The name “The Middle Spaces” is taken from Jonathan Lethem’s brilliant The Fortress of Solitude:
We all pined for those middle spaces, those summer hours when Josephine Baker lay waste to Paris, when ‘Bothered Blue’ peaked on the charts, when a teenaged Elvis, still dreaming of his own first session, sat in Sun Studios watching the Prisonaires, when a top-to-bottom burner blazed through a subway station, renovating the world for an instant, when schoolyard turntables were powered by a cord run from a streetlamp, when juice flowed…
In comics, the middle spaces, the spaces between panels are called “the gutter,” but the reader-provided closure that occurs in that space is a little too amazing to be relegated to the curb. Closure of that kind (or resistance to closure) isn’t just happening in comics. It is all over the place, especially in navigating the identity politics of transnational America, where disparate images are sewn/sown together to make a narrative of self and/or community.
The Middle Spaces was established in March of 2013 (though a few older posts were transferred over from an earlier incarnation called We Are In It). It explores thoughts on music, comics, race and gender (sometimes all four at once).
Why Music? Because music pervades all aspects of culture, from high art symphonies to radio commercial jingles, and of course countless pop songs. It reflects and shapes social attitudes and its affective nature provides a site where people deeply identify through both the acquisition of material objects (like all those people getting back into vinyl) and in the form of the collection of songs through which some aspect of our lives or feelings seems so clearly expressed. Because music talks across time, and is so amenable to reinvention and recreation, and unpredictable social synergies.
Why Comics? As suggested above, there is something about the comics medium that draws the reader in through its demand for visual closure. Furthermore, from the seemingly undying popularity of superheroes to the detailed recording of the awkward events in autobiographical comics, they provide a model for how serialization and identity function together. In addition, like music, the material artifact is important to comics culture (though not necessarily required). The vocabulary of collection becomes the primary mode of explaining the individual’s relation to comics and what that says about that reader/collector—reflecting a social context by which an identity may cohere.
The Middle Spaces is typically updated every other Tuesday before noon, with occasional spates of more (or less) frequent posting as scheduling permits. Associated videos, sound files and comic panels can also be found on the tumblr, we-are-in-it. You can “LIKE” The Middles Spaces on Facebook here, and/or follow on Twitter.
The site is maintained and mostly written by Osvaldo Oyola. Osvaldo received his PhD in English at Binghamton University in New York State in 2014 with a focus on post-war transnational American literature, looking at how forms of collection create a framework for suturing pop culture with memory, histories and traditions to inform various forms of identity as it relates to race, ethnicity and gender. He is currently employed as a full-time lecturer in New York University’s Expository Writing Program. Osvaldo is a native Brooklynite and still lives in Brooklyn with his author/poet wife and two cats named for Francie and Katie from Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. You can find links to other selected writing by Osvaldo here.
The Middle Spaces is copy-edited by Eric Gershik.
The site also welcomes guest bloggers and co-writers. See our Submit page.
All written content on The Middle Spaces is © The Middle Spaces unless otherwise listed. Images are © of their original publishers and are reproduced here under Fair Use Standards.