Visualities of Gender in German-Language Comics.
A fundamental research project examining the conditions, properties, and structures of visualities of gender. The first systematic analysis of German-language comics to that scope.
The images and narratives of gender which comics always produce and challenge, are diverse and substantial regarding cultural, historical, and political dimensions. Influential characters such as ‘Superman,’ Jerry Siegel’s and Joe Shuster’s virile ‘Man of Steel,’ and ‘Wonder Woman’ or ‘Catwoman,’ DC Comics’ hyper-sexualized depictions of femininity, immediately come to mind; but also examples for critiques on gendered bodies in German-language comics such as Ulli Lust’s Heute ist der letzte Tag vom Rest deines Lebens or Anke Feuchtenberger’s and Katrin de Vries’ Hure H. Across the board, comics reference and exhaust established registers of gender, body norms, and ideals of beauty. Yet, comics studies have never before structurally analyzed these ‘visualities of gender’ in order to fully account for their performative power and productivity.
Thus, the project at hand is designed as fundamental research examining the conditions, properties, and structures of visualities of gender, being the first systematic analysis of German-language comics to that scope. This fills a gap within the underrepresented field of German-language comics studies in general and within an Austrian ‘scene’ in specific (shedding light on Austrian comics production as well as research).
The theoretical framework consists of image theory, visual culture as well as gender studies; central questions are: In German-language comics, how is gender depicted? Which possibilities do these comics have to visualize and narrate bodies, desire, gender, and sexualities? Which theoretical, political or aesthetic traditions do they draw from or abolish? How do they (re)produce and stabilize binary gender norms? Which opportunities for subversion do they offer?
Susanne Hochreiter, Marina Rauchenbacher, and Katharina Serles conduct the research over the course of four years and in three phases corresponding to three main objectives. First, German-language comics with explicit gender-references are compiled, indexed, annotated, and published as an open access database for a wide, international audience. Secondly, exemplary thematic cuts through relevant comics literature are made, providing in-depth, qualitative analyses – both individually as well as comparatively and by means of discourse analysis, deconstruction, and intersectional readings. These cuts establish interdisciplinary subject-clusters, further differentiating and expanding the corpus. Finally, a meta- and self-referential approach reconnects the analytical findings to the respective theories, which it aims to update and advance. As such, the project can redefine the corresponding areas of comics studies as well as comics’ place and performative influence for theory.