Students can say, “Bonjour,” to female representation at an upcoming library event.
Registration ends Friday for “Drawing Gender: Women and French-language Comics,” a symposium to be hosted at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum Feb. 28 and 29. The event will focus on panels and presentations by scholars and an artist about the representation of women in French-language cartoons from across the world.
Margaret Flinn, associate professor of French, organized the event, inviting scholars who research artists, female or otherwise, who specifically discuss feminism or female representation in comics.
Flinn said the symposium’s focus on gender studies fits the mission of the library by recognizing and showcasing the diverse voices of women in the comics industry. The library’s mission is to develop comprehensive research by collecting cartoon art, organizing the materials and providing access to these resources, according to the library’s website.
“It’s been a collections priority for the Billy Ireland to try and be a place that is actively collecting all kinds of marginalized voices,” Flinn said.
Caitlin McGurk, associate curator for outreach at the library, said the event fits the library’s current focus on programming that discusses gender and women’s history. For example, the current exhibit “Ladies First: A Century of Women’s Innovations in Comics and Cartoon Art” celebrates the 100th anniversary of the women’s suffrage movement.
The free two-day symposium will begin with a presentation in Sullivant Hall’s Schulz Lecture Hall by keynote speaker Julie Delporte, a Montreal-based cartoonist, followed by a reception and signing of her book “This Woman’s Work,” McGurk said.
The symposium will continue the second day with multiple talks by scholars from the U.K., the U.S., France and Belgium about their research on the work and portrayal of female cartoonists in French-language comics, each including a Q&A session.
Benoît Crucifix, a comics scholar based in Belgium and presenter at the symposium, said comics have the potential to summarize things in a way that can replicate complex stereotypes about certain groups, while also undermining them.
“I find that there’s been lots of cartoonists working to find graphic ways of circumventing traditional gender representations — drawing characters whose gender is not fixed and where the narrative does not ask the reader to define a gender role for the character,” Crucifix said.
Michelle Bumatay, assistant professor of French at Florida State University and presenter at the symposium, researches surrounding comics from French-speaking regions in Africa and said comics are an accessible medium that makes readers more likely to open up to critique due to the commentary being expressed humorously.
Bumatay said the various perspectives that come with these comics studies will allow those who attend the symposium to view the relationship between gender studies and comics in different ways and draw connections to their own experiences.
“Having lots of perspectives on this and having perspectives on the question of gender in the world today — How does it operate? How is it represented? What are people trying to engage with? — expands our understanding of that in our own lives,” Bumatay said.
“Drawing Gender: Women and French-language Comics” will be hosted Feb. 28 and 29 at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. Students can RSVP for free by Friday on the University Libraries’ website.