The Colonial Heritage of French Comics (Contemporary French and Francophone Cultures)

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9781846316425: The Colonial Heritage of French Comics (Contemporary French and Francophone Cultures)
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I was delighted with this work. I thought it provocative, intellectually engaging, demonstrative of excellent and broad research both into colonial cultural history and the history of comics (skilfully and engagingly woven together). -- Dr Wendy Michallat, University of Sheffield Although France has changed much in recent decades, colonial-era imagery continues to circulate widely in comics, including the Tintin series by the Herge and Zig et Puce by Alain Saint-Ogan. This important book argues that cartoonists use representations of colonial history as a way of intervening in debates about contemporary France and its relationships to its former colonies. Mark McKinney argues that comics offer opportunities to reproduce and perpetuate colonial ideologies as well as to deconstruct and contest them-and the degree to which they do one or the other reveals much about the heritage of colonialism in French society. French Culture 201202 This important book argues that cartoonists use representations of colonial history as a way of intervening in debates about contemporary France and its relationships to its former colonies. Mark McKinney argues that comics offer opportunities to reproduce and perpetuate colonial ideologies as well as to deconstruct and contest them-and the degree to which they do one or the other reveals much about the heritage of colonialism in French society. French Culture 201202 This book is an important contribution to the history of the Francophone comic strip. It explains how early masters of the form, Herge and Alain Saint-Ogan, produced work that was sympathetic to imperialism. It narrates how these and other artists promoted the colonial idea by drawing work which encouraged readers to take pride in French and Belgian power overseas. However, this is only a part of the story. In addition, McKinney addresses more contempo-rary graphic narratives. He explains that since the 1980s graphic novelists in France, Switzerland, and Belgium have produced works that evoke imperial history. These new publications include some material that is nostalgic for empire, as well as strips that are more critical of it. McKinney admires the work of this latter type, produced by people such as Yvan Alagbe and Joann Sfar, and when he concludes the monograph it is to them that he gives the last word. The Colonial Heritage of French Comics therefore combines detailed historical analysis of material from the 1930s with politically informed literary criticism of more contemporary art and writing. It successfully sweeps from past to present and back again, linking heritage to history and vice versa. This is achieved so elegantly because of the structure that is used. Quite clinically, the book is organized through a prolonged discussion of two dominant themes : comics and representations of the colonial exhibitions, such as the Exposition coloniale internationale (Paris, 1931), and how comics portray colonial expeditions, notably the Citroen sponsored Croisiere Noire (1924-1925). Grosso modo, McKinney's analysis reveals that comics are helpful barometers for understanding their times. Their creators are depic ted as producers of ideas, engaged in promulgating artistic and nar-rative visions of social importance. In this book they are conscious actors on the historical stage. The study confirms that in the colonial period most works supported the dominant ideology of believing in French supremacy overseas. It is also true that the comics from the 1980s-2000s are shown to capture the present mood in France. In these graphic novels there are multiple interpretations that provide different readings of the colonial past for different political audiences. The study is especially fascinating because it also debates those comics that did not entirely conform with their times. Here, McKinney's analysis of Louis Forton's Les Pieds-Nickeles series is pertinent. Some of these strips from the 1930s poked fun at colonia-lism and the bourgeois world. At the same time they contained racist stereotypes and did not manage to make substantive political criticism. McKinney considers Edward Said to be his theoretical inspiration. Nevertheless, the author is far more of an empirical historian than a theorist. Throughout the volume he relies on expansive primary documentation and a good eye for contextual detail, rather than the rhetorical flourish of post-colonial theory. For this reason the chap-ters that analyse the role of comics in the promotion of colonial exhibitions and expeditions stand out as being especially rich. Indeed, little time is given to philosophical or psychological explanations of any of the material. For example, when McKinney speculates as to why the colonial subject returned to comic strips in the 1980s he seems to give short shrift to the idea that they may be some " return of the colonial repressed from a collective uncons-cious " (p. 111). Instead, he prefers to argue that they developed out of trends within the genre of comics themselves. The forgotten comic strip magazine, Metal Aventure, is noted here as sparking the fashion for colonial subject matter. One might add briefly, without diminishing McKinney's thesis, that developments in cinema were probably as influential. After all, it was from the early 1980s onwards, with works such as Swiss director Daniel Schmid's Hecate (1982), that Francophone cinema started using colonial settings, often for romantic backdrop. For what it's worth, contemporary French African policy also likely encouraged the renewed cultural attention on the colonial past. It was in 1978 that the French Foreign Legion was deployed to protect European mine workers from a violent local uprising in Kolwezi, Zaire. This successful military deployment was itself glorified in Raoul Coutard's melodramatic action movie, La Legion saute sur Kolwezi (1979). This is a groundbreaking publication for the field of bande dessinee studies. For far too long some scholars working in this field have tended to overlook the links that exist between comics and colo-nialism. Thanks to McKinney's thoughtful and measured research this issue is brought to the forefront. Historians of empire will also have much to gain from the volume. The book will make for an excellent seminar text on any course treating the subject of Euro-pean colonialism or racism. In short, this is a thoughtful, rigorous, and nuanced account that will be influential for many years to come. It is not lavishly illustrated. The selected, ugly, images of colonial comics are gathered together in a scientific manner in twenty-six carefully reproduced prints. This is an appropriate treatment for a scholarly publication that eschews any hint of nostalgia for the " good old days " of the mission civilisatrice. Etudes Litteraires africaines 201212 This book is an important contribution to the history of the Francophone comic strip. Etudes Litteraires africaines 201112 There has recently been renewed interest in the debate surrounding French colonialism and memory-exemplified by the controversy surrounding the 2011 'Jardin d'Outremer' and by the six-month-long exhibition commemorating 'L'Invention du sauvage' at the Musee du Quai Branly in Paris. Mark McKinney's book connects directly with such contemporary concerns but provides a fresh approach, via a 270-page review of colonial narratives in the francophone bande dessinee. McKinney introduces his study with the assertion that colonialism and imperialism are central both to the recent history of France and to the medium of the bande dessinee, noting that references to French colonial activity in Algeria can be found in the earliest examples of the medium, stretching back to 1830 (p. 14). The work then sets out to illustrate the interconnection of colonialism and the bande dessinee over the course of four chapters, producing a 'critical genealogy of comic-book representations of some key events in French colonial history' (p. 17), the extensive research into which has previously ignored BD depiction and the value of the latter as a socio-historical artistic resource. The first chapter examines a theme which pervades McKinney's work in its entirety-the oeuvre of Alain Saint-Ogan, and the place of this artist as the forefather of French imperial ideology in comics. In the second and third sections of the work McKinney then widens the scope of his study (while still presenting Saint-Ogan as a prominent example), considering representations of colonial exhibitions in the bande dessinee. Chapter 2 examines examples of colonial masquerade and the colonial carnivalesque in a series of narratives depicting and created contemporaneously with the 1931 Exposition Coloniale Internationale. These works are then compared in Chapter 3 to post-1980s strips depicting French colonial displays, with McKinney here contrasting commemorative-nostalgic and critical-historical approaches to the subject-matter within the chosen strips. The final chapter of the work considers bande dessinee narratives depicting trans-African expeditions apparently inspired by the 'Croisiere noire' or similar journeys. This section examines both strips from the colonial era, such as the 'Pieds Nickeles' episode La Vie est belle (1931), and examples from the post-1962 period which rescript, renovate, or replicate narratives of the trans-African expeditions. A product of extensive historical research, The Colonial Heritage of French Comics provides the most expansive consideration of colonial depictions in the francophone bande dessinee currently available. McKinney never focuses for more than a few pages at a time on individual bandes dessinees, and thus his book does not provide a concentrated analysis of the colonial presence in specific strips beyond their historico-geographical context. This is, however, precisely the book's intent, and as a 'critical genealogy' linking key events in French colonialism to the bande dessinee it is wide-ranging, comprehensively presented, and an invaluable resource for further studies on colonial themes in sequential art. Although McKinney's examination of the 'Colonial Heritage' in the French bande dessinee is a temporally wide-ranging overvie...

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Although France has changed much in recent decades, colonial-era imagery continues to circulate widely in comics, in part because the colonial archives are easily accessible, and through the republication of colonial-era comics that are viewed as classics. The latter include the "Tintin" series of comic books, by the Belgian artist Herge, and the 'Zig and Puce' series by Alain Saint-Ogan, a Frenchman. In this important new study Mark McKinney situates comics in debates about French colonialism, arguing that cartoonists still use representations of colonial history in their comics as a way of intervening in debates about contemporary France and its current relationships to its former colonies. McKinney argues that comics offer unique opportunities to both reproduce and thereby perpetuate colonial ideologies, images and discourses, as well as to deconstruct and contest them. The ways, and the degree to which, they do one or the other tell us a great deal about the heritage of imperialism and colonialism in French comics and society.

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