CFP: Monstrous Women in Comics—an Interdisciplinary Conference on Women in Comics and Graphic Novels

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CFP: Monstrous Women in Comics—an Interdisciplinary Conference on Women in Comics and Graphic Novels

May 2017, University of North Texas, Denton, TX

Keynote: Dr. Carol Tilley, Associate Professor, Graduate School of Library and Information Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The relationship between women and the comics industry is contested perhaps now more than ever before. Fresh conflicts in mainstream presses reveal lingering aversions to women creators, and fan-reactions to reboots demonstrate similar dis-ease with “non-canonical” re-imaginings of female characters. Far from being novel, these tensions are rooted in the very history of western comics. From the Golden Age, women were erased or marginalized in comics through, for instance, the use of “gender-neutral” monikers. Female characters were aesthetically constructed to meet and satisfy the male gaze and overwhelmingly, their narratives were penned by male authors. Women readers of comics were historically “pandered to” with romance comics but were otherwise ignored as a target audience. Even within the medium of graphic novels, where women’s work has arguably been more visible, women creators are being erased by industry-standard events like the Angoulême Festival. Here, as in other areas of popular culture, women are treated in very Aristotelian ways—at best, they are deemed to be monstrous derivatives of men, and at worst, they are simply monsters for daring to enter what has been overwhelmingly characterized as man’s domain. From a feminist perspective, there is ample room for critique of the ways in which women in comics are made into monsters, but now we want to ask if that is all there is? Must a theoretical investigation of monstrous women in comics be limited to surveys of marginalization and erasure?

Building on the work of postmodern scholars like Donna Haraway, and following from recent iterations of Monster Studies, we seek to critically engage with, and re-evaluate, monstrous women in comics. For Haraway, the figure of the monster is one who simultaneously illuminates and threatens boundaries; the monster is a creature who resides in borderlands and embodies transgression; she is the imbrication of text, myth, body, nature and the political—she is neither “self” nor “other.” To be deemed monstrous is to be situated in the margins, to be placed outside, and yet the monster is one who always threatens those margins, who promises to leak into and over. Constructively engaging with the monstrous can ultimately lead us into an “imagined elsewhere,” the monster can be full of promises. Therefore, we are seeking interdisciplinary examinations of monstrous women in comics not only in order to critically question and contest normative boundaries, but also to begin to imagine how the relationship between women and comics might be otherwise.

We invite all interested participants to join us in thinking about monstrous women in comics across genres: papers may engage with historical studies of women in comics, mainstream comics, graphic novels, indie comics, religious comics, or web comics. Paper proposals, in the form of 250-word abstracts, may also address—but are not limited to—any of the following topics:

  • The monstrosity of (early) women creators
  • Romance comics and “girl comics” as monstrous
  • Female characters as monstrous derivatives of male superheroes
  • Women characters/creators/readers as monstrous because of their sexuality, corporeality, race, religion, or (dis)ability
  • Monstrous female characters as manifestations of patriarchal desires/anxieties/fears
  • Monsters who are female
  • Female characters who transgress human/inhuman boundaries
  • Women readers/fans as monsters
  • Women fan/creator collectives as transgressive & monstrous
  • Maternity and monstrosity
  • Indie & web comics as monstrous
  • Monstrous feminism & comics

In order to further emphasize the fruitfulness of transgressing boundaries and engaging with the monstrous, this conference also seeks to leak over the boundaries of academia by inviting women comics creators who would like to submit their work for a temporary gallery exhibition and/or who would be interested in tabling the event. All interested creators/vendors should email a short bio and any relevant links to portfolios or previous works.

Accepted participants will be invited to present their 20-minute papers, or to exhibit their work, at a two-and-a-half-day interdisciplinary conference at the University of North Texas in Denton. To submit a paper proposal, or to express interest in exhibiting/tabling, please send an email tomonstrouswomen@gmail.com with the following information:

  • Name, institutional affiliation, email address
  • 250-word abstract (if applicable)
  • Short bio & portfolio links (if applicable)
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