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Hokusai Manga and Manga: Pictures that Come to Life

Combining the perspectives of art history and manga studies, this talk discusses four wide-spread assumptions about the Hokusai Manga, that is, that they are “random sketches,” “funny pictures,” a painting manual, and the prototype of contemporary Japanese comics. As distinct from previous attempts by both art historians and cultural-studies critics, the Hokusai Manga are approached from the perspective of contemporary comics, interrelating the aspects of media, genre, pictorial storytelling, and participatory culture.

Photo of Dr. Jaqueline Berndt


Dr. Jaqueline Berndt is Professor in Japanese Language and Culture at Stockholm University. From 1991 to 2016 she worked at Japanese universities, teaching mainly visual culture and media studies in Japanese as well as English; eventually she served as Professor of Comics Theory at the Graduate School of Manga, Kyoto Seika University. Holding a first degree in Japanese Studies (1987) and a PhD in Aesthetics/Art Theory from Humboldt University Berlin (1991), her teaching and research has been informed by media aesthetics and exhibition studies, focusing on manga as graphic narratives, anime, and modern Japanese art. For The Japan Foundation she directed the world-traveling exhibition Manga Hokusai Manga: Approaching the Master’s Compendium from the Perspective of Contemporary Comics (2016-). She has widely published in Japanese, German and English, for example, the co-edited volume Manga’s Cultural Crossroads (2013), and the monographs Phänomen Manga (1995) and Manga: Medium, Art and Material (2015).

© Shiriagari Kotobuki 2015


The name manga easily invites people to draw a direct connection between Hokusai’s famous compendium (1814–1878) and contemporary manga, that is, serialized entertaining fiction which has been shaped by the specifically Japanese publication format of the (gender-specific) manga magazine since the late 1950s. Both types of manga are in the main characterized by monochrome line drawings which give the impression of being in motion, and although they differ with regards to narrativity, character design, panel layout, and balloons, they have in common that their users partake in bringing the pictures to life.