In my dissertation, I investigate the unique aesthetic devices developed in women’s comics from different locales, and demonstrate that these devices conceal a tactical subversion of sexuality and gender roles. I show that these comics disguise their treatment of nonnormative desires and identities by using nonlinear and allusive aesthetics.
Thus, my dissertation challenges the formalist foundations of comics studies that overemphasize the linear and sequential; expands the criteria by which feminist and queer studies gauge subversion; and conceptualizes a feminist ethics of visuality.
In the first two chapters, I trace a lineage of women artists since the birth of modern comics in the 1890s until the present, and critique comics scholarship’s over-reliance on a male lens that overlooks the vast body of non-linear comic art by women. In subsequent chapters, I develop a phenomenology of Japanese girlhood to elaborate on girls’ subtle tactics of resistance to Western compulsory heterosexuality via Boys Love (BL), a subgenre of Japanese comics that portrays male-male romance in a highly aestheticized visual language. Building on the global history of visual allusion and tactical subversion in women’s comics, I advance a non-essentializing understanding of Boys Love genre comics, and show how they offer a relational model based on empathy for the imagination and ethical representation of nonnormative desire.
The Humanities Institute Summer Residence is supporting my revision of the final draft of this project. During this revision, I am also securing permission to reproduce images from multiple national and international repositories.