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Contagious Imagination - The Work and Art of Lynda Barry

Contagious Imagination

The Work and Art of Lynda Barry

Edited by Jane Tolmie
Foreword by Frederick Luis Aldama
Afterword by Glenn Willmott
Series: Critical Approaches to Comics Artists Series
Tom Inge Series on Comics Artists

Hardcover : 9781496839794, 212 pages, 36 b&w illustrations, July 2022
Paperback : 9781496839800, 212 pages, 36 b&w illustrations, July 2022

The long-awaited book-length analysis of the approaches and applications to teaching found in the great comic artist’s work


Contributions by Frederick Luis Aldama, Melissa Burgess, Susan Kirtley, Rachel Luria, Ursula Murray Husted, Mark O’Connor, Allan Pero, Davida Pines, Tara Prescott-Johnson, Jane Tolmie, Rachel Trousdale, Elaine Claire Villacorta, and Glenn Willmott

Lynda Barry (b. 1956) is best known for her distinctive style and unique voice, first popularized in her underground weekly comic Ernie Pook’s Comeek. Since then, she has published prolifically, including numerous comics, illustrated novels, and nonfiction books exploring the creative process. Barry’s work is genre- and form-bending, often using collage to create what she calls “word with drawing” vignettes. Her art, imaginative and self-reflective, allows her to discuss gender, race, relationships, memory, and her personal, everyday lived experience. It is through this experience that Barry examines the creative process and offers to readers ways to record and examine their own lives.

The essays in Contagious Imagination: The Work and Art of Lynda Barry, edited by Jane Tolmie, study the pedagogy of Barry’s work and its application academically and practically. Examining Barry’s career and work from the point of view of research-creation, Contagious Imagination applies Barry’s unique mixture of teaching, art, learning, and creativity to the very form of the volume, exploring Barry’s imaginative praxis and offering readers their own.

With a foreword by Frederick Luis Aldama and an afterword by Glenn Willmott, this volume explores the impact of Barry’s work in and out of the classroom. Divided into four sections—Teaching and Learning, which focuses on critical pedagogy; Comics and Autobiography, which targets various practices of rememorying; Cruddy, a self-explanatory category that offers two extraordinary critical interventions into Barry criticism around a challenging text; and Research-Creation, which offers two creative, synthetic artistic pieces that embody and enact Barry’s own mixed academic and creative investments—this book offers numerous inroads into Barry’s idiosyncratic imagination and what it can teach us about ourselves.


"Tolmie’s Contagious Imagination is an eye-popping revelation of the entrancing stories Barry created and the ingenious but simple ways she did them. . . . Contagious Imagination will be a very useful research tool about creativity and an excellent introduction to Barry—her thinking and her works—and a facile, fascinating primer for writers. Highly recommended."

- J. A. Lent, CHOICE

"Through its earnest analysis, Contagious Imagination is contagiously liberating. The book is infused with the aliveness of its subject’s guiding beliefs and teachings. . . . Readers will be inspired with a sense of bravery and confidence in their own — possibly suppressed — creativity."

- Alexander McMillan, Broken Pencil

"Contagious Imagination is as infectious as the title touts: it provides a stimulating examination of Barry's graphic storytelling, her unusual, yet efficient pedagogy, and celebrates the power of doodling, all of which contribute to the staying power of Barry's work in the canon of American comics."

- Kirsten Møllegaard, Journal of American Culture