Comics and Culture: Images of Modern France in the Making
Born with the 20th century, the comic strip (bande dessinée, or BD) is now considered a major art form in its own right: le neuvième art. The blend of text and image in bande dessinée is complex, and our study this semester will lead to an understanding and appreciation of the difference between "traditional" narrative and BD narrative, "traditional" visual art forms and the visual elements of BD, cinema (especially animation) and the drawings on the page that define the art of the comic strip.
In addition to examining and analyzing the technical elements of the medium, we will investigate the French comic strip from its historical and sociological perspectives. Beginning with an exploration of the circumstances surrounding the birth of the BD in France at the end of the 19th century, we will look at the satire of social mores found in La Famille Fenouillard (1889), the particular bourgeois milieu in Bécassine (created in 1905) and the anarchist elements in Les Pieds Nickelés (created in 1908). The French self-image will be analyzed through the adventures of the Gallic hero Astérix and the French "super-hero" Superdupont, and in the biting social and political commentary of Bretécher, Baru, and others. We will consider how certain events have influenced the BD (the two World Wars, the advent of cinema and television) and how the BD has influenced the French (identification with the hero, marketing of the hero). Some of the subtopics of the course are regional and national stereotypes (in Astérix, Tintin, Lucky Luke), racism, the role of women, and political ideology (Davodeau, Satrapi).