Welcome to Slumberland: Documenting Transactional Experiences with the Little Nemo Comic Strips, 1905-1914; 1924-1927

Principal Student Investigator:

Zachary J.A. Rondinelli, Brock University, Ph.D. Student in Educational Studies



Faculty Supervisor:

Dr. Diane Collier, Brock University, Department of Educational Studies (Early Literacy)



For the next (approximately) 549 days, I will be using Twitter (@LittleNemo1905) to document transactional experiences between readers and Winsor McCay’s ground-breaking Little Nemo comic strips (Little Nemo in Slumberland, 1905-1911; 1924-1927 and In the Land of Wonderful Dreams, 1911-1914). The primary goal of the project is to investigate how both individual meaning making is constructed between a reader and a text, as well as how this process of meaning construction is impacted by collaboration in a digital, social media space. At the end of the project, this social media archive created by the daily discussions will serve as data, revealing insights and creating opportunity for critical discussion about the diverse transactional reading experiences that have occurred throughout the project. This project has been reviewed and received ethics clearance through the REB (file #: 19-339). 

Defining Transactional Experiences


I’ll be approaching this project with a focus on investigating the transactional occurrences between readers and each Little Nemo text. The word transaction simply describes the type of relationship that occurs between a reader and a text during a communicative event; in this case, reading. A transactional relationship suggests a type of reading where both the text and the reader are changed by their coming together. This is contrasted by interactional relationships where the two come together momentarily, but, essentially, remain unchanged by the experience. 


Originally proposed by Louise Rosenblatt (1978), the transactional approach to reading further differentiates various purposes (Rosenblatt calls then stances) of reading. An efferent stance to reading would mean that the reader is searching for information or plot details that they can recall later. On the other hand, an aesthetic stance would position the reader to think less about plot detail, and focus more on elements of the text that heighten the overall experience as revealed through transaction; each reader brings different social/cultural/political positions, prior knowledge, previous experiences, (etc.) to the text and these external factors play a role in the experience of any given reading. The purpose of an aesthetic stance is to bring all of these elements to bear on one another, revealing, through this act, what Rosenblatt calls the poem; a pure aesthetic experience co-constructed between the text and the reader.


Principal Student Investigator - Statement of Personal Interest


I have been a fan of Winsor McCay for a very long time. Like many other comics scholars, I was drawn to his incredibly prolific use of form in what has since become widely accepted as his masterpiece, Little Nemo in Slumberland. As a pioneer of the comics form, McCay’s prodigious use of panel composition, colour, timing, pace, perspective, hatching style, architectural detail, etc. were second to none and his work has made a lasting impact on comics that remains to this day, over 100 years later. 


My interest in McCay only deepened upon learning his family’s Northern roots and the likelihood that one of America’s greatest cartoonists is actually Canadian (Canemaker, 2018). I won’t contest or argue this point here, though; even if McCay was born in Canada, he can at best be said to have Canadian heritage since his work is so distinctly American and rooted within the American culture that he loved so much. Another minor reason that has drawn me to McCay is his time spent in both Michigan and Cincinnati; two cities across the Southern border that are dear to me (I am a lifelong fan of the Michigan State Spartans college football and basketball teams and presented my very first paper as a comics scholar at the annual Michigan State Comics Forum in 2018; I am a diehard Cincinnati Bengals fan).

Principal Student Investigator - Positionality Statement


Since my focus will be on the transactional experiences with McCay’s comic strips, it is only appropriate that I detail some of the past experience that I will be bringing to the transaction:


  • I am a thirty-year old, white, middle class, Italo-Canadian, Catholic, cisgender, heterosexual male living in Niagara Falls, ON Canada. I am a father of two boys, a three and a one year old (when the project began), and am married to my partner of over fifteen years.

  • At the time of the project’s initiation, I am entering into my second year of the Joint Ph.D. in Educational Studies at Brock University. 

  • My research in the field of comics studies include:

    • Comics theory

    • Meaning Making in Comics

    • Comics as Sponsors for Multimodal Literacy

    • Comics as Communication

    • Reading Practices and Comics

  • My research beyond comics studies includes: 

    • Multimodality

    • Reader Response Theory

    • Multiliteracy Pedagogies 

  • My future dissertation hopes to utilize participatory action research and comics-specific visual methods to explore the transactional nature of reading comics in the classroom, as well as further explore how the medium can sponsor multimodal literacy development for students.  

  • My previous post-secondary education includes: 

    • M.A. in Studies in Comparative Literatures & Arts from Brock University; 

    • Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from Western University;

    • Bachelor of Education – Intermediate/Senior from Western University. 

  • As an Ontario Certified Teacher (OCT), I have taught in the Secondary school panel (both Catholic and Public) since 2014. My qualifications include English, History, and Music – Instrumental.

  • I have previously read many of the Little Nemo strips (though this project marks my first chronological reading) and am familiar with McCay’s biography (Canemaker, 2018; Collier, 2017).


Detailing the Project


  1. Beginning once I have obtained ethics clearance, I will be tweeting, in chronological order, the Little Nemo comic strips (Strip + Original Date of Publication)

    1. The Little Nemo strips are all public domain; images will come from The Comic Strip Library.

    2. NOTE: This conceit creates a particular type of transaction that may very well be different from many of Nemo’s contemporary readers. As Alexander Braun points out, all printings of Nemo were current at the time they were published: “all newspapers—regardless of when they started printing Little Nemo—always published the same episode” (Braun, 2019). This means that not all readers would have engaged with the journey of McCay’s little dreamer from the beginning. While this is worth noting, it will not impact our experiences with the text any further. 

  2. I will begin a thread under each strip documenting my own transaction with the strip

    1. An undetermined number of tweets will comprise each thread; the number of tweets will be determined by my transaction with that particular strip.

  3. I will engage in discussion with other individuals who comment on the strip/my tweets

    1. Exploring the transaction of others

    2. Exploring collaborative transactions


Participation, Withdrawal, Anonymity and Confidentiality


For the purposes of this project, a participant will be defined as any individual who follows, tweets @, replies to, retweets, direct messages, or otherwise engages with @LittleNemo1905. Data will be defined as tweets, retweets, replies, direct messages, and other interactions with @LittleNemo1905. The only personal identifiers collected for the purposes of the research will be those publicly available on the participants twitter account.


Following @LittleNemo1905 does not constitute a commitment to ongoing participation in the project. If you would like to follow the account simply to receive a daily dose of McCay’s little dreamer, I encourage you to do so. 


Those who do choose to engage in critical conversation surrounding the “Little Nemo” strips likewise do not commit to ongoing participation in the project; you may reply, retweet, direct message, and otherwise engage with the project as frequently, or as infrequently, as you’d like over the course of it’s lifespan. 


Furthermore, each potential participant is in full control of their data for the life of the project. Should you choose to remove your contribution from the thread for whatever reason, you are fully entitled to do so. 


Since the project is being conducted on a public digital space anonymity and confidentiality will not be a factor in the research.



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I sincerely hope that you will consider participating by sharing your transactions with the Little Nemo strips through your thoughts, feelings, emotions, reactions, excitement, or distaste as I work my way through Nemo’s massive odyssey. If nothing else though, I hope that you enjoy the work of one of comics’ greats! If you have any questions or concerns about the project, please direct message @LittleNemo1905 or @zjarondinelli on Twitter or email me at z.rondinelli@outlook.com.


Thank you!