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Terrestrial Realism and the Gravity of World Literature: Joe Sacco’s Seismic Lines

Davies, D. ORCID: 0000-0002-3584-5789 (2021). Terrestrial Realism and the Gravity of World Literature: Joe Sacco’s Seismic Lines. The Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry, 8(3), pp. 301-322. doi: 10.1017/pli.2021.18


Through a close reading of Joe Sacco’s Paying the Land(2020), a graphic novel about the struggle of the Dene people in Canada’s Northwestern territories, this article shows how Sacco effects a “peripheral realism” that draws the systemic continuities of different phases of colonial modernity into view. The article then describes Sacco’s “terrestrial realism,” which combines his peripheral realism with the dialectical participation of the reader as well. Finally, in a concluding theoretical discussion, I consider how the practice of drawing allows us to think through a response to modernity’s combined and uneven development that is both materialist and decolonial at the same time. Although the former typically insists on singularity and totality, and the latter promotes a contradictory plurality, the peripheral and terrestrial realisms of Paying the Land suggest a way for theorists of world literature to find a point of methodological solidarity that is both in and against capitalist modernity’s gravitational force.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press. This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Publisher Keywords: drawing, capitalist modernity, Joe Sacco, terrestrial realism, visuality, world literature
Subjects: F History United States, Canada, Latin America > F1001 Canada (General)
P Language and Literature > PS American literature
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Media, Culture & Creative Industries > English, Publishing & Creative Writing
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

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