Comics in French

Comics in French: The European Bande Dessinee in Context

Laurence Grove
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    Comics in French
    Book Description:

    Whereas in English-speaking countries comics are for children or adults 'who should know better', in France and Belgium the form is recognized as the 'Ninth Art' and follows in the path of poetry, architecture, painting and cinema. The bande dessinee [comic strip] has its own national institutions, regularly obtains front-page coverage and has received the accolades of statesmen from De Gaulle onwards. On the way to providing a comprehensive introduction to the most francophone of cultural phenomena, this book considers national specificity as relevant to an anglophone reader, whilst exploring related issues such as text/image expression, historical precedents and sociological implication. To do so it presents and analyses priceless manuscripts, a Franco- American rodent, Nazi propaganda, a museum-piece urinal, intellectual gay porn and a prehistoric warrior who's really Zinedine Zidane.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-810-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xiii-xiv)

    Whereas in English-speaking countries comics are for kids or adults who should know better, in France and Belgium the form is recognised as the Ninth Art and follows in the path of poetry, architecture, painting and sculpture. The bande dessinée, ‘BD’, has its own national institutions, regularly obtains front-page coverage and has received the accolades of statesmen from de Gaulle onwards. Historically, the bande dessinée can be seen as the culminating point of a tradition of text/image interaction that appears throughout France’s literary and sociological development, from medieval illuminated manuscripts and Renaissance emblem books to modern cinematography.Comics in French:...

  5. Chapter 1 Introduction: French Strippers Viewed from Afar
    (pp. 1-12)

    I recently opened my University of Glasgow Honours option on the bande dessinée (also known by its initials as ‘BD’) with the distribution of a single page taken fromLe Téméraire[The Bold] (Fig. 1). The idea was that students would give an unprepared reaction, one which would then allow us to reflect on how to ‘read’ a bande dessinée, indeed how to define a bande dessinée, how to situate it historically, socially and in cultural terms, and what, if anything, a French or Belgian comic strip could teach us about life in general. The aims of that half-hour discussion...

    • Chapter 2 Definitions and Component Parts: How a BD Works
      (pp. 15-40)

      How a BD works depends on what a BD is and, ironically, although the former can be clearly demonstrated, the latter is open to debate. In such defining moments one normally heads for the dictionary, but in this caseLe Petit Robertadds a further, or rather an initial, layer of confusion through the question of historical etymology. TheNouveau Petit Roberttells us that the term ‘bande dessinée’ dates from 1929,¹ presumably when it appeared in the contracts that Paul Winckler issued for theJournal de Mickey. But was thatbande dessinée, the cultural entity, or merely a reference...

    • Chapter 3 Formal Specificity: Novel Novel or Nouvelle Nouvelle Vague?
      (pp. 41-56)

      To most people a bande dessinée album is first and foremost a book and it is this that defines the tradition to which it belongs: as printed narrative literature the BD is closest to the novel. Historically, further affinities are to be found in that both the BD and the novel grew from forms that were considered to be low-class or second-rate literature, both saw an important period of development in the nineteenth century (although the novel’s came a little earlier) often through journal serialisation, and, as stated above, both saw a period in the latter half of the twentieth...

    • Chapter 4 Pre-History: From Bayeux’s Tapestry to Töpffer’s Teachings
      (pp. 59-92)

      Having opened the previous part of this book by stating that the term ‘bande dessinée’ did not come into use before the 1950s, it may seem strange to follow with a chapter whose subtitle suggests it will begin with an eleventh-century strip. Taking our definition of bande dessinée as a ‘French-language mixture of images and written text that together form a narrative’ it is, as we have suggested, possible to include such disparate cases as illuminated medieval manuscripts, early illustrated printed books and pre-Revolution engravings. Chronologically, critics have gone as far back as the cave drawings in Lascaux, although it...

    • Chapter 5 The Nineteenth Century: Photos, Funnies and Films
      (pp. 93-116)

      The placing of Rodolphe Töpffer astride two chapters – the BD’s pre-history, to a certain extent its legitimising mythology, and the nineteenth century, the period that saw the growth of the form as we know it – is quite deliberate. Although, as we have seen, Töpffer ‘Inventor of the BD’ is an appellation founded on retrospective historicism and probably no more pertinent than a claim for either Queen Mathilde or Ugg the Lascaux caveman to bemater/pater et princepsof the genre, the work of Töpffer is important as an indication of the mindset that was current by the 1830s....

    • Chapter 6 The Twentieth Century: The Rise, Fall and Rise of the BD
      (pp. 117-154)

      The twentieth century, for most people, is the century of the bande dessinée. It saw the culture of thehistoire en imagecontinue to flourish, generally (but certainly not always) in children’s publications, and expand under the influence of American imports. It saw the darker years of wartime suppression followed by the censorship inflicted in France via the 1949 Law on Children’s Publications. But it also saw the switch to an art form for grown-ups following the cutting-edge inspiration of 1960s iconPilotemagazine. And each bump of the rollercoaster ride saw its own mini bumps ...

      Naturally enough, most...

    • Chapter 7 Contemporary BD: Innovators, Best-Sellers and Prize-winners
      (pp. 155-204)

      That this book should be written only nine years into a new millennium is methodologically fortuitous as it allows for a chapter on the current century whilst making a chronological approach unfeasible. But with 1,293 albums newly published in 2001,¹ the first year of the century, alone – without forgetting the fact, as we shall see, that some of the most influential works in the twenty-first century are those published in the 1980s and 1990s, or beyond – to provide a full overview, or even a nod of the hat, to every BD author would be impossible. The avid reader...

    • Chapter 8 Pop Art or Business Park?: Barthes-ering for the Market
      (pp. 207-228)

      It may seem peculiar to open a section of a book with a subtitle as bland as ‘Bande Dessinée and Popular Culture’, but an awareness of the implications is essential to our grasp of the BD’s place in the wider scheme of things: this may be in terms of its direct relation to popular culture, but also to the high-cultural appropriation of popular culture, as well as to those strands within the medium that are self-reflexive. Up to now I have taken it for granted that the reader is interested in the bande dessinée per se, not a startling assumption...

    • Chapter 9 Consecration of the Ninth Art: Meaningful Ecos or Circus Clones?
      (pp. 229-248)

      To consider the bande dessinée as a cultural phenomenon implies what may be obvious from this book’s original subtitle – ‘The Ninth Art’ – namely that in French-speaking countries (principally, but not exclusively, France and Belgium) the form has received critical attention that in itself is now part of the phenomenon.¹ As one of the first general accounts of the bande dessinée in English, an important aim of this current book is to provide suggestions as to possible readings that the form might sustain, as well as compiling a detached (as far as such is possible) overview of the canonisation...

    • Chapter 10 Cultural Studies and Beyond: Cases in Point and Further Reading
      (pp. 249-294)

      When, at the end of the last century, this book saw its first embryonic stages, the aim was to provide a substantial section of case studies. These would draw upon a variety of methodologies under the broad aegis of Cultural Studies,¹ not only to put into practice ideas and approaches mooted throughout this book, but also to underline the notion of BD as playing an integral role in the current cultural make-up of French-speaking life. The bande dessinée is of interest per se, but also as a key to understanding broader elements of the world around us.

      Towards the end...

  9. Chapter 11 Conclusion: Dick Turpin Rides Again
    (pp. 295-298)

    A few years ago, in the wake of publicity surrounding the 2001 IBDS conference in Glasgow, media attention focused briefly on the fact that the University was offering an Honours option on the bande dessinée. One article, in theSunday Times(Scottish edition) of 13 May 2001 (see Fig. 40), took a humorously critical stance, suggesting that the study of cartoons was a waste of public money and that the ‘boffin’ responsible was no more than an ‘academic Dick Turpin’.

    I presented the article to students for the final session of the bande dessinée course in question and was delighted...

  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 299-326)
  11. Index
    (pp. 327-346)