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Symposium report: Tradition and Innovation in Franco-Belgian bande dessinée

by Fransiska Louwagie and Simon Lambert

 

On 13 March 2020 the University of Leicester hosted an International Symposium titled “Tradition and Innovation in Franco-Belgian bande dessinée” organised in collaboration with Wallonia-Brussels International. This one-day symposium – for which the progamme can be found here – was organised with generous support from the ASMCF, the Society for French Studies and the School of Arts at the University of Leicester.

The day was opened by Simon Lambert as Academic and Cultural Liaison Officer for Wallonia-Brussels in the UK, in conjunction with Fransiska Louwagie (University of Leicester). Keynote speakers were Professor Laurence Grove from the University of Glasgow and graphic novelist Michel Kichka, who also delivered a public seminar on his work. Across three panels, the day focussed on various forms of tradition and innovation in Franco-Belgian bande dessinée: the first panel was dedicated to “Revisiting the classics”, the second panel to “Contemporary perspectives”, and the final ASMCF panel to “Reshaping Franco-Belgian bande dessinée”. The closing remarks were organised as a roundtable session on collaborative international research projects.

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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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Medieval Comics: Depicting the Middle Ages in European Graphic Novels

by Iain A. MacInnes

Medieval history is very much in vogue at the present time. Driven by representations of the period in various forms of popular culture, there appears to be a great appetite for all things medieval. From television (Vikings, The Name of the Rose, Knightfall) to film (The Green Knight, The King, Outlaw King) to video games (A Plague Tale: Innocence, Kingdom Come: Deliverance, Medieval Dynasty), representations of the medieval world are hard to avoid.[1] And that is before we get to the more medieval-influenced forms of media that perhaps drive interest in the medieval even more than apparently “real” representations of the past. Where Game of Thrones led the way, The Witcher is now appealing to a mass global audience.[2] The forthcoming Lord of the Rings television series, films like Nimona and games like Godfall will similarly bring different varieties of medieval aesthetics to modern audiences across the globe.[3]

Another medium, perhaps more niche than the above, is that of the graphic novel. Comics set in both the medieval past and medieval-inspired worlds have gained increasing popularity in recent years, and it can be argued that these are as important as the above examples in terms of influencing modern perceptions and understanding of our medieval past. One potential reason why this is not as well-recognised is that many medieval comics are not available in English. While there do exist prominent examples of English-language medieval comics by noted authors and special releases timed to coincide with historical anniversaries (such as Crécy, Templar, Nevsky: A Hero of the People, On Dangerous Ground: Bannockburn 1314 and Agincourt 1415: A Graphic Novel), this output pales into relative insignificance when compared with that produced in continental Europe.[4] The remainder of this post will therefore consider the range of medieval comics produced for the European market, with a focus on Spain and particularly France. While some broader context for these works is provided, the main focus will be on comics of the last decade to allow consideration of increased interest in the medieval period as reflected in the comic medium.

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Posted by on 2020/04/15 in Guest Writers

 

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Broken Hero(es). The Construction of Masculinity in Enki Bilal’s La Trilogie Nikopol

by Véronique Sina

In France Enki Bilal may be one of the most popular comics artists who specialised in the genre of science fiction during his lifelong career. Since the mid 1970s his work has been characterised by the presentation of bleak visions of the future in which ruthless conglomerates reign and governments as well as ecological systems tend to collapse[1]. Most often the protagonists of these dystopic visions are disillusioned and broken heroes whose adventures Bilal manages to capture with the help of his surrealistic artwork. In the following I would like to focus on one of those broken heroes – namely Alcide Nikopol, the protagonist of Bilal’s comic book series La Trilogie Nikopol (1980-1992) – in order to analyse the construction of masculinity[2] in Bilal’s work by showing how performative discourses of gender and media go hand in hand in La Trilogie Nikopol[3]. In this respect, ‘masculinity’ is understood as a performative concept, i.e. as doing masculinity. As the American gender theorist Judith Butler elaborates

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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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