful and melancholic story.

Image from Amazon
Story Information

Title: Interiorae

Creator: Gabriella Giandelli

Translator: Kim Thompson

Publisher: Fantagraphics

Audience: 16 and older

Interiorae is a story that shows two worlds.  One story is the exploration of the lives of the various tenants in an apartment building.  The other story is about the dark being living in the basement of the apartment who feeds on dreams and is assisted by a small bunny who can walk freely throughout the apartment.  The two worlds do not sound as if they really relate to each other, but as the story goes on, the narratives begin to clearly blend together.  The main conflict comes from the dwindling amount of the tenants dreams, and it appears that this lack of dreams spells doom for the apartment building itself.  As the story continues, the narrative takes on a dreamy atmosphere as it draws to its conclusion.

Interiorae is a story that does not necessarily have a deep and complex plot, but reading through it is a pleasant experience.  It is not an engrossing story, but as a reader I was able to simply enjoy the story.  There are no surprises, and for this type of story it works. 

It is also a piece that is stronger in its visuals than in its plot.  Giandelli's art is filled with a great deal of emotion, and the use of colors and shading is impressive.  She shines in the strange moments, such as the dream sequences, and she also shines in the quiet, normal moments of the story.  If the story did not have words in it, it would still be a fine story. 

I would recommend this graphic novel for readers who appreciate fantastic realism and compelling art.  It is truly an enjoyable visual novel. 
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Saturday, August 6, 2016

Going Graphic with the European Union: Dungeon: Zenith-Volume 1: Duck Heart by Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim

Image from Amazon
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

Swords, monsters, heroes, and ducks make up the world of Dungeon, a very popular comic tale in its native France.  According to Time, the series by Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim, started in 1998, and the volume I read, Duck Heart, is a collection of the first two tales in the "Zenith" story of Dungeon.  I did not know what I was going to be reading before going in, but as I read, I found myself laughing and enjoying the humor, both subtle and outrageous.

Image from Amazon
Story Information:

Title: Dungeon: Zenith-Volume 1: Duck Heart

Creators: Joann Sfar (writer) and Lewis Trondheim (artist)

Publisher: NBM Publishing

Audience: Teenagers and older

The world of Dungeon starts in...what else but a dungeon?  It is not as much a dungeon as it is a gauntlet of monsters, magic, and other horrors for adventurers and heroes to face (though none have succeeded in getting out alive).  However, the Dungeon soon finds itself under siege, and it is the power of a barbarian that they need. What they get is a less than effective duke (and duck), Herbert, who miraculously manages to stop the siege.  In the next tale, which is told in a series of vignettes, Herbert and one of the Dungeon's guards, a dragon named Marvin, go on a quest to teach Herbert how to actually be a hero.  What results is a journey that is both comedic and slightly poignant.

Duck Heart is never afraid to poke fun at its characters, but it is also not afraid to consider the more serious feelings of these characters.  Herbert seems like a hapless loser, and for the most part, he is one, but when you learn about his banishment due to a duel to his father, I felt invested in the character.  It is farce, but it is farce with heart behind it.

The art is also fun and cartoonish, and one could read the story multiple times and find something new to notice in the background of the panel.  It is to the story's strength that it's characters are bizarre creatures and not humans, since this allows the artist to be creative.  While locations can look simple, it is an art style that works for the type of story that it is trying to tell.

One area that could have worked better would be the pacing of the second half of the story.  It felt as if it was over too soon, and it also jumped around at a pace that sometimes made a confusing read.  It ends on a note that leaves the reader wanting more.  This is a good sign though, that I want to continue the story.

I would recommend this graphic novel for people who love a well-done spoof and comedy with a hint of fantasy.
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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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