Saturday, May 14, 2011

Further Comics Scholarship 2008

Here are some further examples of medieval comics scholarship presented at various conferences since 2000, when I started tracking them.

The 23rd Annual Conference on Medievalism
October 9th - 11th, 2008

Excalibur as Science Object: Democratizing the Power behind the Arthurian Throne
Michelle Braun (Northeastern)

Magical objects frequently appear in Arthurian narratives and the object that appears most frequently in stories about King Arthur is his sword, Excalibur. In medieval and other Arthurian texts, Excalibur is a magical object, but in some contemporary iterations of the legend, Excalibur becomes a technological object, whose function can be explained by scientific principles. The graphic novel, Camelot 3000 (1988) reimagines Excalibur as a nuclear powered weapon, while A.A. Attanasio’s Arthurian tetrology (1996-1999) reveals the sword-in-the-stone episode as a trick made possible by manipulating a magnetic field. Both magic and science are forms of power, so that in translating Excalibur as a technical object, the reader is invited to share in the understanding of its power. These Arthurian narratives democratize the process of king-making by revealing it to be facilitated by science. Science is more democratic than magic (we teach it in our schools believing that anyone can learn science) and magic is most often represented as something that only certain people have a facility for and it is therefore a more exclusive pursuit. By re-imagining Excalibur as a technological, rather than a magical object, these Arthurian narratives become more democratic, reflecting the tastes and interests of their twentieth century readers. This paper will describe the use of science and technology as a means for explaining the king-making events involving Excalibur in two contemporary Arthurian tales. As a manifestation of power, Excalibur’s status as magical symbol shifts to technological tool in Attanasio’s work and Camelot 3000, but its essential function stays the same. These authors’ decision to use science and technology instead of magic to validate Arthur’s authority and reign, invites readers to participate in the legend by explaining it in language that twentieth century readers understand and value.

Manga and Medieval Romance: Bleach and Boys’ Tales
Lorna Cooper (Texas Tech)

Manga, or Japanese comics, is not only a new media that has emerged in the last few decades, but it is also a new outlet for medievalism. To say that a Western genre like the medieval chivalric romance has influenced the twentieth and twenty-first century Eastern popular culture phenomenon like Japanese manga could seem unfounded. A myth criticism study could easily be done comparing a hero comparing the heroes of chivalric romance to those of shonen (boys') manga. The fact that medievalism is appearing specifically in boys' manga is significant when one considers that the Arthurian tales in the Mabinogion are also widely speculated to be boys' tales. The root word "mab" means boy, leaving room to speculate that the tales were either for boys or about knights in their boyhood. A centuries-wide span still reveals that that chivalric tales are about boys and intended to inspire boys. Comparing twenty-first century manga with chivalric courtly romance reveals an almost identical treatment of the individual in his relation to his idealized abilities, nobility, other world journeys, training, friends, and love. The only topoi that seem to have changed over the centuries are the treatment of women who are allowed to be part of the warrior class and the hero whose weaknesses are more realistically portrayed. He is still the best, strongest, and most determined, but the audience is allowed to see him draw at a battle or be injured near death and undergo a long recovery process. Nonetheless, he is still the hero. In addition, his true love also shares the heroic spotlight. She is only worthy of the hero if she possess similar "supernatural" powers. I have chosen to examine the series Bleach out of a dozen boys' manga that contain numerous influences of medievalism.

22e Congrès de la Société Internationale Arthurienne
Rennes, 15-20 Juillet 2008

« Spanish Arthuriana and the treatment of its sources: form medieval romances to modern-day comics »

Forty-third International Congress on Medieval Studies
May 8–11, 2008

Arthur and Dilbert
Dominick Grace, Brescia Univ. College
(Presented as part of Mass Media Arthuriana: The Matter of Britain in Modern Popular Culture, a session sponsored by The Society for the Study of Popular Culture and the Middle Ages)

2008 Joint Conference of the National Popular Culture and American Culture Associations
March 19 – 22, 2008
San Francisco Marriott

“Lady Death, Lady Pendragon and the Battleaxes: the Peculiar Guidelines for Medieval Women with Power in Modern Comic Books”
Katherine Allocco, Western Connecticut State University
(Presented under the Medieval Popular Culture Area)

“Playing with Gender in Arthur, King of Time and Space
Christina Francis, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania
(Presented under the Arthurian Legends Area; published as "Playing with Gender in Arthur, King of Time and Space" in Arthuriana 20.4.)

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