Spotlight on New Publications – The Hysterical Subject of Shojo

Puella Magi Madoka Magica is easily one of, if not the most memorable – and influential – anime series to run on Japanese television and expand outside Japan – in recent years. So far, however, responses to Madoka have been limited to reviews, blog and forum posts, and other personal reflections, not scholarship. This is not surprising – the low speed of scholarly publishing, especially in the humanities – is a well-known issue.

So, it is quite exciting to see what I believe is the first full-length scholarly article published in English on Madoka:

Shen, Lien Fan (2014). The hysterical subject of shojo: The dark, twisted heroines in Revolutionary Girl Utena and Puella Magi Madoka Magica. In N. Jones, M. Bajac-Carter, and B. Batchelor, (Eds.). Heroines of film and television: Portrayals in popular culture. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

Prof. Shen (Film and Media Arts, University of Utah) presented earlier versions of this paper at A Comic of Her Own, the University of Florida Conference on Comics and Graphic Novels, and at the 2013 AX Anime and Manga Studies Symposium.

In the abstract the author submitted for the Symposium, she provided this description:

“Literally meaning a girl or girls in Japanese, shojo entails cultural connotations of innocence, purity, and fragile female figures with full range of emotion.  Anime portrays a significantly large number of shojo heroines to exaggerate this female representation as an object of fetish eroticism. This essay pays attention to the portrayals of shojo heroines in two anime works: Revolutionary Girl Utena and Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Whereas shojo heroines are granted magic power as a form of female empowerment, the symbolic system of anime posits shojo heroines both as the subject and the Other, emphasizing their sexuality through visual symbols and narratives. Situated in psychoanalytic frameworks, this essay highlights shojo heroines’ persistent quest after ‘who am I to others’ as the hysterical subject who fully recognizes her subject self as an object in the masculine order. Through the examples of Revolutionary Girl Utena and Puella Magi Madoka Magica, I argue that the hysterical subject, the dark and twisted shojo heroines, is self-reflective in understanding her subject as one among many represented objects in the world, acknowledging the fundamental misrecognition of the self autonomy. This form of self-reflectivity may show us a way in which female subjects speaks an alternative language with and for herself/itself, hysterically yet persistently inquiring into her/its relation with others as a challenge of the masculine order.”

There may, of course, have been some changes between the version she presented then, and the final published version, but hopefully, even the abstract gives a general idea of the questions the author is asking, and the direction she pursues.

Anime and Manga Studies Symposium – Previous Years

My work in promoting, facilitating and supporting anime and manga studies involves several different kinds of activities. I am one of the founders of the Anime and Manga Research Circle, an informal community of academics, students, industry professionals and fans interested in studying Japanese animation and comics, and a moderator of the AMRC mailing list. I have reviewed books on anime for the Anime News Network – and articles submitted for publication in the scholarly journal Transformative Works and Cultures. I have presented talks on anime and manga studies at conventions around the U.S. – Otakon, Anime Central, A-Kon, Anime Boston, Katsucon and others. But at least for now, what I think of as my main contribution to this area is as the organizer/producer of the annual Anime and Manga Studies Symposium, the track of academic presentations and panels that are a part of the programming at Anime Expo, the largest anime convention in the U.S.

The Call for Papers for this year’s Symposium is open through the end of the month – I have already seen several excellent submissions, and look forward to seeing more. And, since one of the goals I had in mind for this blog is to have it serve as a hub or central point for activities in the field of anime and manga studies, I am also happy to present the full schedules for the previous years:

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Anime and Manga Symposium Archives – 2013

By its third year, the Anime and Manga Studies Symposium was firmly established as a part of Anime Expo’s programming. A highlight of the 2013 schedule were the guest lectures on the history of anime and manga studies in Japan presented by Dr. Akiko Sugawa-Shimada (Kansai Gaidai University, Osaka, Japan), and on the challenges of using Japanese animation and comics to introduce American college students to Japanese culture (Masako Hamada, Villanova University). In addition to these full-length lectures, the Symposium again featured a set of shorter presentations and talks on much more focused topics, such as the use of foreign languages in manga, depictions of girls and women across several decades of Japanese animation, and the sometimes uneasy relationship between anime fans’ practices and commercial activities.

AX 2013 Anime and Manga Studies Symposium – Schedule

Thursday, July 4

Keynote Address: Christopher Kuipers (Professor, English, Indiana University of Pennsylvania)

  • Translating Anime and Manga: Let Us Count the Ways

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Resource Review – Bonn Online Bibliography for Comics Research

In searching for scholarly publications about anime and manga, the question of where to start the search is crucial and unavoidable. A broad database like Academic Search Premier or Academic OneFile covers a lot of what is available, but the “barrier” for coverage is very high, and many journals are not included – to say nothing of books or book chapters. Google Scholar’s coverage is erratic and based purely on keywords in the text of a particular publication. Specialized or subject-specific databases like the Bibliography of Asian Studies, the Film & Television Literature Index Online, the International Index to the Performing Arts or the MLA International Bibliography are more narrowly focused – but again, an article or other publication on Japanese animation or comics may not necessarily be included in any of them. And indeed, the very nature of “anime and manga studies” as an area that is inherently interdisciplinary and does not fit neatly into any one particular databases’s scope makes finding publications on anime/manga a game with no perfect ending.

What options, then, does someone who is looking for materials on anime/manga have?

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University of Michigan Lecture/Workshop: More Information

Later this week, the University of Michigan Center for Japanese Studies will be hosting two programs on aspects of Japanese popular culture and its reception both in Japan and around the world. On Thursday, April 3, Mark McLelland will present a lecture on ‘debates around fictional child characters in Japanese popular culture’. As announced earlier this month, following this, on Saturday, April 5, a group of leading scholars will participate in a one-day workshop on specific ethical, legal, political, cultural and other challenges that Japanese popular culture as a field or area of inquiry presents for teachers at all levels, researchers, and students.

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Anime and Manga Symposium Archives – 2012

After the success of the first Anime and Manga Studies Symposium at the 2011 Anime Expo, it was clear that the idea of academic presentations included in the program of a major American anime convention was something that fans were ready to welcome. So, in the spring of 2012, I began planning to repeat the Symposium at AX 2012, and when the convention opened its doors, was able to welcome a new group of scholars, representing institutions from around the U.S., as well as two European schools, to the Symposium.

AX 2012 Anime and Manga Studies Symposium – Schedule

Friday, June 29

Keynote Address: Jeffrey Dym (Professor, History, California State University, Sacramento)

Adventures in teaching ‘The History of Manga’

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Anime and Manga Studies in 2013 in Numbers

Trying to ask what exactly is meant by an academic discipline, field or area is a question that is almost so broad as to be meaningless. Of course, it’s still a question that is asked plenty of times – as, for example, Paul Ward does in Animation studies, disciplinarity and discursitivity (Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture, 3:2). But one way to at least begin asking this question is to operationalize it – to move away from what a field is, and towards the question of what do those working in this field actually do, and how. There is a general answer – scholars in a particular field think about particular topics, work with particular materials, answer particular questions. And there is an answer that is even more specific – scholars in a particular field produce knowledge that takes specific – and quantifiable – forms. And one way to gain at least some understanding of any particular academic field is by looking at how that field produces knowledge.

At the very basic level, this means examining a particular field’s “research output”, “publication patterns” or “publishing behavior”. That is, what kind of writing is expected of scholars in the field? Does it take the form of journal articles, book chapters, stand-alone books? And what are the proportions of each of those type of output to each other? A typical example of this kind of question and analysis is Huang and Chang’s Characteristics of research output in social sciences and the humanities.

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2013 Anime/Manga Studies Bibliography

The largest and most prominent contribution that I make to anime and manga studies is compiling and editing the Online Bibliography of Anime and Manga Studies – a continuously expanding record of scholarly publications on Japanese animation and comics, anime fans, the industry, and related topics. The public version of the Bibliography is currently on hiatus, but I continue to maintain a searchable database of publications that I plan to use as the heart of a new and redesigned Online Bibliography.

In the meanwhile, though, the database allows me to survey the overall landscape of publication in anime and manga, to locate publications with specific titles, on specific subjects, written by specific authors and appearing in particular specific journals and other sources. I draw on it the to promote “anime and manga studies” as an established area of study and to assist colleagues in their own work. And, I can use the database to generate stable, persistent lists of publications in anime and manga studies that may be of interest for anybody who is interested in this topic.

Annual Bibliography of Anime and Manga Studies, 2013 Ed.

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Who is Dani Cavallaro? – Part 2

Part 1

At this point, what do we definitely know about Dani Cavallaro? She is the author of at least 22 books, including 13 on anime. These books are available at many academic libraries – the OCLC FirstSearch database indicates that more than 500 own copies of The Anime Art of Hayao Miyazaki. And her work has been acknowledged by other scholars. But what do we know about Dani Cavallaro the person? What is her academic background? How is she actually qualified to write about Japanese animation and comics?

And, more importantly, how have readers evaluated her work?

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Who is Dani Cavallaro? – Part 1

When looking at any academic field, one particular feature that’s worth examining is who exactly are the prominent – prolific and highly-cited – authors in this field. What colleges are they affiliated with, what are their positions and job titles, how did they end up where they are. In anime and manga studies, a few prominent names come to mind right away – Fred Schodt, Susan Napier, Antonia Levi, Thomas Lamarre. And one more name that certainly comes up often enough is Dani Cavallaro.

At first glance, it should be easy to assume that Cavallaro is a scholar of the same caliber as someone like Napier – and maybe even more. And if pure quantity of published writing is anything to go by, she is certainly worth noticing. Amazon lists her as the author of 22 books . 13 of them, from last year’s Japanese Aesthetics and Anime, and goign back to 2006’s The Anime Art of Hayao Miyazaki, are specifically on Japanese animation. In terms of individual books authored, this makes her the single most productive scholar currently writing on anime in English.

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