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Symposium Report: Sugar and Spice, and the Not So Nice: Comics Picturing Girlhood

DAY 2/2

by Eva Van de Wiele and Dona Pursall

Gert Meesters chaired Panel 4: A Space for Girls. Early research into the relationship between comics and their readers was central to Sylvain Lesage’s presentation. Through a study of reader correspondences he analysed the reception of and discourse provoked by the comics strip “Corinne et Jeannot” in the communist comics magazine for children Pif Gadget (1969- 1993/2004-2009). The serial performance of Jeannot, a boy in love being pranked by Corinne, the girl he adores, sparked a feedback loop between publishers, creators and readers and was also referred to within the comic. The curiosity of the readers’ letters is their desire to negotiate the morality of a fictional character, to communicate ideologies such as the extent of acceptable meanness for girls and suitable levels of temperance and kindness. It speaks to readers’ genuine investment in these comics, showing that fictional characters in humour strips are subject to such socially normative constraints. Aswathy Senan’s research on the childhood of Malayalis considered the extent to which the context of publication shapes the comics themselves. This notion was explored through a comparison of the comics strip “Bobanum Moliyum” as published in the women’s magazine Malayala Manorama and in Kalakaumudi, a literary magazine. Whilst the characters and the concept of their strip remained constant, the humour, the interests and the agency of the characters adapted to the flavour of the different magazines.

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Symposium Report: Sugar and Spice, and the Not So Nice: Comics Picturing Girlhood

DAY 1/2

by Eva Van de Wiele and Dona Pursall

The digital symposium Sugar and Spice, and the Not So Nice: Comics Picturing Girlhood was launched on 22 April 2021 with a profound and personal keynote by Mel Gibson. Using herself as a case study she reflected on being a reader, a librarian, a scholar and an individual who, in a variety of fields, has represented non-standard notions of ‘girl’. In workshops for librarians, teachers and scholars, Gibson uses comics for object elicitation, allowing her to encourage others to reconsider themselves as child comics readers and the complex ideologies knotted up in this experience. Gibson’s work provokes the notion of the individual as a role model, a unique and precise representation with particular qualities, interests and passions. Using restorative nostalgia entails not just reflecting back on but, also, resisting shame and embarrassment, forgiving and accepting ourselves as the child readers we were. Gibson shows a respect for the powerful and evocative materiality of comics and offers a compassionate model for identity. Whilst speaking personally about comics reading, Gibson engaged with discourses of hierarchy, child development and affect, interrogating the simple truth that what we read is part of making us who we are.

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Manga Studies #6: Takeuchi Osamu and Manga Expression pt. 2: The Historiographic Basis of Manga Formalism by Nicholas Theisen

In part one, I showed how the manga artist Tezuka Osamu and his body of work function as more than a mere object of analysis within manga studies but as a totalizing discourse upon which a number of larger critical concerns are projected. This has the rather odd effect of rendering “Tezuka” a milieu which can absorb even those critiques which seek to overcome a Tezuka-centric purview as to what manga might be in both historical and formal terms. I used the critical writings of Takeuchi Osamu not to evaluate them as such but to demonstrate the discursive mechanics of this totalizing absorption. In part two below, I will once again use Takeuchi’s critical oeuvre to examine, in addition to how the critic’s own personal predilections can become subsumed into seemingly objective claims, the assumptions underlying manga formalism: how manga fit with other media, how manga is understood as children’s literature, and how manga is treated as, if not entirely presumed to be, a predominantly postwar phenomenon.

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Posted by on 2015/01/09 in Guest Writers, Manga Studies

 

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Manga Studies #4: Traversing Art and Manga: Ishiko Junzō’s Writings on Manga/Gekiga by Shige (CJ) Suzuki

I. Who is Ishiko Junzō?[1]

Arguably, one of the first Japanese critics to discuss graphic narratives (story manga) for mature audiences is Ishiko Junzō (1928 – 1977).[2]  Initially active as an art critic who explored a wide range of contemporaneous artistic and popular movements, he began to publish writings more specifically on manga between the mid-1960s and mid-1970s. To many English-language readers his name might be obscure, perhaps even more so than his contemporary, philosopher and cultural critic Tsurumi Shunsuke, whose book Sengo Nihon no taishū bunkashi (A Cultural History of Postwar Japan 1945-1980)—a chapter of which is devoted to postwar manga—is available in English. Yet, in present-day Japanese-language manga research, Ishiko is repeatedly referenced, especially in relation to his media-specific discussion of manga. This article shall introduce art critic Ishiko Junzō and his scholarship, concentrating on his contribution to Japanese comics criticism and manga studies.

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Posted by on 2014/08/11 in Guest Writers, Manga Studies

 

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Manga Studies #1: Introduction by Jaqueline Berndt

Manga [1] does not easily attract scholarly interest as comics. In the name of manga, the critical focus is usually less on sequential art but rather a certain illustration style or character design, and closely related, fannish engagement in transformative or derivative creations (dōjinshi), up to and including cosplay. In many cases, scholars turn to manga as an entry point for research on girls’ (shōjo) culture and female consumers, gender and sexuality, the subcultures of fujoshi (self-designated “rotten girls” engaged in Boys’ Love, or yaoi)[2] and otaku (geeks). Attempts at elucidating the peculiar role of the comics medium in that regard—for example, by focusing not only on “shōjo” but also “manga” when discussing shōjo manga [3] —remain a distinct minority whenever sociological and anthropological concerns prevail. Be it “fan culture,” “subculture” or “scene,” user communities are given preference over media specificity, texts and individual readings, at least outside of Japan. This applies especially to Japanese Studies, which is still the field yielding most manga research abroad. Here, manga is taken to represent, if not national culture in general, then Japanese popular culture, in the main understood as a youth culture with significant global impact and economic effects. Consequently, the utilization of manga as mere object appears to matter more than methodological diligence.[4] Whether subjected to symptomatic readings of social issues or to sophisticated critical theory, media-specific contexts and manga-related expertise tend to be neglected. This is as much due to specific institutional requirements as it is indicative of a lack within the institution, that is, the absence of a respective field of research and criticism.

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Posted by on 2014/05/11 in Guest Writers, Manga Studies

 

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