Illustrating the World’s Great Literature

All of us here at The Library Foundation have been obsessing over The Graphic Canon– a ambitious three volume illustrated series featuring great works of world literature reimagined by artists, cartoonists and graphic novelists.  In advance of the May 21st ALOUD panel moderated by Graphic Canon editor Russ Kick, who will be accompanied by several contributing artists, we gathered some of our staff’s favorite pieces to give you a glimpse of the stunning illustrations that bring these classic literary works to life.

Volume 3: The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Art/ Adaptation by R. Sikoryak

A long time ago someone gave me a book on Ma’at.  One particular line from that book struck me – pain is the resistance to change.  I think of that line when I think of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis – even the little bit I know of it as a result of looking and reading R. Sikoryak’s interpretation of this novella as found in the third volume of The Graphic Canon.  This story reminds me that the more stubborn we are, the less likely others will be willing to consider our view of the world.  When that happens we feel lonely – forgotten – bygone – underappreciated.

-Imani Harris, Assistant Director, Foundation and Corporate Relations

Volume 3: Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll
Art/ Adaptation by Erin Cantrell

Through entrancing black and white images, Cantrell instantly transports you into a sinister and magical world filled with “jabberwocks” and “tulgey woods” that you can’t pry your eyes from. She brings a novel perspective to the classic by presenting a complex relationship between a father and headstrong son in a darkly imaginative setting. Cantrell exposes the heart of the poem, leaving you nostalgic for those simplistic days of adolescence, because no matter what you went through, you never had to defeat a jabberwocky.

-Kyndal McLyn, ALOUD Intern

Volume 2: Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Art by Andrzej Klimowski
Adaptation by Danusia Schejbal

I read Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novella Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for the first time last summer and was struck by just how twisted and horrific it was, not because of blood or gore but for the frightening things Stevenson suggests are possible within the human brain.  That said, it’s incredible how precisely the same macabre and creepy feelings I experienced in the reading came back when I encountered the adaptation in Volume 2 of The Graphic Canon. Danusia Schejbal has perfectly encapsulated the whole story and its moral struggles in just 24 frames and Andrzej Klimowski has beautifully illustrated my nightmares. It makes me want to run down to the stacks and hunker down for another reading.

 -Katie Dunham, Communications Director

Volume 1: Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare
Art/ Adaptation by Robert Berry with Josh Levitas

I was really drawn to Sonnet 18 in Volume 1 of The Graphic Canon because the art was so vastly different from anything I would expect to see while reading Shakespeare. While the drawings and illustrations appear very modern, they contain little graphic novel style bubbles with Elizabethan text. The juxtaposition of the two were very compelling to me.

-Sarah Charleton, Cultural Programs Coordinator

Volume 1: The Reed Song by Rumi
Art/Adaptation by Michael Green
Translation by Coleman Barks

I was browsing through Volume One of The Graphic Canon and was drawn in by the illustrations found in the Rumi poems section.  Specifically, the painting-like image presented with “The Reed Song” caught my eye because it didn’t look like anything else in the Canon, and it seemed to elicit a sense of tranquility in me.  I love tales about “coming home” and was pleasantly surprised to learn that the image of lily pads, reeds and water reflect the music of the reed flute in the poem as well as its yearning to return to its home on the riverbank.  If I may be brazenly sentimental, this entry speaks to the peace I experience whenever I return home (especially after a long and trying journey) – that place where I belong.

 -Erin Sapinoso, Membership Director


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