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Symposium Report for “Drawing Gender: Women and French-language Comics”

by Morgan Podraza

French Comics Poster

During the weekend of 28–29 February 2020, scholars from France, Belgium, the United States and the United Kingdom came together for “Drawing Gender: Women and French-language Comics,” a symposium presented and sponsored by the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum in partnership with the Department of French and Italian at the Ohio State University. Framed by the events surrounding the 2016 Angoulême International Comics Festival in which the nominations for the Grand Prix included all men and happening in coordination with the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum’s exhibit “Ladies First: A Century of Women’s Innovations in Comics and Cartoon Art,” the symposium was dedicated to the representation of and contributions by women in comics within the Francophone world. Thus, central discussions during the symposium were concerned with not only bringing the work of women to the foreground but also calling attention to the ways that women’s experiences and identities are conveyed through such work. Importantly, these conversations also highlighted and engaged with artists and works that expanded beyond the boundaries of any one identity—including a range of languages; nationalities; sexual and gender identities; and social and cultural backgrounds—in order to further emphasize the incredible contributions of creators who have not been historically canonized.

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“Can one still laugh about everything?” by Eszter Szép

A report on the Symposium at the Ohio State University on Charlie Hebdo and the terrorist attacks of January 7th 2015

The Charles Schulz auditorium, just above the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library at the Ohio State University (OSU), served as the venue of a mini-symposium on 19 February 2015 on the attack against Charlie Hebdo. This is a place where comics is in the air, and so is the need for dialogue: as event organizer Jared Gardner, professor at the Department of English & the Film Studies Program, highlighted, the symposium was called into being by the need to have a conversation and to share learned opinions on events that have stirred debates in society, in academia, and in the comics community. Conversation is what makes universities necessary, added Gardner, and it was in this spirit that he invited scholars with different perspectives and backgrounds to discuss the events of January 7th.

The symposium started with a lecture by Mark McKinney, professor of French at Miami University, co-editor of European Comic Art, and author of The Colonial Heritage of French Comics and Redrawing French Empire in Comics. The subsequent roundtable helped us to see the magazine and the terrorist attack as complex cultural phenomena that can be approached and interpreted very differently between disciplines. The participants were Daniele Marx-Scouras, from the Department of French and Italian, OSU; Youssef Yacoubi, from the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, OSU; Erik Nisbet, School of Communication, OSU; and Caitlin McGurk, Billy Ireland Cartoon Library.

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