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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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Manga Studies #3: On BL manga research in Japanese by Jessica Bauwens-Sugimoto

As with the larger field of manga studies, the earliest attempts at theorizing what we now call Boys’ Love (hereafter BL) manga were made by Japanese critics and authors in the 1980s when the genre itself surfaced. Academic BL studies, however, had to wait until the 2000s, with some key works published after 2005, and these are the main focus of this article.

The first analyses of the roots of BL manga were written by Nakajima Azusa.[1] She traced the genre back to shōnen’ai manga (boy love)[2], stories about romantic and sexual love between boys that were serialized in shōjo [girls] manga magazines.[3] While shōnen’ai has become a popular loanword within non-Japanese manga fandom, in Japan, the most widespread term — not just for graphic narratives, but also novels, audio-dramas, and games — is BL, which overwhelmingly tends to signify the commercially published variant of this cross-media genre as distinct from the fandom-based, and often more sexually explicit yaoi variant. The shōnen’ai stories of the 1970s were revolutionary as they replaced the conventional girl protagonists of shōjo manga with boys, and they appealed to female fans in a way which went beyond the act of reading. In her early essays, Nakajima dissected not only BL narratives as such but also fans’ motivations for consuming and creating them. However, her psychoanalytical focus was often interpreted as fans of the genre being unable to cope with societal gender roles, to the extent of being, at best, escapist, and at worst, pathological. Nakajima herself was an author and editor of BL literature (which is often accompanied by single-image manga-style illustrations), and she played a seminal role in June (1978–2012), the first magazine dedicated to BL manga and fiction.[4] It goes without saying that her creative involvement in the formation of the genre shaped also her stance as a critic.

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Posted by on 2014/07/29 in Guest Writers, Manga Studies

 

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