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Cartoonist Jules Feiffer in Residence

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dancerJules Feiffer, renowned cartoonist, author, scriptwriter, and playwright, joined the Dartmouth community for summer term 2009 as a Montgomery Fellow.

While in residence, Feiffer is teaching an undergraduate course, "Graphic Humor and 20th Century America." He has also made several public presentations, visited classes, and met informally with students and faculty.

Jules FeifferJules Feiffer (far right) holds a session of his summer term course "Graphic Humor in 20th Century America" at the Montgomery House. From left: Dylan Leavitt '11, Virginia Selden '11, Jessica Ashworth MALS '11, James Newcombe '11, William Reid '09, Gregory Levine '09, and Larry Bowman '11. (Photo by Joseph Mehling '69)

Feiffer's drawing career spans more than a half-century, beginning with his Village Voice cartoons in the late 1950s to recent work illustrating and writing children's books.

An American art form: Graphic art-magazine cartoons and illustrations, newspaper comic strips-"has played a singular role in reflecting and shaping the cultural and social fabric of this country," Feiffer says. Teaching that history to students tops Feiffer's list of fellowship highlights.

Visual language: Feiffer, born in 1929, counts himself part of a culture adept at reading symbols as narrative and emotional shorthand. Such symbols were, he says, an important form of cultural exchange: "A whole generation, not reading comics, has lost that common language."

Political cartoons: Feiffer, for his part, has essentially stopped drawing them. "I did three during the 2008 presidential campaign," he recalls, "for very specific occasions." Expressing great respect for his practicing colleagues (including Jeff Danziger, who joined Feiffer, Ed Sorel, and Ed Koren at Dartmouth for a panel discussion in August), Feiffer worries that there are now "so few, and the number is going down fast."

Respect: "Cartooning hasn't been taken seriously as an art form," Feiffer says, although he sees some lessening of that attitude in recent years, "thanks to brilliant work like Art Spiegelman's Maus."

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Nobel Prize-winning chemist Roald Hoffmann will be the fall term Montgomery Fellow. Click here for updates and video highlights.

By KELLY SEAMAN

Last Updated: 1/12/10