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.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Going Graphic with the European Union: Corto Maltese: Under the Sign of Capricorn by Hugo Pratt

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

While Hugo Pratt’s character, Corto Maltese, has been a prominent player in the European comic scene, it is only recently that new translations of the stories have been available in English. In an interview with Michael Lorah of Comic Book Resources, Dean Mullaney notes that the graphic novels were written in Pratt’s native language, Italian, and published in French. Previous English versions relied on the French translations; EuroComics is currently working on a project to translate all the Corto Maltese stories to best re-create Pratt’s intent. While Mullaney states that it is the third volume of Corto Maltese’s tales, Corto Maltese: Under the Sign of Capricorn, is the first volume of a 12 volume translation project.

Image Courtesy of Comic Book Resources
Story Information

Title: Corto Maltese: Under the Sign of Capricorn

Creator: Hugo Pratt

Translation: Dean Mullaney and Simone Castaldi

Publisher: EuroComics and IDW Publishing (US Edition)

Audience: Teen and Up

The best way to describe Corto Maltese: Under the Sign of Capricorn  is to describe it as a series of short adventures that are connected through various plot points and characters. The locations also change throughout the story as the characters travel to the Dutch Guianas, Brazil, Saint Kitt, and Honduras in 1916. The story concerns a young boy named Tristan Bantam who is looking for his half-sister, Morganna, as a part of protecting his recently deceased father’s company. Corto Maltese is recruited by Tristan as transportation and guide in his quest. Rounding out the cast is Professor Steiner.  During their travels, they run into magicians, rebels, immortals, lawyers, colonial soldiers, and even old enemies of Maltese.

Based on the praise on the book jacket and the information provided in the introduction and author’s page, it is clear that Hugo Pratt was an influential figure in the field of graphic novels. The character of Corto Maltese has continued to endure even after Pratt’s death in 1995. While I had never heard of Pratt before beginning my research into European graphic novels, I can see why his work is well respected. The artwork is distinctive, and the dialogue, while short, contains a great deal of wit and creativity. It is also a graphic novel that takes chances in its storytelling, as dream sequences stand side by side with adventure and political intrigue.

Another interesting aspect of the story is the depiction of the world. While there are areas of the graphic novel that may not work as well today as they did back then, it is clear that Pratt has a respect for different cultures;  He also has a political message of anti-colonialism in his works. It is a world filled with people from different walks of life, but the main antagonists are a part of imperialistic forces.

However, there were some concerns I had during reading. Since this is technically the third volume about Corto Maltese, I was confused at mentions of Maltese's past. I also felt as if the story could be improved if annotations regarding the locations and references were provided. It was an entertaining story, but I felt as if I missed parts of it due to lack of information.

I would recommend this graphic novel and the further adventures of Corto Maltese, for anyone who likes  adventure comics of the 30s, 40s, and 50s. I would also recommend it for audiences interested in exploring European comic culture.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Going Graphic with the European Union: Logicomix by Apostolos Doxiadis, Christos H. Papadimitriou, Alecos Papadatos, and Annie Di Donna

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

Logic is one of the key components of our world, and many discoveries in math and science stem from it. However, what about the mathematicians who studied logic? How does rationality (or irrationality) figure into their discoveries?

Logicomix is the product of the work Apostolos Doxiadis, Christos H. Papadimitrioou,Aalecos Papadatos, Annie Di Donna, Dimitris Karatzaferis, Thordis Paraskevas, and Anne Bardy put into researching logic, mathematics, and one of the famous researchers in the field, Bertrand Russell. The result is a graphic novel that does not fit comfortably into one particular category. Is it a text designed to educate readers? Is it a story about a quest? Is it a biography? Is it the story of creators trying to tell a story?  Logicomix contains all of these stories, and manages to create a cohesive and interesting narrative.

From Amazon
Story Information

Title: Logicomix

Writers: Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou

Artists: Alecos Papadatos and Annie Di Donna

Publisher: Bloomsbury (US)

Audience: Teen and Up

Logicomix has three stories interwoven in its tale. The framing device of the graphic novel is about the drafting phase of the graphic novel; It starts with a beginning that breaks the fourth wall as Apostolos Doxiadis addresses the audience. The main creators (Apostolos, Christos, Alecos, and Annie) are in Athens, and while Apostolos, Alecos, and Annie are intrigued by the emotional direction of the drafted story, Christos, a professional mathematical logician, acts as the critic of the story. The second story is a 1939 lecture of Bertrand Russell, a man known for his work in logic, mathematics, pacifism, and social justice. During this lecture, he explores the concept of logic, and poses a question: “what is logic?” (Doxiadis, etc. 35) The third story is the actual content of the lecture which concerns Russell’s own personal history. While the lecture only contains references to that history, the graphic novel expands on those events for the benefit of the reader.

While the story is a graphic novel, it uses a chapter structure to divide the plot. While this could serve as a disruption to the flow of the narrative, it actually aids the pace of the story. Logicomix covers a great deal of information throughout; even by the end, it is clear that the story had to be modified and does not depict a complete history. The creators provide a glossary of terms and people at the end of the book, and this is a place to search for further information.

It is also a graphic narrative that is challenging to read in one sitting, especially if you are unfamiliar with some of the topics, such as myself. However, the focus on the personal and the little details in the art (such as the depictions of Russell’s aging), helped keep my interest. The art and words work together to keep the reader's attention.  The narrative challenges the reader with questions, and even at the end, I am still pondering logic and whether or not people will ever completely understand it without going mad.

I would recommend this graphic novel to people who are interested in logic, math, history and abstract concepts who also want to read about it in a way that prefers a narrative approach over a technical approach to storytelling. As a graphic novel, Logicomix provides an outlet for a story that may not have reached a larger audience beyond mathematical professionals.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Going Graphic with the European Union: Exquisite Corpse by Pénélope Bagieu

Image from First Second
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
According to the Museum of Modern Art, the term “exquisite corpse” refers to “a game in which each participant takes turns writing or drawing on a sheet of paper, folds it to conceal his or her contribution, then passes it to the next player for a further contribution.” When the game is complete, a finished work is revealed to all the participants. In her graphic novel Exquisite Corpse, author Pénélope Bagieu replicates this game through her art and characters as the plot unfolds. In a sense, Bagieu allows the reader to become an observer of this game, a role that the reader may not be aware of until the final image of the story.

Image from First Second
Story Information

Title: Exquisite Corpse (Original title: Cadavre exquis)

Storyteller: Pénélope Bagieu

English Translation: Alexis Siegel

Publisher: First Second (2015, American edition); Gallimard (2010, French edition)

Audience: Adults

The story of Exquisite Corpse starts with Zoe, a 20-something, who is going nowhere in her job as a “booth babe” and in a poor relationship with her boyfriend. It is by chance that her life changes while on a lunch break; in the building across from her, she finds a man peeking out at her. Her curiosity leads her to meeting the mysterious man, who is named Thomas Rocher. In their first meeting, he is surprised (and intrigued) that Zoe does not recognize him as an author. A relationship begins between the two, and while at first it starts out pleasantly, Zoe begins to wonder why Thomas never wants to leave his place.  She also begins to wonder about the relationship Thomas has with his publisher (and ex-wife) Agathe. In time, she learns that not only is Thomas Rocher a renowned and famous author, but that everyone else believes him to be dead. By faking his death and publishing “posthumous” works, Thomas gets the recognition he thinks he deserves, and Zoe learns she is his new inspiration. After this is revealed, Zoe begins to want to live her own life rather than live with a “dead” man. I do not wish to spoil the ending, but readers need to pay attention to all the pieces of art and dialogue to fully appreciate how the story pulls itself together.

In the story, Bagieu paints a Paris of many colors, and it stands in contrast to the monotones of the closed world of Thomas Rocher’s apartment. Bagieu also demonstrates a strong ability to capture the unique emotions and feelings of her three main characters. This work manages to create an experience that leaves readers intrigued and invested in the story.  It is also a story with a message as it weaves a tale that critiques the fictional trope of a young woman serving as a muse for an author throughout. 

This is my second time reading the graphic novel, and in a second reading, I gained a new appreciation for the story. As a narrative, it is worth the time to read a second time to fully appreciate the effort and work put into the story.  My major concern is the brevity of the final act; it is the section that is the most powerful, but it is also too brief in comparison to the build-up.  If you are interested in stories that are romantic but not traditionally romantic, this graphic novel is a recommended read.

Join me next week for another review for Going Graphic with the European Union!


Thursday, April 28, 2016

MillerComm Lecture Series: Putin’s Russia: The past and future of Kleptocracy

By Raphaela Berding

On Thursday, April 21, the EU Center co-sponsored the talk “Putin’s Russia: The past and future of Kleptocracy” given by Karen Dawisha, Walter E. Havighurst Professor of Political Science and Director at the Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies at Miami University in Ohio. Dawisha started her lecture by defining the term “Kleptocracy.” According to her, it is a system in which the risk is nationalized, and the reward is privatized. With regard to Russia it means that the immediate group around Putin wins, and the risk is taken for the sake of the Russian state. That being said, Dawisha went on to elaborating on various actors that care about the above mentioned situation. There are many actors in Russia that care; however, if they make their voice heard, they pay a price. The case of Deputy Prime Minister and opposition leader Boris Nemtsov who was murdered for being in an opposing position to Putin, can be seen as an example for how the opposition is dealt with.

Besides internal actors, there are also external, international actors who care about the Russian situation, namely the US and the EU. Dawisha mentioned the illegal annexation of Crimea in March 2014, after which the US and the EU used sanctions as a tool against Russia. Even though it was the first time in Europe after WW II that country borders had been changed with force, there was no military response. Instead the EU and the US sanctioned Putin’s circle. According to Dawisha, the EU and the US thereby signaled that they knew how Russia’s system worked, and this created mistrust within Putin’s circle.

Dawisha then went on to talk about the impact the Russian system has on the West. Russia contributes to weakening the international system because they pump money into the underground economy and weaken the post-Westphalian state, on which the Western countries are dependent.

Dawisha concluded her lecture by pointing out that the current situation in Russia did not occur because of an accidental process, but was already laid out in a document in 2000 which contained a plan for the system. For example, according to that leaked document every election under Putin was organized in such a way that the opposition did not have a chance. Dawisha also warned that the answer to the question “When did we lose Russia?” asked by every new US administration is “Russia lost itself.”