Project Title: Representations of Violence in Contemporary American Popular Culture
Project Number: PN-II-RU-TE 2014-4-0609 (contract number: 174/1.10.2014; financed by UEFISCDI).
Project Description: In recent American public life, violence has gained unprecedented visibility as a consequence of the emergence of the “post-network era,” where new technologies give audiences access to the news throughout the entire day, well beyond the previous 8pm-11pm “prime time” slot (Lotz, Beyond Prime Time, 2009). The evident difficulty of monitoring the extraordinary speed and scope with which images and texts circulate today has led to a new culture of spectatorship, where violence occupies the same page as gossip journalism, and real-life suffering is more accessible than ever. Topics such as police brutality, sexual assault, violence against members of minority cultures are present on the first page of newspapers, on twitter and facebook feeds, in popular films, television shows, and comics. Our project thus asks questions that are essential both from socio-economic and cultural points of view, such as: “What does the overwhelming presence of violence in American popular culture teach us about the ways in which violence can be stopped? How does visibility lead to social action? How can we, as academics, contribute to an enunciation of popular culture (through television, film, social media, and comics) that places violence in a context which makes it more difficult, if not impossible, to helps reduce incidents of murder, torture, rape, and battery? How can public opinion be swayed in a significant way by the presence of violence in popular culture? How can we prevent the slow erosion of empathy that is produced by the excessive visibility of violence (Sontag 1972, 2004)?”
Mihaela Precup (University of Bucharest), project director
Maria-Sabina Draga Alexandru (University of Bucharest), project member
Dragos Manea (University of Bucharest), project member
Dana Mihailescu (University of Bucharest), project member
Eszter Szep (Eotvos Lorand University), project member
During the project’s two-year period, the members will be undergoing research on topics and sub-topics of the project; the research will be undertaken in national and international libraries and universities, and it will be disseminated at workshops, conferences, in articles published in academic articles, book chapters, as well as a special issue of an indexed journal on one of the sub-topics of the project.
2015 Conference Participation
Draga, Sabina. Particiption in the international conference The Real and the Intermedial, organized by Sapientia University, Cluj-Napoca (Romania), October 23-24, 2015, with a paper on “Reality Effect Games: Faking Identity in Joan Fontcuberta’s ‘Ivan Istochnikov’ Art Project”
Manea, Dragos, Particiption in the international conference The Real and the Intermedial, organized by Sapientia University, Cluj-Napoca (Romania), October 23-24, 2015, with a paper on “Saintly Patriots and Evil Redcoats: Sleepy Hollow (Fox, 2013-) and the Poetics of Historical Fantasy”
Precup, Mihaela. Participation in the international conference Comics Forum on “Politics: A Conference on Comics”, part of the Thoughtbubble Sequential Art Festival, November 11-15 2015, with a paper on “Politics and Everyday Life in Rutu Modan’s Work”.
Research Report 2015
Draga Alexandru, Maria Sabina. “Rhetorics of Disaster: Refugees, Views on Difference and the Romanian ‘Colectiv Revolution’ in the Global Media,” under evaluation in ESSACHESS – Journal for Communication Studies (http://essachess.com/index.php/jcs, Online ISSN 1775-352X, Paper ISSN 2066-5083, indexed SCOPUS ELSEVIER, ERIH PLUS, ProQuest CSA, EBSCO Publishing, MLA Directory of Periodicals, Index Copernicus, DOAJ, Ulrich’s, Gale, J-Gate, CEEOL, Genamics Journal Seek, SSRN, SHERPA/RoMEO, and DRJI (Directory of Research Journal Indexing)
Draga Alexandru, Maria Sabina. “Care Drain and Substitute Mothering in the documentary Waiting for August by Teodora Ana Mihai,” under evaluation in the Journal of European Studies (jes.sagepub.com, Print ISSN: 0047-2441, Online ISSN: 1740-2379, Thomson Reuters Arts and Humanities Citation Index)
Manea, Dragos. “A Wolf’s Eye View of London: Dracula, Penny Dreadful, and the Logic of Repetition.” Critical Survey, 28.1 (2016): 39-50. [ISSN: 0011-1570 (Print); ISSN: 1752-2293 (Online); indexed in Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature (ProQuest), Biography Index (H.W. Wilson/EBSCO), British Humanities Index (CSA/ProQuest), Emerging Sources Citation Index (Thomson Reuters), Humanities Abstracts (H.W. Wilson/EBSCO), Humanities Index (H.W. Wilson/EBSCO), IBR – International Bibliography of Book Reviews of Scholarly Literature on the Humanities and Social Sciences (De Gruyter), IBZ – International Bibliography of Periodical Literature in the Humanities and Social Sciences (De Gruyter), MLA Directory of Periodicals, MLA International Bibliography, Periodicals Index Online (Chadwyck-Healey/ProQuest), ProQuest Research Library (CSA/ProQuest), Scopus (Elsevier); http://journals.berghahnbooks.com/critical-survey/indexing#sthash.PPH9hYHa.dpuf] http://www.berghahnjournals.com/view/journals/critical-survey/28/1/critical-survey.28.issue-1.xml
Manea, Dragos. “Leonardo’s Paradoxical Queerness: Da Vinci’s Demons (Starz, 2013–) and the Politics of Straightwashing.” Queer TV in the 21st Century. Ed. Kylo-Patrick Hart. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2016. 159-177. (ISBN (print): 978-1-4766-6440-8)
Mihailescu, Dana. “Comics from the World Wars as Palimpsest-Laden Tools for Historical Analysis.” Rethinking History. The Journal of Theory and Practice 20.4 (2016): 586-593. [Taylor and Francis, UK, ISI-AHCI-indexed journal] ISSN: 1364-2529 (Print), E-ISSN: 1470-1154. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13642529.2016.1150026. http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/ewgPXAqhnwu3D4fYGBPR/full
Manea, Dragos. „Western Nightmares: Manifest Destiny and the Representation of Genocide in Weird Fiction” under evaluation in Studies in Comics (edited by Intellect Books and indexed in Academic Search Complete; Art Abstracts; Artbibliographies; Art & Architecture Complete; Art & Architecture Index; Art Full Text; Art Index; Biography Index; Book Review Digest Plus; British Humanities Index; ERIH PLUS; Modern Language Association (MLA); TOC Premier; http://www.intellectbooks.co.uk/journals/view-Journal,id=168/).
Precup, Mihaela. „Violence and Non-normativity in Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona” under evaluation in Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics (Edited by Taylor and Francis, indexed in EBSCOHost, SCOPUS; http://www.tandfonline.com/action/journalInformation?journalCode=rcom20)
Precup, Mihaela. „“To Dream of Birds”: Autobiography, Photography, and Memory in Nina Bunjevac’s “August, 1977” and Fatherland”, book chapter accepted for publication in The Canadian Alternative, edited by Dominick Grace and Eric Hoffman, forthcoming (2017) from University Press of Mississippi (Jackson, MS)
Szep, Eszter. „Touchy Issues: Visual Elements, Tactility, and Vulnerability in Postmodern Literature and Comics” book chapter accepted for publication in Travelling around Cultures: Collected Essays on Literature and Art, edited by Zsolt Gy??ri and Gabriella Moise, forthcoming (2017) from Cambridge Scholars Publishing (Cambridge, UK).
2016 Conference Participation
Draga Alexandru, Maria Sabina
7-10 January, Austin, TX, The 131st MLA Annual Convention: “Care Drain and Substitute Mothering in Waiting for August by Teodora Ana Mihai” https://www.mla.org/Convention/Convention-History/Past-Conventions
March 17-20, Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts, ACLA, “Violence in Religious Representation: Technology, Posthuman Agency and Religion in Cloud Atlas” https://www.acla.org/sites/default/files/files/Full_Program_Guide_2016.pdf
22-25 April, Ovidius University, Constanta, EAAS Biannual Conference, “Post-Traumatic Friendship: Transnational Female Bonding in Domnica Radulescu’s Country of Red Azaleas” http://eaas2016.org/conference-program
2-4 June, University of Bucharest, ACED 18, “A Tale of Two Cities: Spike Lee’s Representations of Hood Violence from New York to Chicago” (see full workshop description and link below)
23-25 June, Heinrich Heine Universität Düsseldorf, MLA Symposium. “Post-Colonial Europe and the Function of Allegory: Narrating/Performing Exile in Domnica Radulescu’s Black Sea Twilight and Exile Is My Home” https://mlasymposia.mla.hcommons.org/files/2015/10/Symposium_program_final_online.pdf
13-15 October, Budapest, CESIC, Bucharest, Miskolc University, and Pet??fi Irodalmi Múzeum, The Paradigmatic City (II): Capitals and Their Successors Conference. “What Makes a Capital? Violence, Architecture and the Media in New York City” https://pim.hu/hu/esemenyek/paradigmatic-city-ii-capitals-and-their-successors
- June, University of Bucharest, ACED 18. “Violent Expansions: Manifest Destiny (Chris Dingess, 2013–) and the Aesthetics of the Weird City” (see full workshop description and link below)
- 23-25 June, Heinrich Heine Universität Düsseldorf, MLA Symposium. “Postcommunist Nationalism and the Romanian Superhero: Harap Alb continua’s Paradoxical Comic Book Aesthetics” https://mlasymposia.mla.hcommons.org/files/2015/10/Symposium_program_final_online.pdf
11-13 July, Manchester Metropolitan University, The Seventh International Graphic Novel and Comics Conference Graphic Gothic. “Western Nightmares: Manifest Destiny (Chris Dingess, 2013–) and the Narrative Ethics of the Weird” http://internationalgraphicnovelandcomicsconference.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/CONFERENCE-BOOKLET-SCHEDULE-AND-ABSTRACTS-FINAL-CM-2.pdf
31 August-3 September, Utrecht University Representing Perpetrators of Mass Violence Conference. (with Mihaela Precup) “The Perpetrator as Punch-line: Hipster Hitler (James Carr and Archana Kumar, 2010–) and the Politics of Controversial Humor” https://perpetratorstudies.sites.uu.nl/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2016/06/Representing-Perpetrators-Conference-Program-1.pdf
22-25 April, Constanta, Romania, EAAS Biannual Conference. ‘“You ain’t heard nothing yet”: The Jazz Singer as A Malleable Icon of American Cinematic Culture’” http://eaas2016.org/conference-program
2-4 June, University of Bucharest, ACED 18. “From Small-town Bunker to Big Bad New York: Violence, Survival, and Urban Culture in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix, 2015)” (see full workshop description and link below)
23-25 June, Heinrich Heine University, Dusseldorf, Germany, “Graphic Ghosts: Representing Personal and National Memory in Nina Bunjevac’s Fatherland (2014),” MLA International Symposium Other Europes: Migrations, Translations, Transformations https://mlasymposia.mla.hcommons.org/files/2015/10/Symposium_program_final_online.pdf
11-13 July, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK, The Seventh International Graphic Novel and Comics Conference Graphic Gothic. “Violence and Non-normativity in Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona” http://internationalgraphicnovelandcomicsconference.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/CONFERENCE-BOOKLET-SCHEDULE-AND-ABSTRACTS-FINAL-CM-2.pdf
31 August-3 September, Utrecht University, The Netherlands (with Dragos Manea) Representing Perpetrators of Mass Violence Conference. “The Perpetrator as Punch-line: Hipster Hitler and the Politics of Controversial Humor” https://perpetratorstudies.sites.uu.nl/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2016/06/Representing-Perpetrators-Conference-Program-1.pdf
7-9 July, Dundee University, Scotland, UK. Graphic Medicine Conference Stages and Pages. “Presence and Disappearance: The Surface of the Page and Narrating Sexual Abuse in the Works of Debbie Dreschler and Katie Green”https://graphicmedicine2016.sched.org/list/descriptions/
2016 Research Periods
Manea, Dragos. 13-19 April. Heidelberg University, HCA Spring Academy 2016; paper presented during research period workshop: “The Afterlives of Ichabod Crane: Sleepy Hollow (Fox, 2013–) and American Cultural Memory” http://www.hca.uni-heidelberg.de/spring/index_en.html
Precup, Mihaela. 29 July-29 August. John F. Kennedy Institute Library, Freie University, Berlin. http://www.jfki.fu-berlin.de/en/library/
Workshops on the Research Topic of the Project
Workshop Title: Representations of Violence in Contemporary American Popular Culture
Dates: 2-4 June, 2016
Institution: University of Bucharest, Faculty of Foreign Languages
Full Conference Title: ACED-18 (Annual Conference of the English Department-18) “Cultural Representations of the City”
Link to Full Conference Program: http://www.unibuc.ro/depts/limbi/literatura_engleza/docs/2016/iun/01_15_05_24ACED_18_-_English_Department_Conference_Programme.pdf
Workshop Description: This workshop seeks to investigate the presence of violence in the urban space of the US, with particular focus on its representation in contemporary popular culture. In recent American public life, violence has gained unprecedented visibility as a consequence of the emergence of the “post-network era,” where new technologies give audiences access to the news throughout the entire day, well beyond the previous 8pm-11pm “prime time” slot (Lotz, Beyond Prime Time, 2009). The evident difficulty of monitoring the extraordinary speed and scope with which images and texts circulate today has led to a new culture of spectatorship, where violence occupies the same page as gossip journalism, and real-life suffering is more accessible than ever. Topics such as police brutality, sexual assault, violence against members of minority cultures are present on the first page of newspapers, on twitter and facebook feeds, in popular films, television series, comics, and other popular culture products. American unrest can be followed in real time by an international audience, and the incongruity between what this audience thinks they are witnessing and what the American legal system produces as an interpretation of what the public is witnessing is evidence of the rupture between the presence of violence in popular culture and the actual social consequences of that visibility. Several cultural critics have drawn attention to this particular issue and its ramifications. Marita Sturken has emphasized the commodification of violence (Tangled Memories, 1997; Tourists of History, 2008); Nicholas Mirzoeff has attempted to find a way to counteract the “banality of images” (Watching Babylon, 2005) and to locate “a comparative decolonial framework” (The Right to Look, 2011) for the field; Geoffrey Batchen and Mick Gidley (Picturing Atrocity, 2011) insist that photographs of violence have the potential of producing social change, but also warn that a vocabulary for the reading of certain images of torture has not yet been produced.
Highly mediated acts of violence are often read as both local problems produced by a specifically American set of factors, and as a more universal “human” problem, as questions arise about the more general ethics of the law enforcement system. However, it is evident that the circulation of news about the United States often trumps the circulation of stories from Africa, Asia, or Eastern Europe, for example. The disproportionate visibility of American violence on the international scene has led to a paradigmatic reading of America as a place of excessive violence, where lenient gun laws, racism, sexism, and other types of discrimination testify to the malfunctioning of American democracy. It also suggests the existence of a worldwide hierarchy of trauma, where the United States occupies the first place of interest, while the rest of the world lies significantly lower on the scale of representation.
Against this background, in this workshop we will ask questions such as: What are the main tropes of the representation of urban violence in contemporary US popular culture? How are stereotypes associated with violence in certain urban spaces reworked in popular culture products such as TV shows and series, films, comics, popular literature and music etc.? What does the overwhelming presence of violence in American popular culture teach us about the ways in which violence can be stopped? How can visibility lead to social change? How can we, as academics, contribute to an enunciation of popular culture that places violence in a context that helps reduce incidents of murder, torture, rape, and brutality? How can public opinion be swayed in a significant way by the presence of violence in popular culture? How can we prevent the slow erosion of empathy that is produced by the excessive visibility of violence (Sontag 1972, 2004)?
Chair: Prof. Tunde Adeleke, Iowa State University
E-mail address: email@example.com
Respondent: Dana Mihailescu, University of Bucharest
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Maria Sabina Draga Alexandru
Institutional Affiliation: Universitatea din București
E-mail address: email@example.com
Title: A Tale of Two Cities: Spike Lee’s Representations of Hood Violence from New York to Chicago
Abstract: This presentation will focus on the evolution of the visual imaginary and of the structures of representation used in approaches to violence in Spike Lee’s cinema, with an emphasis on two hood movies situated at the extremes of his career: Do the Right Thing (1989) and Chi-Raq (2015). In them, this emblematic director of African American culture and its difficult positionings within the general American cultural space traces a geography of urban violence in two neighborhoods that have become sites of interracial conflict: New York’s Bedford Stuyvesant are in Brooklyn and Englewood on the Chicago South Side. Starting from Geoffrey Batchen and Mick Gidley’s observations on the potential for social change that photographs/images of violence have (in Picturing Atrocity, 2011) and from Robert Gooding-Williams’s analysis of the visual impact of stereotypical images on the culture and politics of race (Look, A Negro!, 2006), I will analyze Spike Lee’s questioning whether there has been an increase of and/or a change in the dominant representations of hood violence from the 1989 New York to the 2015 Chicago and whether the media (central in the formation of the society’s racial imaginary, as shown in Lee’s 2000 movie Bamboozled) has contributed in any way to changing such representations and to promoting peace.
Bio: Dr. Maria-Sabina Draga Alexandru is Associate Professor of English at the University of Bucharest, Romania. Her main research interests are: global/transnational writing in English, postcolonialism, ethnic American literatures, gender studies and the area of intersection between postcolonial and postcommunist literatures. She has published articles in The Journal of Commonwealth Literature, Comparative Literature Studies, Perspectives: Studies in Translatology, Commonwealth Essays and Studies. Some of her latest books are: Identity Performance in Contemporary Non-WASP American Fiction (Bucharest: University of Bucharest Press, 2008); Postcolonialism/ Postcommunism: Intersections and Overlaps (co-edited with Monica Bottez and Bogdan Stefanescu, Bucharest: University of Bucharest Press, 2011; Between History and Personal Narrative: East-European Women’s Stories of Transnational Relocation (co-edited with Madalina Nicolaescu and Helen Smith, Vienna and Berlin: LIT Verlag, 2013); Performance and Performativity in Contemporary Indian Fiction in English (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2015).
- Name: Brindusa Nicolaescu
Institutional Affiliation: Bucharest University, Faculty of Political Science
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Instances of contemporary urban (post)violence in dystopian movies: The Giver and The Road
Abstract: In the classic dystopias there is a striking binary opposition between the City, usually seen as a perfect machinery – an ordered artificial space run after the taylorist principles – and the rest of the world: the urban outskirts in decay (eg the south of Illium in Player Piano) and the undesirable wilderness (separated by a Wall, like in Zamyatin’s We, or more remote, like the exotic Reservations in Brave New World). In contemporary dystopian scenarios we encounter a dissolution of the city, moreover in post-apocalyptic projections, where violence is taken for granted as the main premise of a shattered universe. I attempt to analyse the ways two contemporary film adaptations (after dystopian works of fiction) depict differently the re-configuration of the inhabited world with a special focus on the universal human condition – the utopian uniformed artificial community apparently replaces the complex entity of human “settlement” in The Giver (2014) and, to the other extreme, The Road (2009) envisages a hopeless eschatological vision, where the city has ceased to be visible as such, in other words only its violence maintains visibility by means of iconic remnants.
Bio: Dr. Brindusa Nicolaescu is a lecturer dr. at Bucharest University, Faculty of Political Science, where she teaches ESP, Academic Writing and Literature and Politics. Her current research interests are literary criticism, narratology, dystopian fiction as social critique, creative methodologies of teaching Academic Writing.
- Name: Karina Patrascanu
Institutional Affiliation: University of Bucharest
E-mail address: email@example.com
Title: Guns and Whores: Prostitute Archetypes and the Simplification of the Undesired in Taxi Driver and Sin City
Abstract: The aim of this paper is to look at the perfunctory way in which popular culture translates the reality of sex-trafficking, by separating into categories and simplifying the condition of one of the most exposed and vulnerable social groups, namely prostitutes, whose lives are defined by violence and abuse. By focusing on Frank Miller’s Sin City, the film version, and Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, I analyze two of Russell Campbell’s archetypes, discussed in his book Marked Women. Prostitutes and Prostitution in the Cinema, namely the Avenger prostitute and the Baby Doll, respectively. While the two archetypes can be seen in contradictory terms, with the Baby Doll figure eager to please, in these specific films they are both constructed as objects for the male characters, surrounded by, as well as producing violence. As such, no matter how independent and strong Gail is in Sin City, for example, she still submits to Dwight, her only true love. Moreover, Sin City presents with the opportunity to discuss the Avenger archetype in its group identity, when confronted with dangerous and violent situations, with the Girls of Old Town sticking together, much in the same way crime TV shows often depict prostitutes as a closed family of sorts, where the girls keep silent and take care of their own. Glossing over origins and reasons, and failing to produce a solution for the issue of prostitution, products of popular culture borrow from stereotypes of femininity in order to construct types of prostitutes, ultimately adding to the general misunderstanding of how prostitution functions and its consequences on its victims.
Bio: Karina Patrascanu is a graduate student in the American Studies Department, Foreign Languages and Literatures Faculty, University of Bucharest. Her main research areas are queer and gender studies, mainly from a popular culture perspective, while at times looking into representations of other minorities in both mass media and literature. Recent interests revolve around the political as actor in the way in which society is molded and reshaped. To that end, she wrote her BA paper on Bush’s administration war on terror, with the title “Intersections of Political and Media Rhetoric. Shaping the American National Sentiment Toward Terrorism”. She has participated in several student conferences, such as the 2014 and 2015 CONSENSUS Student Conferences in Suceava, the 2015 Symposium of Students in English, held by the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures of the West University of Timisoara and the 2015 annual student conference held by the American Studies Department of the University of Bucharest.
- Name: Dragos Manea
Institutional affiliation: University of Bucharest
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Title: Violent Expansions: Manifest Destiny (Chris Dingess, 2013–) and the Aesthetics of the Weird City
Abstract: Manifest Destiny (Skybound Comics, 2013–), Chris Dingess’ subversive reimagining of the 1804–1806 Lewis and Clark expedition, raises several important questions with regards to the ethics and aesthetics of weird fiction. The comic book series, created and written by Dingess, with art by Matthew Roberts and Owen Gieni, finds the American explorers battling various fantastical creatures – including giant frogs, sentient duck-like creatures and vampire-like beings – as they set out to chart and civilize the Louisiana territory. Their encounters with such monsters – and our experience of their adventures – create a variety of effects, from the horrific to the humorous to the unsettling.
My paper is largely interested in the last of these effects and examines Manifest Destiny as a work of weird fiction (although it is certainly not the only genre that the graphic narrative draws on), with a particular focus on the construction of the Fezron city, the first major non-human settlement encountered by the explorers. The series, I argue, is grounded upon a formal realism which makes it highly effective in depicting scenes of horror, whose defamiliarizing effect can rely on combining conventional, highly-realistic settings, characters or tableaux with strange elements that pervert yet do not render them unrecognizable (one such example is the last page of issue 5, a spread that depicts a forest infected by a flower-like creature that has turned the insides of both men and wildlife plant-like. The creatures depicted – a bear, a squirrel, a snake, some men, among others – are at once instantly recognizable and markedly strange, which helps create a feeling of profound unsettlement and defamiliarization). In conversation with critics and writers such as S. T. Joshi, Brian Richardson, James Phelan, and Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, I attempt to explore the formal strategies adopted by the series in order to create scenes of weird fiction, as well as their ethical implications both within the narrative and outside of it.
Bio: Drago?? Manea is an assistant lecturer at the University of Bucharest, where he teaches seminars in British and American literature, translation, and academic writing. His main research interests include the adaptation of history, cultural memory, and the relationship between ethics and fiction. His publications include “Arenas of Memory: Spartacus and the Remediation of Historical Narratives” (in Spartacus in the Television Arena: Essays on the Starz Series, ed. Michael G. Cornelius, McFarland, 2015) and “Bad Girls from Outer Space: Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’s Saga and the Graphic Representation of Subversive Femininity” (with Mihaela Precup, in Bad Girls: Recalcitrant Women in Contemporary Pop Culture. Eds. Julie A. Chappell and Mallory Young, forthcoming).
- Name: Mihaela Precup
Institutional Affiliation: Universitatea din București
E-mail address: email@example.com
Title: From Small-town Bunker to Big Bad New York: Violence, Survival, and Urban Culture in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix, 2015)
Abstract: This paper examines the representation of violence in the urban space in the first season of the 2015 Netflix comedy series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, whose protagonist is one of four “mole women,” a term used by the media on the show to refer to the female survivors of a preacher who kidnapped them and kept them in a bunker for fifteen years. Having emerged from the confines of her underground prison to a world which not only had not been erased by an apocalypse, as the preacher had claimed, but had also made significant technological advances, Kimmy decides to make a fresh start and moves from Durnsville, Indiana, to New York.
The urban space is introduced as an extraordinary opportunity to break away from the “victim” image that had been attached to Kimmy by the media, but soon reveals itself to be home to random acts of violence perpetrated by more or less adorably quirky characters. Kimmy is bubbly and naïve, but also “strong as hell,” as the intro puts it, and her perspective on the city is absorbing because it comes from a unique place of gratitude and celebration for surviving sexual abuse and lengthy incarceration. A space of opportunity, but also broken dreams, the diversity of the city offers Kimmy the freedom to express her own particular brand of quirkiness, as well as her PTSD, in one of the not-yet-gentrified neighborhoods. However, New York is also a dangerous space where race-related violence is present, as Kimmy’s gay black friend Titus Andromedon, finds that he is better treated when he wears a werewolf costume, and Kimmy’s employer hides her Native-American origins. In this paper, I will be working at the intersection of trauma theory and city studies to examine the contribution Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt makes to the understanding of violence and survival in the space of the city.
Bio: Mihaela Precup is an Associate Professor in the American Studies Program at the University of Bucharest, Romania. Her main research interests include American graphic narratives, memory, trauma and autobiography studies. Her most recent publications are Mourning Women. Post-mortem Dialogues in Contemporary American Autobiography (University of Bucharest Press, 2014) and “That Medieval Eastern-European Shtetl Family of Yours”: Negotiating Jewishness in Aline Kominsky Crumb’s Need More Love (2007), Studies in Comics (December 2015). She guest edited (with Rebecca Scherr) a special issue on War and Conflict of The Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics (Routledge, June 2015).
- Iulia Nentu
Institutional Affiliation: University of Bucharest
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Title: The Cold Blooded Russians in the American Film Industry: Russian Violence Stereotypes in Rocky IV (1985) and The Avengers (2012)
Abstract: The urban space, as represented in contemporary American films, has allowed for the emergence of diverse cliché lifestyle layers – from the glamorous highlife and VIP gossip, to the merciless ghettos and the mafia-ruled “underground” life, in which violence is a prerequisite. This paper focuses on the latter side of the American city, trying to analyze the way in which violence has been portrayed through the filter of national stereotypes.
In the 1985 Rocky IV, the Soviet Union’s best boxer made history in the American popular culture, by violently reflecting the Russian power. The fact that he is also a Captain in the Soviet Army brings deep symbolism to the story, and rings a bell to the 2012 spectator when watching The Avengers, with the Black Widow (who is also a superhero in American comic books) being kidnapped by the Russian mafia, and interrogated by General Georgi Luchkov, former KGB agent who displays an image of power even by only showing up in an army uniform. The image of the violent Russian has been, in these cases, influenced by the American – Russian political relations starting with the Cold War period, and the stereotype of the cold blooded Russian still seems to be at hand for American screen writers when in need to illustrate violence.
Bio: Iulia Nentu is a PhD candidate in English philology at the University of Bucharest. Her PhD project focuses on the image of the Russian in Post-1945 American fiction and non-fiction.
Call for Papers for a Special Issue on One of the Sub-Topics of the Project
Title: Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics Special Issue
Sexual Violence in Comics
Guest Editors: Rebecca Scherr (University of Oslo) and Mihaela Precup (University of Bucharest)
This special issue of the Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics explores the representation of sexual violence in any form of the medium of comics. The visual representation of sexual violence tests the limits of what can be shown in different contemporary cultural spaces, but it also provides a good testing ground for what the medium of comics can do to contribute to the wider conversation about the ethics and aesthetics of the rendition of difficult subjects. Important contributions to this topic have already been made by cartoonists working in many different areas of the medium, and who speak from a variety of cultural backgrounds, from the autobiographical work of authors like Debbie Drechsler (Daddy’s Girl), Phoebe Gloeckner (A Child’s Life and Other Stories), and Katie Green (Lighter Than My Shadow), to graphic reportage (Joe Sacco’s Safe Area Gorazde), historical graphic narratives (Paolo Cossi’s Medz Yeghern. Le Grande Mal), fantasy (Saga, Sex Criminals), historical fiction (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Manifest Destiny), as well as in many other examples from both alternative and superhero comics. This list is by no means exhaustive: there are many other graphic narratives where sexual violence is not a minor plot point, but an important part of the narrative which positions it at the intersection of current conversations on violence, gender and sexuality, as well as trauma and memory.
Papers can address (but are not limited to) the following topics:
- The limitations/taboos of the visual representation of sexual violence
- Aesthetic modes of the representation of sexual violence
- Representations of post-traumatic memory in the wake of sexual violence
- The ethics of retribution/revenge
- Power, vulnerability, and sexual violence
- The visual construction of the interaction of violent and violated bodies
- Sexual violence and mental illness
- Sexual violence during war/genocide
- The gendered nature of various acts of sexual violence
You can submit abstracts of 150 words, with a 50-word biography, by 1 September 2016; articles of 5000-7000 words will be due by 15 November 2016. This special issue of the JGNC will come out in the summer of 2017.
Family Line-ups CFP
March 2016: http://americanstudies.ro/?article=350
Draga Alexandru, Maria Sabina
“Métamorphoses de l’image afro-américaine dans God Help the Child de Toni Morrison : Une reponse non-violente à la violence” (French), in Madhu Benoit et Jean-Pierre Benoit (eds.), Non-violence: combats d’hier et de demain, Paris: L’Harmattan (collection Discours identitaires dans la mondialisation), 2017, pp. 83-95. ISBN 978-2-343-12313-4.
“Global Rhetorics of Disaster: Media Constructions of Bataclan and the ‘Colectiv Revolution’ in the Wake of 9/11.” ESSACHESS. Journal for Communication Studies, vol. 10, no. 1(19)/ 2017: 129-144. http://essachess.com/index.php/jcs. Online ISSN 1775-352X, Paper ISSN 2066-5083.
“Care Drain and Substitute Mothering in the documentary Waiting for August by Teodora Ana Mihai’, Journal of European Studies (jes.sagepub.com, Print ISSN: 0047-2441, Online ISSN: 1740-2379 (accepted for publication; forthcoming 2018).
“Hate Crime.”Violence in American Society: An Encyclopedia of Trends, Problems, and Perspectives. Ed. Chris Richardson. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, forthcoming 2018 or 2019. Around 11,700 words/19 pages as final accepted draft in February 2017
“’To All the Monster Girls’: Violence and Non-Normativity in Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona.” The Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics (Taylor and Francis, vol. 8, no.6, pp 550-559, 2017).
“A Review of The Comics of Joe Sacco: Journalism in a Visual World (Ed. Daniel Worden)” Biography Vol.40(2), pp. 386-389 E-ISSN: 1529-1456; Print-ISSN: 0162-4962
”’To Dream of Birds”: Autobiography, Photography, and Memory in Nina Bunjevac’s ‘August, 1977’ and Fatherland.” Dominick Grace and Eric Hoffman (eds.). The Canadian Alternative: Cartoonists, Comics, and Graphic Novels. Jackson, SUA: University Press of Mississippi (ISBN-10: 1496815114, ISBN-13: 978-1496815118).
On History and Fantasy: Anglo-American Cultural Memory and the Politics of Adaptation (Bucure??ti: Editura Ars Docendi, 2017; ISBN 978-606-998-016-3) – monograph
”Western Nightmares: Manifest Destiny and the Representation of Genocide in Weird Fiction”, accepted for publication in Studies in Comics 8.2/2017
“Repurposed Memories: Da Vinci’s Demons and the Poetics of Repackaging.” Mihaela Irimia, Dragos Manea and Andreea Paris (eds.). Literature and Cultural Memory (Leiden: Brill/Rodopi, 2017; ISBN13: 9789004338869; E-ISBN: 9789004338876).
“Touchy Issues: Visual Elements, Tactility, and Vulnerability in Postmodern Literature and Comics” în volumul Travelling around Cultures: Collected Essays on Literature and Art, editat de Zsolt Gy??ri ??i Gabriella Moise la Editura Cambridge Scholars Publishing (Cambridge, Marea Britanie), which came out in December 2016 (but was actually finished in 2017, so it could not be reported in 2016; ISBN-13:978-1-4438-0996-2, ISBN-10:1-4438-0996-9).
“A Review of The Comics of Joe Sacco, edited by Daniel Worden.” The Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics, Taylor and Francis, vol. 8, no. 3/2017, pp. 299-303.
2017 Conference Participation
Draga Alexandru, Maria Sabina
“Violence, Death and Rebirth in Battlestar Galactica: The Case of Kara Thrace,” AICED-19 Birth, Death, and Rebirth: (Re-)Generation as Text, 19th Annual International Conference of the English Department, University of Bucharest (8-10 June 2017). http://eriac.univ-rouen.fr/reinventer-la-mer-precarite-epistemologie-et-recits/
“A Sea of Violence and Love: Precarity, Eco-Fiction and the American Factor in Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide.” Colloque annuel international de la SARI Réinventer la mer – Précarité, épistémologie et récits, Université Paris 13 (29-30 June 2017). http://www.unibuc.ro/depts/limbi/literatura_engleza/conferinte.php
“Mediating Memories of World War II Violence in Contemporary United States: On Amy Kurzweil’s Flying Couch,” Transcultural Memorial Forms: Contemporary Remembrance of War, Displacement and Political Rupture, Tallinn, Estonia, 17-19 March 2017. https://narrativeandmemory.com/programme/
“On the Representation of War Crime: Über (Gillen, 2013–) and the Implicated Subject” AICED-19 Birth, Death, and Rebirth: (Re-)Generation as Text, 19th Annual International Conference of the English Department, University of Bucharest (8-10 June 2017). http://www.unibuc.ro/depts/limbi/literatura_engleza/conferinte.php
”Wall Street as a Space of Evil: On the Framing of Neoliberalism in The Black Monday Murders (Jonathan Hickman, 2016-).” Comics Forum 2017: Space (Thoughtbubble Festival), Leeds Central Library, 18-24 September 2017 http://thoughtbubblefestival.com/
Drago?? Manea (main author) and Mihaela Precup. ”Transcultural Intelligibility and Cultural Memory in Gene Luen Yang’s Boxers & Saints (2013).” Transcultural Memorial Forms: Contemporary Remembrance of War, Displacement and Political Rupture, Tallin University, Estonia, 17-19 March, 2017. https://narrativeandmemory.com/programme/
Mihaela Precup (main author) and Dragos Manea, “Conflict, Human Rights, and Personal Narratives in Benjamin Dix’s Positive Negatives.” Borders: Identity, Difference, and Representation, University of Dundee, 26-30 July. http://internationalgraphicnovelandcomicsconference.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/IGNCC-2017-Dundee-Programme.pdf
”A Good and Decent Man”: Photographic Spaces in Carol Tyler’s Soldier’s Heart (2015).” Comics Forum 2017: Space (Thoughtbubble Festival), Leeds Central Library, 18-24 September 2017 http://thoughtbubblefestival.com/
“Comics and Haptic Reading: Bodies in Joe Sacco’s The Great War” AICED-19 Birth, Death, and Rebirth: (Re-)Generation as Text, 19th Annual International Conference of the English Department, University of Bucharest (8-10 June 2017). http://www.unibuc.ro/depts/limbi/literatura_engleza/conferinte.php
“The Ethical Stakes of Style: Crosshatching and Testimony in Joe Sacco’s Comics.” Documenting Trauma: Comics and the Politics of Memory. A Symposium hosted by the TORCH Network, University of Oxford (22 June 2017) http://torch.ox.ac.uk/documenting-trauma-comics-and-politics-memory-0
2017 Workshop: Narratives of Death and (Re-)Birth: Cycles of Violence in American Popular Culture
The workshop took place at AICED-19 Birth, Death, and Rebirth: (Re-)Generation as Text, 19th Annual International Conference of the English Department, University of Bucharest (8-10 June 2017). Chair: drd. Dragos Manea (http://www.unibuc.ro/depts/limbi/literatura_engleza/conferinte.php)
Dragos Manea, “On the Representation of War Crime: Über (Gillen, 2013–) and the Implicated Subject”;
In this paper I consider a recent tendency of historical fantasy series, that of interrogating and revising prominent Anglo-American grand narratives; I perform a reading of Kieron Gillen’s ongoing comic book series Über (2013-) from the perspective of contemporary narrative ethics and cultural memory studies, particularly Michael Rothberg’s concept of implicated subjectivity. By purposefully departing from the historically accurate dénouement of World War II through the insertion of fantasy elements—the imagined creation by Germany of the first successful super-powered beings, a discovery that shifts the outcome of the war and sees Germany recapturing Europe, defeating Great Britain, and invading the US—Gillen creates the premises for a reexamination of the neat polarization between good and evil that usually dominates historical accounts of the period.
Maria-Sabina Draga Alexandru, “Violence, Death and Rebirth in Battlestar Galactica: The Case of Kara Thrace”;
I argue that the HBO series Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009) proposes an extreme relativization of the possibility of resurrection by revisiting several religious and scientific fictions in response to various forms of violence against the human species in a post-apocalyptic world. The possibility of rebirth (on both an individual and collective level) is a solution to the endemic inequality that governs human society. Kara Thrace, the best pilot and ultimately the savior that guides humanity to “New Earth” is literally faced with her own death, which forces her to reconsider a set of fundamental assumptions about life, the world and her mission. Her being a female makes her enquiry into a possible post-apocalyptic rebirth of humanity all the more meaningful.
Iulia Nentu (drd., ??coala doctoral�? de studii literare ??i culturale, Universitatea din Bucure??ti), “Stereotypes of Russian Violence in John Steinbeck’s A Russian Journal”
In the years following WWII, the Soviet Union was the top concern on the U.S. foreign policy agenda. Subsequently, there was an increase in the interest of Americans in “knowing the enemy.” John Steinbeck’s interest was to see the Russians behind the stereotypes that American media had created. A Russian Journal, published in 1948, is a book about postwar Russia, and about the Russians, portrayed through “honest reporting, to set down what we saw and heard without editorial comment, without drawing conclusions about things we didn’t know sufficiently”, as Steinbeck himself put it. In order to create a more detailed and, at the same time, more credible image of the Russians, he travels to Russia together with Robert Capa – a well-known war photojournalists of the twentieth century. Steinbeck wants to find the answer to several questions, including the one that is also of interest for my presentation, namely: are Russians as violent as Americans see them? He seems to view the common Russians as victims of war violence, rather than being violent themselves. My presentation will analyze these two types of violence (individual and national), with a focus on the Russian stereotypes that were born in the American culture.
Eszter Szep, Eotvos Lorand University, Budapest/ University of Bucharest, “Comics and Haptic Reading: Bodies in Joe Sacco’s The Great War”.
The starting point of my presentation is the realization that comics is a medium of embodiment, and comics creation, as well as comics reading, are constituted by bodily performances of the artists and readers. On the example of Sacco’s unusual graphic narrative, The Great War (2013), which narrates one of the most brutal battles from the first world war, the battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916, I examine the ways in which Sacco’s visual representation of the events of a single day relies on the haptic and bodily involvement of the reader. The Great War is not a comic per se, as the textual component is printed in a separate booklet, and the units of the visual narrative, rather than being separated by panels, flow seamlessly into each other. The increasingly violent action of the battle is presented as a seamless visual narrative in the format of a folded mini-panorama, while the format itself serves as an obstacle to the fluency of reading: the accordion-like structure is not that easy to handle as is turning the page of a book, the materiality of the pages has to be dealt with. In the analysis I show the importance of the formal traditions that Sacco is diverging from – the 19th century panorama, the comic strip, the graphic novel, – and argue that the new format does not only make the reader conscious of his or her body during reading, but, more importantly, due to the reader’s bodily performance during reading, it creates an actual embodied connection with the thousands of represented bodies that are being destructed in the battle.
2017 Research Periods
Draga Alexandru, Maria-Sabina
5 July-9 September, CEERES Center and the Library of the University of Chicago
23-30 July and 15-22 August, Library of the JFK Institute, Freie University, Berlin
10-19 February, 23-30 July, and 15-22 August, Library of the JFK Institute, Freie University, Berlin
17-21 June 2017, Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford
2017 Special Edition of Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics on the Topic of Sexual Violence
The introduction, table of contents and abstracts can be accessed here: http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rcom20/8/3?nav=tocList
Family Line-ups CFP