Saturday, April 4, 2015

Gender and the Graphic Canon

We've seen the kinds of issues that the race of an author or a graphical adapter can raise -- but what about gender? Women writers have labored, for much of literary history, under the burden of being taken less 'seriously' -- with all that it implies, including having a harder time making a living, getting published, and entering the 'canon.' Women graphic novelists, today, face similar barriers; the perception -- and the reality -- that comics and graphical works tend to be dominated by male readers, and male artists -- has shadowed their work as well.

So this week we have several women writers -- Emily Dickinson, H.D., and Kate Chopin -- adapted by Dame Darcy, Bishakh Som, and Rebecca Migdal. Darcy is perhaps the most prolific of the three; her comic series Meatcake has been published by Fantagraphics since 1992; set in the warped land of Faeiry (her spelling), it's a world she describes as "for folks with their heads in the 1800s and their crotches in the 2000s." Som, for his part, is one of the most eclectic artists in any of our volumes; born in Ethiopia in 1968, he says he was raised on a diet of Tintin and Indian folklore; he wryly says that nearly everything he learned about his parents' native India, he learned from comics. He's also a Harvard-trained architect -- and much much more -- check out this extensive profile at The Rumpus, which features a retrospective of his work. Rebecca Migdal is perhaps the least familiar of the three; her most widely known graphic work has been in Seth Tobocman's ongoing World War 3 series, but she's also worked in a wide array of media, including film, puppeteering, and performance.

So, in terms of gender at least, Darcy and Migdal are a match for their subjects. Still, it seems that elements of style and approach loom larger than those of identity here; Darcy's flowery get gothic faeryworld seems appropriate for Dickinson's poem; Migdal's sepia toned snapshots evoke the turn of the century with both artistry and realism, and Som's whimsical yet meticulous imagery seems to fit H.D.'s (H.D., an avant-garde writer closely associated with the Imagist movement, worked in genres that cross over the conventional lines between poem, play, and prose.

All the same, there's no way to anticipate how readers today might respond -- so what's your take? Are these artists and texts well-paired? Does gender even enter into it? And which of these spoke most strongly to you, and how?

16 comments:

  1. I'm not really sure what is happening in the "Sea Iris" but I think that the adaptation is interesting. I'm not sure if Som purposely drew the girl characters with short hair but I wonder if it has anything to do with H.D.s sexual orientation. I like how he separated the frames with tans and light colors and vibrant colors containing greens, reds and purples. I kind of feel like there is a sort of anger in the text because of the way the characters emotions are illustrated: shouting open mouths and the actions of screaming. Although the poem sounds pleasant I think the emotions that are illustrated represent some sort of anger or sadness.

    Darcy's adaptation of "Because I Could Not Stop For Death" is elegant and sophisticated. I think that the illustrations fit the text perfectly and enhance it. Although the text itself is hard to read it makes you really look at the illustrations and figure out what Dickinson is trying to tell.

    I think that the "Sea Iris" spoke more strongly to me the Darcy's work because it showed emotion. Darcy's illustrations don't express emotion, in fact even the girl illustrated on the last page shows no emotion. I love the colors Som uses because it draws me into the illustrations which makes me look at them more in detail.

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  2. "Sea Iris" was definitely confusing. I wasn’t sure what the story was about and the pictures did not help. I think the frames show the huge differences between the girl in her room and the one in the sea. The colors go from pale creams and pinks to dark greens and blues. Their hair also show a difference with the two girls. One has short, brown hair which makes me think she is being confined in some way while the other has long and loose purple hair that makes her seem more free.

    This story only focuses on two girls, which is the only gender differences that I see. The author/illustrator represents the freedom that this girl wants and how she is tied down for now. I think since this story is written and adapted by a woman, it gives a more accurate representation of what is going on in the mind of this girl.

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  3. Having previously annotated "Because I Could Not Stop for Death" by Emily Dickinson, i feel that the adaptation did not do the poem justice. Darcy's adaptation of this was sloppy. It was hard to read the cursive font, and the illustrations did nothing for me. It is honestly easier to read online than it is in this adaptation. As for Sea Iris, the drawings reminded me of the cartoon Adventure Time. Even though illustrations help guide the reader, i still had no clue what "Sea Iris" was about.

    I honestly do not believe that these artists and texts are well-paired. I believe that both Som and Darcy could have done a better job illustrating and adapting the original better. In this day and age, i don't think that gender really has to do with the adaptation as much as it used to. Before, women were taken less seriously. However, even though there are still some injustices i think that it's close to an even playing field. If i had to pick one adaptation that spoke to me the most, i would pick "Because I Could Not Stop for Death" because the poem itself is just awesome and i personally loved annotating it. While "Sea Iris" had good illustrations i didn't understand it much. Therefore, it didn't really speak to me.

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  4. I do believe gender doesn’t need to play a role in literature. The gender the authors classify themselves should not determine whether the work is good or bad. There are great works of literature that are written by women (like Frankenstein and Harry Potter) and if you were to not know of the authors name you would never guess it was written by a woman. It’s that misogynistic outlook that needs to be changed, and the gender of the work should be irrelevant, and we should judge books on content.

    Dickinson is an amazing poet and writer; her work will always keep you guessing and thinking. I do love the poem selected for graphic canon but I do not particularly like the adaptation, mainly because they did leave some of the poem out. When adapting a poem, it should not be summarized unless it is an epic poem. Poems are a different work of literature, where it’s either all or none. Leaving a stanza or two out could change the whole poem. The artwork is also confusing and the drawings weren’t so bad, it was the text choices that can make someone reading it skip over.

    Though Sea Iris was a little confusing to understand, the artwork tells a great version of it. I love the mystery of the author H.D. there is no gender exclusive name or anything of the sort, it takes the mind off the author and makes you focus on the writing. In class, we discussed how the artwork relates to tin tin, and I can see the comparison. The poem itself may not make too much sense, but you can grasp your own meaning with the drawings and the text styles.

    I think Sea Iris spoke more strongly to me. It was very simple and the art was beautiful. Simplicity is either a hit or miss, some times too simple is boring and something that makes no sense is annoying. Instead of trying to focus on the deep deep meaning of Sea Iris, we can look at the art and try to form a meaning with that

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  5. Throughout generations the underlying thought of men being more superior than women has always be a sort of topic that people have related to jobs, education, and most importantly literature. Gender has no play on any writing piece throughout literature of the past, although many MEN (haha) thought so, so it was very nice to see some wonderfully written pieces by some women included in our course. I found “The Awakening” written by Chopin and adapted by Migdal to be very conventional. The illustrations were displayed kind of in a black and white old photography way that almost looked a bit like water colors. The panels contained rough edges with no sort of actual panel to keep the drawing and text in, it was more of a rough outline. The adaptation gave little rush to the rendition and didn't really seem to go in any sorts of direction unlike the actual piece written by Chopin. The other adaptations included in this week also seemed to be very weird to me. For example, “Sea Iris” adapted by Som was very unusual in a pleasant way. The actually poem written by HD (which I thought was rather witty due to the fact that females couldn't actually use their real names at this time), is very confusing and messy, its a poem that you constantly find yourself reading over but still not fully understanding. However, within this adaptation you are able to create your own storyline. The illustrations include linear consistency within the way Som draws things as well as, saturated and unsaturated color schemes which gives you a sense of realism. Within the illustrations Som also includes a cursive, quill pen looking text that gives a sense of old english mixed in with a typewriting looking text as well, and I think it adds a little more fun to the photos. Of course, the adaptation done by Dame Darcy was very out there and correlated to her usual creepy, messy artwork like you would find in her rendition of “Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass”. This time Darcy was appointed a poem known as “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” written by Emily Dickinson. I believe Russ Kick actually chose Darcy to illustrate this poem because of Darcy's eerie, creepy, macabre vibes she gives to her renditions. However, I thought Darcy absolutely ruined this poem within her adaptation. Her drawings are to crowded and contain such a strong style that it is very hard to even understand the poem the way Emily Dickinson actually tries to portray it. Overall, all these adaptations contain a key visual, bold, style to their artworks, which I think resembles the boldness and strength of female literature all together.

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  6. I was not a fan of this week’s readings. I had read Chopin’s short story “The Storm” and had purchased “The Awakening” for this summer to read, but comparing this adaptation to my knowledge base formed from her short story, I have to conclude that the adaptation didn’t do her work justice. I think the art is well done, but its too confusing. The lack of frames made the large pages of jumbled smaller portraits with speech bubbles confusing. I also felt like there was definitely something missing from the story. To me it seemed like the story jumped around far too much for me to be able to coherently decipher what was going on. She’s in the water. She’s now dancing, etc… The whole point of Chopin’s stories are to express her belief that women have the right to sexual ecstasy and should have the freedom to live lives that they wish to lead instead of those predestined for them. I didn’t really catch any of that from this adaptation. Yes, she had an affair. But, so much is missing from it. So much information that would render this an easier read. There is just too much going on without having a lick of significance.
    “Sea Iris” was even more confusing than the former. Weird ameba-looking things drawn next to a freaked out little girl with a random pair of hands grasping next to her head. Are they her hand? Is this an extreme sense of surrealism? Who is that child in the bed? Why is he/she vomiting streamers and funfetti? I wasn’t able to take much from this adaptation. I was more focused on all of the rising questions it posed. Perhaps, some poems aren’t meant to become illustrated. Perhaps, these poems are meant to speak to a person on a more individual level for his/her imagination to create and interpret the meaning. Instead these are produced with one person’s interpretation. Who says its the right one? Can there be a right one with poetry?

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  7. The topic of this week is very thought provoking. I was pleased to see this blog entry because I was curious myself to see if gender truly played a significant role in literature. Prior to reading these stories I was not sure what to expect.
    'Sea Iris' was a very interesting story. It felt almost whimsical, and the animations resembled similar childhood shows I used to watch. I really enjoyed how Som portrayed the connection of ocean to land and how they intertwine with one another. However, the text was a little hard to understand.
    Migdal's adaptation was very lengthy and in depth, unlike the previously mentioned. While reading through this piece, it was incredibly hard to follow along due to the many frames that seemed to be scattered. It was overwhelming at times, and seemed to have a substantial bulk of text to read. I did however like the particular style and detail Migdal conveyed.
    After looking at these adaptations, it is hard to conclude whether gender plays a significant role with regards to literary works of art. I believe in equality. Whether you are a man or a woman, every piece or literary work should be read and enjoyed without a bias towards gender. These particular pieces did not change my opinions or views whatsoever. In fact, had I not known who the author was, I would have had no idea if it was written by a male or female artist. It just goes to show how biased our society is. We see everything in black and white. However, we all forget that there are areas of grey that need to be explored and discovered. Some of the best literary pieces are works done by incredible women, and should be appreciated more for what they are rather than what society portrays them to be!

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  8. So far, most of the adaptations that we have read in the Graphic Canon have been well illustrated and match the text well. However, I did not feel this way with Sea Iris. I had no idea what was going on in this story, and the illustrations did not help to explain it. I thought that the change in color between each character was interesting, but I was not too sure why it was like that. Maybe it was showing how plain and simple one girl was and how outgoing and exciting the "colorful" girl was. By just looking at the pictures, I got the story of a young girl trying to figure out who she wants to be and that she wanted to be outgoing and exciting and wanted to change. I think the colorful girl was her thinking of herself in that way, and at the end she finally found her "colorful" self and became that girl. That might be completely wrong, but I did not understand the text so that is what came to mind.
    "Because I could not Stop for Death" had very interesting artwork. It kind of reminded me of The Nightmare before Christmas style, with the skeleton person. Some of the illustrations were more clear than others, and same goes for the text. But I did like it and thought it was a very unique style.

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  9. I found “The Awakening” to be very interesting especially how the art was set up. The first 2 pages there were thoughts of the main women all around and it is the first time I see something like that. Therefor I found it very appealing and it grabbed my attention right away. When I read “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” it made me think a lot. The art was dark/humor and the story itself could have multiple meanings depending on how one interpreted it. I thought that the woman was not ready to die however death comes to all and ended up coming for her. The passage death and her took was in my opinion a trip to the underworld. Just how many other older myths portray it. Overall I thought this was a great story with a very interesting message

    Bryant Ayala

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  10. Brandon Men

    After reading all these adaptations I feel like it was all very long and boring or confusing. " Sea Iris " was something different and I had trouble following it. All the stories this week weren't that detailed to draw me in and the pictures were just nothing to me. I couldn't find a back story or anything to them. It was just very boring to me, especially the adaptation of " The Awakening "

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  11. Unlike everyone else, I seemed to enjoy reading "Sea Iris". I thought the colors were bright, vibrant and really captures your attention. The two characters illustrated really capture what is going on internally with their emotions. I think that Som did a great job using watercolors on the sea iris character giving it a dream like feeling. When reading "The Awakening" I wasn't particularly thrilled with this adaptation. The colors were dull and boring, and everything seemed to be all over the place especially with the thought bubbles on the first page. In regards to the question on gender, I believe that gender really doesn't play a specific role. I think that in todays society, gender equality is on the rise, but with literature, I don't think it really matters. All I see are authors behind a pen/pencil writing about whatever they want. It doesn't matter if its a male author or female author, as I would not read something just because it was written by a man.

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  12. These adaptations did not appeal to me at all. I could not get interested in them and did not find them very entertaining. So far, these two adaptations I enjoyed the least. I was not really sure what was going on in "Sea Iris". I did think the different drawings of the two separate people were cool because it was showing complete opposites with use of color. Neither of these adaptations really spoke strongly to me. I could not get interested in them so I didn't really connect or feel anything while reading them. I'm not sure if gender really enters into this. As far as I'm concerned, an author, whether it be a male or female, may just write about whatever they feel like.

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  13. The general agreement of the class was right on. I also did not like the choices of these adaptations. I thought the style was very "baby-book-like." It seemed to appear to more of a simple, younger generation. Though the stories may be rich in literature, the adaptations sure wasnt rich in taste,very boring and unappealing. I found this to be ironic because Bishakn Som and Rebecca Migdal both had very unappealing websites, Dame Darcy had more an appealing fancy website. You would think that modern graphic artists would have appealing websites in this internet age, but some do not. Does this trigger sales in their work or products? I believe it does.

    Nathan Silva

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  14. After reading each of these adaptations, I feel that the artists and texts were very well paired. In the introduction to “Sea Iris” Kick explains that this poem is part of a series of poems written by H.D. about plants that live in the zone between the ocean and the sea. This was important information for me to understand what Som was trying to do in his adaptation. In this adaptation a person is representing the sea iris. The sea iris bridges the gap between land and ocean and in his adaptation this is what Som depicts. This is the only one of the three poems that really uses color. The topic is a flower and nature as a whole and Som’s artwork fits perfectly with topic. Due to the color of this adaptation as opposed to the dark nature of the other two, this adaptation felt the most feminine to me. However, this is the only adaptation of the three that is done by a man. This is indicative of the fact that it does not matter whether a male or female does an adaptation as long as they have an understanding of what is going on in the original work.

    None of these adaptations spoke particularly strongly to me; however, I think that the message of “The Awakening” is the most obvious. In this particular work, we see what the main character Mrs. Pontellier is dealing with and how she is struggling. We also see that eventually she realizes that men shouldn’t have control over her when she says that if her husband were to tell Robert to take her that she would laugh at both of them. She wants to do what makes her happy and to make her own decisions.

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  15. I feel as though these adaptations lacked a lot of credentials that could have added to the adaptation. Both Som and Darcy lacked with their illustrations and writings. The idea of gender does not really apply the way it has in the past and I feel the artists should have taken that more into consideration.
    "Sea Iris" grasped my attention better than that of Darcy's due to how compelling of a read it was and how the emotions was set. Darcy's illustrations which did not express and equal level of emotion. Som use of color was great because they have so much more detail.

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  16. I feel as though these adaptations lacked a lot of credentials that could have added to the adaptation. Both Som and Darcy lacked with their illustrations and writings. The idea of gender does not really apply the way it has in the past and I feel the artists should have taken that more into consideration.
    "Sea Iris" grasped my attention better than that of Darcy's due to how compelling of a read it was and how the emotions was set. Darcy's illustrations which did not express and equal level of emotion. Som use of color was great because they have so much more detail.

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