Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Medieval Comics at PCA/ACA

There were a number of papers of interest at last month's Joint Conference of the National Popular Culture & American Culture Association and the Southwest/Texas Popular Culture & American Culture Association held in San Antonio, Texas, from 4/20-23/11. They included the following:

Session 6115: Graphic Novels, Comics, and Popular Culture: Alan Moore
Paper 2 of 4: Socializing the Heroic Psyche: Organized Outsiders in the Irish Finn Cycle and Alan Moore's Top Ten
Hannah Means-Shannon (Georgian Court University)

This study investigates the alternative heroic society of super-powered policemen of Alan Moore’s Top Ten in comparison to earlier mythological “outsider” motifs found in the Irish Finn Cycle. Both outsider groups are formed as microcosms of society as a whole founded upon inverse principles, valuing qualities which in “mainstream” society function as indicators of difference. The development of characters in Top Ten also suggests the development of necessary “insider” qualities such as community loyalty and the support of community goals. In order for a cohesive alternate society to function, a balance must be struck between the potential power and violence of the psyche and the potential unity and collectivising aspects of the social ego consciousness. Using the psychoanalytical writings of Carl Jung and Erich Neumann as well as scholarship on the “warband” literature of the Irish Finn Cycle, this study will illustrate the traditional and ongoing concern in heroic literature for the inherent conflict between the organized, collective aspects of an ego-based society and the less controlled but empowering aspects of the psyche-driven individual.

Session 8076: Arthurian Legends: Women in Arthuriana
Paper 1 of 4: Frailty Thy Name is Woman: An Examination of Arthurian Women in Modern Comics and Graphic Novels
Jody Helme-Day (Wayne State University)

The legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table have experienced renewed interest in the past two decades, with several books, plays, and movies created. One of the most innovative genres used to retell the tales has been comic books and graphic novels. The King and his Knights, and their code of chivalry and moral and physical strength, have been integrated into well-known super hero comics such as Spider Man and Batman, or they have been re-situated into whole new stories with more modern scenes and situations, such as Camelot 3000. The women of the legends have found their way into these comics as well, and just as modern writers have carried over the traditional, glorious depictions of the men, they have also kept those of the women: the weakness of Guinevere, the evil sensuality of Morgan and Nimue, and the danger a woman represents to a man if he is distracted by her charms, or if she does not play the required role in a world of male warriors. The authors of these comics are held by the constraints of the legends themselves, as there is no room for female power if an Arthurian tale is to be told in a recognizable way, but the exaggerated depiction of the female Arthurian characters suggests a latent anxiety about female power that has not changed since Malory’s time.

Session 9486: Comic Art and Comics: Comics and Some Old Fashioned Ideas
Paper 2 of 4: Holding Out for a Hero: The Recasting of the Renaissance Epic Hero as a Contemporary Comic Superhero
Cheyenne Matthews (Independent Scholar)

Despite the division of literature into such categories as classical, Renaissance, or modern periods, the use of conventions, characters, and themes is cyclical, with the same myths and archetypes appearing in different manifestations through the ages. The evolution of one such archetype can be traced from the Renaissance epic hero to the contemporary comic book superhero, which both exhibit traits of heightened morality, mental fortitude, and exceptional strength while combating oppressive influences. Although these exemplary figures serve a dual purpose of entertainment and instruction to reinforce a value system threatened by an unstable, oppositional society, they communicate markedly divergent messages regarding sociopolitical institutions and ideological elitism. Providing a distinct correlation between vastly different time periods, this paper will analyze these messages by using Joseph Campbell’s comparative mythology and Soren Kierkegaard’s philosophy of morality and its “double danger” to examine the reconstitution of the epic poem as serialized comics and their multimedia spin-offs, the recasting of the Renaissance epic heroes of Torquato Tasso’s Jerusalem Delivered as modern superheroes in Stan Lee’s X-Men, and the convergence of these archetypes and themes in Neil Gaiman’s graphic novel Marvel 1602.

Paper 3 of 4: Medieval Literature, Modern Comics
Tom Miller (McMaster University)

Session 6175: Graphic Novels, Comics, and Popular Culture: Teaching With Comics and Graphic Novels
Paper 1 of 4: Teaching Medieval and Renaissance Literature and Culture through the Comic/Graphic Novel
Christina Angel (Metropolitan State College of Denver)

In the field of Medieval and Renaissance studies, it is often difficult to engage students in new and meaningful ways, particularly since the traditional method of teaching these subjects often provides no relevance to the average student (one can practically hear the “but it’s boring” lament right here). This paper explores the various ways we can reinvigorate the study of the English Middle Ages and Renaissance via engagement with the graphic novel. Opening from a discussion of Moore and Lloyd’s V for Vendetta as segue into the early modern space of Shakespearean intrigue and Jacobean politics, the essay further explores uses of Gaiman’s Sandman and Gareth Hinds’ Beowulf series, for example, as gateways to literary discovery. My general assertion is that students will come to appreciate (or even adore) this area of literature if they are provided relevance and a reason to read within and around it.

Session 7659: Anime Manga: Cross-Cultural Themes in Anime & Manga
Paper 3 of 3: Narukami: The Depiction of the Norse god Thor in Matantei Loki
Traci Cohen (CSU Sacramento)

Thor is easily the most recognizable character in Norse mythology. Even if someone has no familiarity with mythology they will know the image of Thor. In America that image is based on the Marvel comic book The Mighty Thor. Eastern countries, such as Japan have also integrated Thor into their popular culture. In Matantei Loki (Mythical Detective Loki), a manga about Norse gods being sent to modern day Japan, by Sakura Kinoshita there is an emphasis on traits within Thor that coincide with the samurai value system. Because Kinoshita had these traits to work with in the character of Thor she is able to appropriate the epitome of Norse culture, Thor, and place him within a Japanese background without forfeiting his basic nature.

In my paper I am discussing the character of Narugami (Narugami is the human name of the god Thor) in Kionshita’s work and how, although he has been give Japanese characteristics, Narugami still retains a connection to the god Thor off of which he was based. I look at both Thor and Narugami in their relation to the samurai code as laid out in Yamamoto Tsunetomo’s Hagakure. The specific values I look at are loyalty, bravery, simplicity, truthfulness and politeness. Ultimately, through Narugami Kinoshita is reworking and, in some cases, mocking these traditional values in the modern world.

Session 7646: Medieval Popular Culture: Medievalism and the Modern
Paper 3 of 4: Red Days, Black Knights: The Middle Ages in American Containment Culture
Peter Lee (Independent Scholar)

My proposed topic examines the European Middle Ages as presented in American comic books after the Second World War. With the onset of the Cold War and descent of the Iron Curtain, American comic books, film, magazines, and other mediums of popular culture reinforced the United States as the leader of the Free World. Stories set in the Middle Ages underscored various facets of American culture; in re-imagining the past, creators infused American myths and enlightenment into the Dark Ages. Such themes included the “Horatio Alger” motif of untitled youths working their way up a chivalric ladder, an affirmation of Christian values over other faiths, and a demonization of a barbaric other in contrast to Anglo-Saxon heroes. While some of these themes stemmed from the Middle Ages itself, as well as later historical novels, creators adapted these tales to reflect American standards in the postwar decade. In infusing the Middle Ages with these stories, creators implied the longevity, legitimacy, and superiority of American values over that of their communist antagonists.

No comments:

Post a Comment