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Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Cutts, Sarah
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2013
Publication Date: 2013


Subjects / Keywords: Comics
Graphic Novels
Graphic Narrative
Marcel Proust
Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice
Swann's Way
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: This thesis examines the cultural ramifications of adapting two canonical ("high culture") novels to a medium traditionally associated with low culture: Proust's Du cote de chez Swann and Austen's Pride and Prejudice. In this project, I consider how an image-heavy medium affects the original narrative, the reception of both of these adaptations in France and the U.S., and the cultural exchange between the original texts and their adaptations. For most of the twentieth century, anglophone comic books and their francophone counterparts, bandes dessinees, were dismissed as works that were at best merely children's entertainment and at worst manifestations of a destructive commodity-based consumer culture. In recent decades, however, the rise of the "graphic novel" has corresponded with increased critical attention on the comics genre. Reading these adaptations side-by-side, I evaluate how comics as a postmodern art form affects the reception of Proust's Combray and how the feminist ideologies of Pride and Prejudice are presented in its contemporary comic adaptation. Film scholarship, such as Laura Mulvey's "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema," provides a useful template on the study of image's influence on narrative. The comparison of these two works also serves as a springboard to a discussion on the arbitrary divisions between "high" and "low" culture and the spaces traditionally inhabited by conventional novels and comics. Is a comic adaptation legitimized by the cultural position of the original text? Is the original novel commodified because of the connotations of the graphic narrative form? Ultimately, while the accessibility of the comic form can lead to an increased interest in the original text after reading a well-researched adaptation (Stephane Heuet's Combray), it can also contribute to a shallow adaptation produced primarily for a company's economic interests (Marvel's Pride and Prejudice).
Statement of Responsibility: by Sarah Cutts
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2013
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Reid, Amy

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Source Institution: New College of Florida
Holding Location: New College of Florida
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: local - S.T. 2013 C99
System ID: NCFE004746:00001

Permanent Link:

Material Information

Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Cutts, Sarah
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2013
Publication Date: 2013


Subjects / Keywords: Comics
Graphic Novels
Graphic Narrative
Marcel Proust
Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice
Swann's Way
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: This thesis examines the cultural ramifications of adapting two canonical ("high culture") novels to a medium traditionally associated with low culture: Proust's Du cote de chez Swann and Austen's Pride and Prejudice. In this project, I consider how an image-heavy medium affects the original narrative, the reception of both of these adaptations in France and the U.S., and the cultural exchange between the original texts and their adaptations. For most of the twentieth century, anglophone comic books and their francophone counterparts, bandes dessinees, were dismissed as works that were at best merely children's entertainment and at worst manifestations of a destructive commodity-based consumer culture. In recent decades, however, the rise of the "graphic novel" has corresponded with increased critical attention on the comics genre. Reading these adaptations side-by-side, I evaluate how comics as a postmodern art form affects the reception of Proust's Combray and how the feminist ideologies of Pride and Prejudice are presented in its contemporary comic adaptation. Film scholarship, such as Laura Mulvey's "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema," provides a useful template on the study of image's influence on narrative. The comparison of these two works also serves as a springboard to a discussion on the arbitrary divisions between "high" and "low" culture and the spaces traditionally inhabited by conventional novels and comics. Is a comic adaptation legitimized by the cultural position of the original text? Is the original novel commodified because of the connotations of the graphic narrative form? Ultimately, while the accessibility of the comic form can lead to an increased interest in the original text after reading a well-researched adaptation (Stephane Heuet's Combray), it can also contribute to a shallow adaptation produced primarily for a company's economic interests (Marvel's Pride and Prejudice).
Statement of Responsibility: by Sarah Cutts
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2013
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Reid, Amy

Record Information

Source Institution: New College of Florida
Holding Location: New College of Florida
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: local - S.T. 2013 C99
System ID: NCFE004746:00001

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STRIPPING THE CANON: CULTURAL REFLECTIONS IN COMIC ADAPTATIONS OF CLASSIC LITERATURE BY SARAH KIRSTIN CUTTS A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Humanities New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree B achelor of Arts in French/English Literature Under the sponsorship of Professor Amy Reid Sarasota, Florida May, 2013


ii Dedication To my family: My mother, Jana, whose tenacity, wit, and creativity have always inspired me (even while making us butt hea ds). I am so grateful to have a mother so willing to view my mistakes as learning opportunities. If I can inherit all of your stories and half of your strength, I will count myself very lucky. My father, Willy, who taught me the value of careful observati on (although I still need to practice those skills of diplomatic restraint). Thank you for instilling a love for long conversation around an empty table, and the drive to educate myself so that I'll always have interesting and worthwhile things to say. M y stepmother, Wendy, whose warmth and willingness to listen are deeply appreciated. I'm glad I get to know you better as an adult, and I hope that on visits home I'm a decent enough houseguest to deserve your generosity. Thank you all for always nurturi ng my passions and never suggesting that any subject would be unsuitable for my interests. Thank you for supporting me when I needed to take some time away, and when I knew I was ready to return. Your strength, intelligence, and compassion inspire me to be someone you'll always be proud of, and I am lucky to come from a family that gives me so much to live up to.


iii Acknowledgments I've started and stopped this paragraph several times, trying to think of a perfectly pithy thing to say now that this process is finally over. Writing the thesis multiplies the use of "grueling" in any New College student's vocabulary, but I have perhaps misplaced pride that my journey has been especially lengthy. A year of writing, a successful baccalaureate, and then a two year h iatus before finally cleaning everything up and handing it over to the library not the most streamlined process, but at least we got here. Seeing that procrastination seems to be my biggest vice, I'll skip the self congratulatory reflections in favor of thanking the people who really made this happen. Perhaps the person most directly instrumental in finally seeing this beast conquered is Dr. Amy Reid, my sponsor and academic advisor. I am privileged to have been able to learn from Amy from my first year a t New College, and her wisdom and support have been invaluable in teaching me to be a more careful thinker, a sharper reader, and a better scholar. Amy always knew exactly when to push me to work to my potential, and when to reassure me that a sloppy first draft did not condemn me to permanent failure. Thanks to her guidance and encouragement, this work is completed, and even three years after beginning this process I'm still excited to discuss and develop it. I made many friends in my longer than usual ti me at New College: we fostered such tight bonds in this exceptional environment that just your presence was enough to keep me going. I know my experience here would not have been as joyous as it was without Harrison, Rita, Miranda, Cindy, Loren, Jaclyn, Je ssica, and Jessica Anne. I cherish you all so much. To all of the remarkable educators I have been blessed to know from elementary school onward, who not only introduced me to authors and works that captured my attention, but who taught me how to apprecia te them as deeply as they deserved and how to cultivate my curiosity. Eileen Roy, Pat Killian, Denise Standiford, and Dr. Jeanne Ewert without you I would still think that extended analysis kills the soul of a text, and that surly teenage attitude has li ttle merit once you've finished the unit on Catcher in the Rye Thanks to Kate Beaton, whose brilliant historical and literary comics were miracle cures for academic stress of any source and severity. And many sincere and grateful and affectionate (and in sufficient) thanks to Aran, who knew just when and where to place an expert boot to kick my rear in gear to get back to school. I wouldn't be here without you.


iv Table of Contents Dedication ii Acknowledgments iii Abstract v In troduction: Comics, from Pulp to Pulitzer 1 Chapter 1: Combray Heuet, and the Accessibility of Proust 22 Chapter 2: Pride and Prejudice and Pop Culture 46 Conclusion 72 Appendix 77 Bibliography 88


v STRIPPING THE CANO N: CULTURAL REFLECTIONS IN COMIC ADAPTATIONS OF CLASSIC LITERATURE Sarah Kirstin Cutts New College of Florida, 2013 ABSTRACT This thesis examines the cultural ramifications of adapting two canonical ("high culture") novels to a medium traditionally associated with low culture: Proust's Du c™tŽ de chez Swann and Austen's Pride and Prejudice In this project, I consider how an image heavy medium affects the original narrative, the reception of both of these adaptations in France and the U.S., and the cultural exchange between the original texts and their adaptations. For most of the twentieth century, anglophone comic books and their francophone counterparts, bandes dessinŽes were dismissed as works that were at best merely children's entertainment a nd at worst manifestations of a destructive commodity based consumer culture. In recent decades, however, the rise of the "graphic novel" has corresponded with increased critical attention on the comics genre. Reading these adaptations side by side, I eval uate how comics as a postmodern art form affects the reception of Proust's Combray and how the feminist ideologies of Pride and Prejudice are presented in its contemporary comic adaptation. Film scholarship, such as Laura Mulvey's "Visual Pleasure and Narr ative Cinema," provides a useful template on the study of image's influence on narrative. The comparison of these two works also serves as a springboard to a discussion on the arbitrary divisions between "high" and


vi "low" culture and the spaces traditionall y inhabited by conventional novels and comics. Is a comic adaptation legitimized by the cultural position of the original text? Is the original novel commodified because of the connotations of the graphic narrative form? Ultimately, while the accessibili ty of the comic form can lead to an increased interest in the original text after reading a well researched adaptation (StŽphane Heuet's Combray ), it can also contribute to a shallow adaptation produced primarily for a company's economic interests (Marvel' s Pride and Prejudice ). Professor Amy Reid Division of Humanities


1 Introduction: Comics, from Pulp to Pulitzer The purpose of this thesis is to examine two graphic adaptations of classic literature: Marcel Proust's Du c™tŽ de chez Swann adapted by StŽphane Heuet as Combray (1998), and Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice adapted by Nancy Butler with illustrations by Hugo Petrus (2009). Specifically, it will consider the relative success of each adaptation as determined by how well it represents key aspects of the original texts, and whether the adaptation's reliance on vi sual narrative enhances or hinders the intent of the adapted work. To establish a context for evaluating these adaptations, I will explore the history of graphic narrative as a genre, in particular its disputed literary merit and how cultural attitudes tow ard the genre have developed during the twentieth century. Du c™tŽ de chez Swann and Pride and Prejudice are two very different texts, yet are each considered foundational works of their respective canons. They present unique challenges to adaptation in an y form, but adapting a novel of such important status to a comic style presents special challenges of cultural acceptance. Comics have long been enjoyed globally, and the United States and France both have long traditions of comic production and readership However, for much of the twentieth century, especially in the US, they have also been dismissed as childish mass entertainment at best, and insidious amoral pulp at worst. Publishing labels such as Classics Illustrated appeared mid century, with the purp ose of presenting canonical texts to young children in an easily digestible form; however, these adaptations have been dismissed as overly simplistic (see Wolk).


2 In the 1980s, the term "graphic novel" was invented by publishers to refer to bound trade edi tions of comics; the new phrase appealed to adult, educated, middle class consumers and under this label comics enjoyed new critical attention and a taste of cultural legitimacy. I will discuss how the long dismissal of comics as a form of "low culture" in forms the adaptations of Proust and Austen, and how they may be studied as paraliterary extensions of the original texts alongside film adaptations. The language of film critique is particularly useful in this context, as it facilitates a discussion of how image communicates with the spectator (or reader, in this case). To narrow my evaluation of these adaptations, I will evaluate their final success by how well they represent vital characteristics of their respective novels: for Combray how the involuntar y memory that determines the book's mood and structure is communicated visually, and for Butler's Pride and Prejudice how well the feminist themes of Austen's original are presented. Heuet and Butler had the benefit of releasing their works at a time when the market is open to considering that well done comics can be accepted alongside any other traditionally "high culture" form; perhaps these and more works like them will force readers to question why that arbitrary cultural divide between high and low ex isted in the first place. I. Defining the "Graphic Novel" Before beginning a discussion of graphic novel adaptations and their relationship to the original, "traditional" novel, one must establish an understanding of what exactly is meant by the term "g raphic novel" or "graphic narrative" ("comics" and "graphic narrative" will be used somewhat interchangeably in this thesis, outside of citations), and


3 how this term relates to the familiar "comics" or "comic book." "Comics" and "graphic novel/narrative" a re most frequently heard in anglophone nations, whereas the preferred term in francophone countries is bande dessinŽe (BD), which literally means "drawn strip" (BD applies equally to multipanel strips in newspapers, stapled monthly issues, and lengthier bo und books, also called albums ). This cultural qualification seems important to make as Jan Baetans compares the reception of comics in the U.S. to their reception "in Belgium and France, [where] comics have been more or less canonized during the last two d ecades, but the very term graphic novel' remains frequently misunderstood'" (quoted in Chute "Decoding Comics," 1021). Charles Hatfield discusses the beginnings of comics as serialized publications and seems to credit the rise in popularity of the term graphic novel" and of the product itself to pure economics: wishing to expand their market, publishers switched their market from those who perused newsstands to "the direct market audience," which Hatfield describes as "increasingly self conscious, relati vely affluent, and eager for belated recognition of the comic book as art'" (Hatfield Alternative 29). The accompanying vagueness of "graphic novel" and its quick evolution to a catch all definition are also addressed, but ultimately Hatfield offers no c lear, dictionary worthy definition. Serialization and thematic issues are considered at length, finally culminating in one firm opinion that a (serialized) graphic narrative may be characterized by "discrete episodes, linked by thematic and motific repetit ion, rather than tightly structured, overarching plotlines" (Hatfield Alternative 154). Moving beyond their definition and into how one


4 can analyze them, Hatfield suggests that, in comics, 1 "the written text can function like images, and images like writ ten text" (Heer and Worcester 133). That is, within a comic, the visual effect of a panel can be altered and effected by the way the letters are drawn (for example, bolder for an emphatic statement, or raggedly written or spaced out if a character is in p ain or distress); likewise, a detail within an image can give the reader knowledge that is not revealed in the characters' speech or a narrative caption. For the purposes of this thesis, a "graphic narrative" will follow Thierry Groensteen's definition of comics as a system of components, and will be a single, complete narrative in which the text and images are interlinked, and the progression of the narrative can be analyzed through the image details, page construction, and sequential depictions, just as i t can through the progression of the text itself. The interaction between image and text, and how one may substitute for the other, is one reason why Groensteen prefers the term "a system of comics." He proposes "iconic solidarity" as "the central element of comics" (18), emphasizing the role of gutters, the white spaces between individual panels on a page, which characterize comics' ability to illustrate a sequence while preserving separation. The frame of an individual panel and its representation is link ed to the narrative's temporality: when one removes the clear, straight, bold line forming the gutters, the panels run together and the temporal reception of the narrative blurs. The panel structure is part of what Groensteen calls the arthrology of comics ; i.e., the relationships between images in a comic. Spatial organization is juggled between 1 "Comics" is generally accepted among critics and professionals as inclusive of trade paperba cks, syndicated strips, webcomics, and other subcategories (see Chute, Hatfield, McCloud).


5 space and place and between panel and page. Groensteen suggests that the narrative is shaped by the arthrology of the work the panel layouts determine the read er's temporal perception of the narrative, as expressed by text. Indeed, it is possible to have a work consisting solely of illustrated panels and foregoing text this would still be considered a "comic," while text without images would never qualify. The distinction between "comics" as a part of Groensteen's system and illustrated text is the connection between the text (if existent) and the arthrology: in the former, each component is dependent on and influences the other, and the narrative sequence is d epicted as strongly in the images as it is in the text. II. The Struggle for Critical Legitimacy In general, academic discussion of graphic narratives is included within the broad identifier of "comics studies" -this can be seen in the titles of numer ous texts cited here (see bibliography). One of the chief struggles of the movement to have comics and graphic narratives considered worthy of academic consideration and discussion is the nomenclature. As Heer and Worcester mention in their introduction t o A Comics Studies Reader a collection including analyses of pre twentieth century political cartoons, Japanese manga, and syndicated newspaper strips the problems inherent in using the label of "comics" stem from the term's "ambiguity:" "The term sugg ests a humorous intent that is inconsistent with the actual content of many, perhaps most, comic strips, comic books, and graphic novels" (Heer and Worcester xiii). Their brief summary of the evolution of comics in the twentieth century describes the reass ignment of the form's targeted audience from adults to children the boom of comic strips and books in the


6 1930s spread from the United States to Canada, Britain, France, Germany and Australia. Accompanying the importation of American comic strips was th e post World War II criticism of comics: their identification as children's material was compounded by fears that comics were "insidious threats" to children's moral welfare (Heer and Worcester 70). After the backlash against comics in the 1950s, they beca me a marginalized medium, and a movement of underground "comix" began to develop. This underground movement combined with the social stigma against comics led to a popular perception of the comics fan as a socially awkward loner, often a teenager or young man who cultivates an obsession for this particular form. This conception of the stereotypical comics reader was not challenged with the introduction of the "graphic novel," but rather reinforced by the nomenclature: intelligent and creative adults read g raphic novels; gawky, pimply teenagers read comic books. The stereotype persists despite the popularity of numerous large annual comics conferences. Comic Con International: San Diego, begun in 1970 and arguably the largest and most well known recurring co nvention, posits itself as the premier comic book and popular arts style convention in the world, featuring panels not only on comics but also popular film and television, and attracting industry professionals such as Joss Whedon and documentarian Morgan Spurlock ("About Comic Con International"). Comic Con International, and the various annual conferences in New York, Austin, Portland, Tampa, and elsewhere in the United States, neatly represent the paradoxical position of comics in contemporary Anglo Ame rican culture: the conventions are enormous, well organized, and respected by industry professionals, yet are still considered examples of a separate and reclusive "geek culture." The tenacity of this perception that comics are an identifying mark of soc ial outcasts may be a main


7 culprit in the sluggish development of comics studies, in contrast to the relatively popular field of film studies. Critical legitimacy is also influenced by the connotations of "comics" versus "graphic novel." For many readers it may be easier to accept a work like Art Spiegelman's Maus which is marketed as a graphic novel and looks more like a book (hard or paperback binding, several hundred pages of a narrative with an identifiable narrative line) as a significant literary work. 2 A comic book installment of, for example, an expansive superhero franchise, distributed every month in "a cheap magazine printed on raunchy paper" (Hatfield Alternative 8), may not be easily viewed in the same light. However, any reader's inclina tion to follow a fairly arbitrary distinction between the two as representatives of "high" and "low" or "pop" culture respectively, 3 and a tendency to dismiss the comic book as a light work impossible of creating any cultural impact, must be challenged. E ven as the devoted reader of comics is stereotypically viewed as a gawky outcast, the medium is recognized as a significant component of national cultural identity. For American and Franco Belgian culture especially, comics are a medium that "occupies a s pace of public approval and popularity" (Jobs 687). Superman is as emblematic of the U.S. as AstŽrix is of France and Belgium. This "public approval and popularity," however, cannot be accepted without examining the period of the twentieth 2 The fact that Maus was granted a Pulitzer Special Award in Letters in 1992 probably doesn't hurt this perceived legitimacy. 3 I am not, of course, arguing that po pular culture must be considered the "low" culture of the fairly arbitrary and problematic dichotomy; however, for many critics of comics, this perceived distinction between a worthy cultural product and a cheap source of entertainment is enough justificat ion in itself to assign graphic novels to the former category and comic books to the other, without considering the complexities of definition.


8 century when b oth countries launched vehement crusades against comics. This cause seems somewhat absurd when viewed with hindsight, but it proves that even before publishing companies courted self perceived intellectuals with more "sophisticated and literary" graphic n ovels, comics were viewed as highly influential on the cultural identity of a nation. III. The Evolution of Bande DessinŽe After World War II, both the US and France experienced a backlash against comics. In the US, traditional superhero franchises such as Superman and Batman were accused of luring young children into homosexuality and Communism; in France, government officials still smarting from the occupation rejected American imported comics as negative capitalist influences on French youth (this peri od will be discussed in detail in Section IV: "Comics as Corruptor?"). The post war anxiety toward superhero titles inspired the publication of the American series Classics Illustrated Published from 1941 to 1971, the label produced comic adaptations of n ovels aimed specifically at children; the parent publisher, Gilbertson, insisted that these publications "were not really comic books, but adaptations of literary classics" in order to evade the post World War II stigma of comic books as corruptive influen ces (Nyberg 66). Not long after Comics Illustrated ended publication, however, audiences across the Atlantic began to embrace comics adaptations of their beloved novels and publishing houses took advantage of the new market. French house Futuropolis is cited as one of the first publishing houses to target adult readers, and their assertion that they "championed a bande dessinŽe d'auteur since 1974" reflects the acknowledgment of at


9 least one company (as opposed to writers, artists, or academics) that ban de dessinŽe could be a sophisticated, nuanced form of art, and that the company in fact encouraged experimental works (Miller 34). In 1987, Futuropolis was taken over by Gallimard (one of France's most prestigious and long established publishing houses), and the type of volumes presented took a shift toward the conservative. Under Gallimard's control, original, experimental works reflecting the creativity of individual artists and writers were replaced by a series of adaptations of classic texts presented in the bande dessinŽe style. This collection included volumes based on novels by CŽline, Flaubert, and Le ClŽzio, which were presented as "luxury editions" (Miller 34). The presentation and packaging of these works as a "luxury" product, and Gallimard's immediate interest in drawing material from texts already respected by French readers, suggests that Charles Hatfield's assertion that larger publishers were seizing an opportunity to hawk more product to a specifically affluent audience need not be solely applied to the American model. Ann Miller herself acknowledges that publishers tailored their graphic releases to fit a "niche market for a more literary product" (34). Companies that previously published bande dessinŽe hastened to established sub label s specifically for "adult" works, realizing that they could attract parents in addition to the children who purchased BDs shifting from a small niche market to a large scale consumer base, most of whom had more money to spend. Miller notes that when the larger publishing companies turned their attention to releasing bande dessinŽe for adults, "conservatism reigned," with publishers commissioning screenwriters who had already displayed commercial success to produce the textual narrative of their releases ( 34). The adaptation of French works that are


10 usually associated with high culture in an attempt to gain adult readership is especially interesting when one considers the nature of the majority of American graphic adaptations of classic novels. Comics crit ic Douglas Wolk scorns Classics Illustrated and graphic adaptations in general, calling "comics adaptations of prose booksalmost uniformly terrible;[T]hey end up gutting the original work of a lot of its significant content" (Wolk 13). His critique of th e approach of Classics Illustrated is based in his defense of comics as a form that can stand independent of comparison to novels or films, but one might wonder whether he would consider an adaptation directed at adults instead of children a more acceptabl e product. The dichotomy between the presentation and reception of Classics Illustrated and the 1980s era "luxury editions" produced by Futuropolis under Gallimard does show, however, a change in how the role of adaptation affected the perception of the g raphic work. The publisher of Classics Illustrated (a series for children) called its products "adaptations" in order to separate the works from the label of "comics" Gilbertson went so far as to present the two terms as mutually exclusive. Years later however, Gallimard produced bande dessinŽe adaptations of French classics in order to present bande dessinŽe as a legitimate form of art to consumers attempting to elevate the form by presenting it as worthy to accompany highly respected texts. One ca nnot ignore the difference in targeted demographics, of course, nor the fact that Gilbertson was defending its series amidst the anti communist paranoia of the 1950s; in contrast, the French adaptations were produced during a time when the government and a cademics were


11 founding institutions devoted to the study of comics. 4 However, the markets for graphic narrative in both France and the United States started to peak in the 1980s, and one should consider why French publishers attempted to lure buyers by as sociating bande dessinŽe with highbrow art, while American publishers pushed the trend through a fairly wide variety of volumes, all originally written and illustrated for the graphic narrative form. Charles Hatfield suggests three particular titles "esta blished a beachhead for graphic novels' in the book trade" in the US: Art Spiegelman's Maus Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons's Watchmen and Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns The three works were all extremely popular, despite being fairly disparate in their tones and intentions: The Dark Knight Returns took the already well established comics hero Batman and provided him with a more complicated and detailed narrative than he usually received; Watchmen was intended as a deconstruction of the comics super hero genre itself; and Maus was originally an underground, alternative work heavily involved with history, autobiography and identity, which happened to make it big in the popular circuit (Hatfield Alternative 29 30). 5 Each of these titles subverts the com mon perception of "comic books," and yet these three works brought graphic narrative to the attention of major American publishers. In contrast, French publishing companies suppressed subversion in favor of producing works that would be directly commercial ly viable. This 4 The French Centre National de la Bande DessinŽe et de l'Image (CNBDI) was founded in 1983, and the Centre Belg e de la Bande DessinŽe (CBBD) followed in 1989 (Miller 41 42). 5 Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis provided a francophone counterpart to the well established Anglophone practice of using graphic narrative to present personal memoir and family history, and a wel come woman's voice to the medium. Her work was not published until 2000, however, with the first English translation appearing in 2003.


12 led to the hiring of previously successful screenwriters to produce narratives of "escapist" and "heroic fantasy" stories devoid of the darkness evident in the three volumes cited by Hatfield (Miller 34 35). Watchmen, Maus and The Dark Kn ight Rises now enjoy the status of Anglo American "classics" in their own genre. The fact that their original success and long lasting respect is alluded to be a result of the sinister natures of their narratives a sort of refreshing change of mood, afte r the traditionally shallow superhero narratives is a significant observation, given the mid century panic over the content of comics. IV. Comics as Corruptor? For many comics readers and scholars, the 1930s are characterized as the "Golden Age" of Am erican comics (this term is used without elaboration by Hatfield, Hillary Chute and Bradford W. Wright all three prominent scholars of comics studies). This celebratory descriptor is not based on the quality of the work coming out of the period, but ra ther its popularity. Walt Disney's characters Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck were featured in comic books that were translated into fifteen languages (Smoodin 130). Some of the most recognizable characters in American comics were created during this period ( Superman appeared in 1932, Batman in 1939), and the two major American comics publishing houses, DC Comics and Marvel Comics, were founded. The superhero genre would only rise in popularity when the U.S. entered World War II in 1941, the year Marvel intro duced Captain America. During the war, American comics were celebrated as a "homegrown artifact," something to be proud of and signifying that American culture was worth defending from a foreign enemy; however, during the paranoia of the


13 Cold War, when "t he enemy was positioned in our own backyard," comics began to be seen as a medium that held a sinister hold over American youth (Smoodin 136). In 1954, psychiatrist Dr. Fredric Wertham published a book that would prove to be hugely influential on the soc ial perception of comics. The Seduction of the Innocent claimed that reading comics would corrupt young Americans by inspiring them to delinquency through exposure to images of violence, and by contributing to illiteracy through the emphasis on reading ima ges instead of only words (Hatfield Alternative 34). A US Senate Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency made comics' effects on children a topic of debate, and gradually the comic book industry produced the Code of the Comics Magazine Associatio n of America, which imposed numerous exacting regulations upon the industry in anticipation of government regulated censorship (Smoodin 136). This suspicion of comics proves that, at the same time that American authorities claimed their classification as a "low" art form contributed to their corruptive effects on American youth, comics were seen as powerful enough to effect and change American culture. Once considered a boon to the country's cultural identity, comics were now un American. Interestingly, France followed a similar course of anti comic action following World War II, and their reaction emphasizes the importance of comics as a cultural product. Before World War II, the most popular comics titles in France were American imports. From the begin ning of the twentieth century to the mid 1930s, French comics were usually published in weekly, children focused papers which also included brief articles and stories, "a format that extended back deep into the 19 th century" (Jobs 692). In 1934, however, Disney Hachette Press debuted Le journal de Mickey which was a


14 larger sized paper and only contained comic strips. Le journal de Mickey rapidly became a behemoth in the French comics world, crushing its competitors' circulation and forcing rival publish ers to adopt a similar format, style, and content. By the late 1930s, the best selling and most revered comics in France were Tarzan, Flash Gordon, Mandrake the Magician, and Red Rider The French industry was left reeling from the popularity of America n comics and it struggled to match the quality and market appeal of design, style, and story lines that were being imported; the industry even sought protective legislation, unsuccessfully. (Jobs 692 693) During the German occupation of France during World War II, it was forbidden to import American comics; this led to increased development of the Franco Belgian comic industry, and, although American comics returned to France after the Allies' victory, the American titles "never regained their prewar market share" (Jobs 693). When American comics distributors regained permission to export to France, they dumped a massive backlog of all of the issues published during the war, and the volume of American comics along with France's shaky postwar infrastructure caused politicians to take a closer critical look at the effects of comics on French youth. Richard I. Jobs and Pascal Ory both credit the French crackdown on American comics to anxiety over French reconstruction post World War II. Still reeling after the German occupation and the devastation of war, French government officials were determined to raise their country back up to its former high position as a global cultural icon. The pre war popularity of American comics, especially regarding their influenc e


15 over the development and formatting of French comics, was closely scrutinized once American titles began returning. Political parties began taking firm stands concerning the popularity of comics; the French Communist party began calculating how "America n" each title was. 6 At this time, the government also began to take an interest in juvenile delinquency, which had been heavily publicized after the war. The Ordinance of 1945 passed legislation that would seek to rehabilitate and educate young criminals in addition to "[applying] a standard of homogeneity to the daily lives of young people" (Jobs 698). Four years later, the law of July 16, 1949 was passed to regulate the contents of publications intended for children: BDs could no longer include scene s casting "le banditisme, le mensonge, le vol, la paresse, la l‰chetŽ, la haine, la dŽbauche ou tous actes qualifiŽs crimes ou dŽlits ou de nature ˆ dŽmoraliser l'enfance ou la jeunesse" (Ory 80). Before long, the concerns over both a perceived American c olonization of French culture and youths' exposure to unsavory BDs melded together, and politicians campaigned against "mass American consumer culture spoiling the great tradition of French civilisation by corrupting its children (Jobs 696). 7 This attit ude prevailed through the 1950s, and Fredric Wertham's The Seduction of the Innocent was nearly as influential in France as it had been in the United States 6 Pascal Ory does not explain the formula for arriving at these figures, but he does cite that Coq hardi, Tarzan et Don ald [as in Duck] sont qualifiŽs respectivement par les communistes de 12 %', 80 %', et 100 %' amŽricains" (79). 7 It should be noted that while France was trying so vehemently to uphold its native comic tradition against the influence of American titles series from other countries such as Italy and Belgium were quite popular. Jobs states that Italian comics were often targeted (to a lesser extent) alongside American comics, due to their similar storylines; however, Belgian titles (e.g., Tintin, Lucky L uke, The Smurfs [ Les Schtroumpfs ]) were quickly adopted as part of French identity likely due to the fact that they were originally written in French and "participated in the French cultural project more easily" (Jobs 697).


16 (Jobs 700). Global tensions of the Cold War were what originally caused the panic over comics in t he United States anti Communist paranoia implied that an enemy could be living next door, and comics were presented as an insidious agitator of delinquent behavior. Although France shared the sense of alarm about corrupted youth, the push for censorship and dŽsamŽricanisation of BDs is underscored by the fact that it was the French Communist party that initially led the charge against American titles (695). Both countries shared the assumption that comics were a "low culture" product (and in both countr ies, the adult market was not yet being courted); however, their accessibility as a pop culture product meant that they could be cheaply obtained and easily shared among children (692). It was even feared that they would have a recognizably negative effec t on the established culture of each country a rather dramatic worry, given how briefly the current format had existed. One of Wertham's main critiques of the popularity of comic books was that they were "death on reading" (Wertham 121); he presented th em as a main opponent in the fight against American illiteracy, and his rhetoric was adopted in turn by French opponents of BD. At their worst, comics would corrupt children to the point that they would be delinquent members of society; at best, they woul d provide a hazardous distraction from what children "should" be reading (as dictated by educators, politicians, and parents). The perceived divide between high and low culture was underscored by the arbitrariness of categorizing "worthwhile" and "unworth y" literature. Just how firmly entrenched comics were in the general public's idea of "unworthy" literature was emphasized by Classics Illustrated 's publisher's refusal to classify their publications as "comics:" since they were producing adaptations of w orks that had been deemed "good" literature in the English language


17 cultural sphere, their publications could not possibly be lumped in with low culture comic books. V. The Business of Adaptation The approach that Classics Illustrated took in defending their publications that literary content and comics were mutually exclusive was challenged when there was a resurgence of the genre. The company folded in the early 1970s, but was revived in 1990, shortly after graphic novels gained more attention in the American market. Instead of being published through a house that concentrated on more traditional products, the second version of Classics Illustrated was produced by two collaborating comics publishers, First Comics and Berkley Comics. While this m ay have signaled a new willingness on the producers' part to acknowledge that illustrated adaptations could be called comics, the new editions did not sell well, due to reluctance from general bookstores to stock the titles and perceived poor illustration quality (Price). Gradually, more companies concentrating on producing comic adaptations were formed in 2001, a label called Graphic Classics was launched; in 2005, a prominent comics publisher named Byron Priess collaborated with Penguin to produce a li ne of classic adaptations. The progress of these American companies is similar to the direction French companies took in the 1980s: established publishing houses find fresh market success by producing graphic works, and the producers of those works wedge their way into the market by offering new presentations of works that are stable in their positions of cultural respect and relevance.


18 Eventually, companies felt secure enough in the market value of these classic adaptations that they began to tweak the production style of the content: instead of the Classics Illustrated model of simply illustrating scenes directly from the novel, adapters began to play with setting the stories in different contexts. One company, Amulet, established its niche in the mark et by producing only adaptations of Shakespeare plays in the style of Japanese manga: their version of Romeo and Juliet is set among the modern Japanese yakuza crime syndicate. Often, the books are marketed as accompaniments to classroom discussions (Pric e); many of the American companies praise the clarity that the comics form can provide to a narrative. However, it is still clear that as far as comics go, their commodification and marketing is a primary concern: new, non graphic editions of Pride and Pr ejudice The Last of the Mohicans or Hamlet are rarely heavily marketed or presented in a very stylized way. Their position in the cultural canon is well established; they are not seen as growth commodities, so companies do not scrutinize their sales figu res. With comic adaptations, however, a common concern is how to present a work that will both appeal stylistically to young people and gain the approval of parents and educators. The merit of comics adaptations is still heavily dependent on sales figure s: if Marvel's releases from their Marvel Illustrated line of adapted novels don't sell, it's blamed on the medium of comics, not a shortcoming of the original text. In actuality, Marvel's Austen adaptation sold quite well: copies of the first issue of the five part series sold out within a month of its release ("Marvel's Adaptation"). The circumstances of this publication, however, are significantly different than those surrounding Heuet's Combray Heuet published his work as a hard bound volume (the tr aditional BD album ), intended to be sold in bookstores, whereas Marvel's Pride and


19 Prejudice followed the cheap magazine printed on raunchy paper" format described by Charles Hatfield, and was serialized and released not only to bookstores, but to comic s hops and through mail order subscriptions. Heuet adapted his work independently before seeking out a publisher; Marvel commissioned the adaptation and distributed the tasks of adapting, illustrating, and coloring to artists already employed by the company. This adaptation of Pride and Prejudice fits much more closely to the idea of an inexpensive comic book than does Heuet's work; it also conforms to the relation of comics to consumerism that has made legitimization of the medium so difficult to achieve. The series was heavily advertised before its release, issues arrived with advertisements for other comics series inserted between the pages of the story, and Nancy Butler, who adapted the work, has spoken in numerous interviews of her and Marvel's interest to make the story appeal to girls especially. More significant, however, is the direction of this interpretation within the context of Jane Austen's position in popular culture. While it is inarguable that her works are critically respected and regarded as "classics," Austen herself has almost become a commodity, transcending her English Regency settings to being an immediately identifiable name in Anglo American culture. Her novels are compared to modern "chick lit"; her characters are reimagined by tw entieth and twenty first century authors who envision all the steamy details of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy's marriage; and her narratives have influenced multiple modern adaptations that explore women's perils in modern romance. 8 Austen herself is a character in numerous contemporary novels, 8 Perhaps the two most promine nt recent examples of filmic modernization of Austen are 1995's Clueless (an adaptation of Emma ) and 2001's Bridget Jones's Diary (a reworking


20 and readers have a particular fascination with her that is based on personal identification. Proust's novels, and Proust himself, do not hold the same position in English or French language culture; the air of i mpenetrability around him and his works, and in particular their difficulty, make their adaptation to a medium so long associated with children's literature more intriguing to study on its own. Austen is frequently taught at the high school level, and her prominence in popular culture makes a comic adaptation of Pride and Prejudice seem almost inevitable. What must be analyzed in Marvel's version, therefore, is how it fits with the interpretation of the novel not only on an academic level, but a popular o ne. The reasons comics have been dismissed as a medium meriting academic perusal and critique are plentiful: their long held status as children's fare; fears that the shallowness of their narratives and the frequency of violence would damage youth and ca use a state of cultural tailspin; and their association with commodification and consumer culture. The foundation of these concerns, however, is a preconceived judgment of where certain media fit into the hierarchy of cultural significance. Novels deemed to be classic literature are high, respectable culture, comics are products of low culture, and never the twain shall meet. Even the recent growth of graphic novel sales and studies is based on their resemblance, in both a physical and narrative sense, to of Pride and Prejudice originally presented as a 1996 novel by Helen Fielding). 2013 saw the debut of Austenland at the Sundance Film Festival, starring Keri Russell as a young woman who travels to a Jane Austen theme park to find her own Mr. Darcy. The film was produced by Stephenie Meyer, author of the controversial Twilight series, and a woman "who knows a little something about young women's obsession with romance minded authors (Zeitchik and Horn).


21 traditional novels. 9 Heuet and Butler and Petrus are forcing readers to reconsider this arbitrary cultural divide: can a medium associated with low culture be an effective means to interpret a well respected text? Whether their efforts are successful wi ll be further explored in this thesis. 9 Publishers Weekly provides sales figures that show a steady yearly increase in graphic novel sales: by 2007, American and Canadian graphic novel sales totaled $375 million, five times as much as they had in 2001 (McDonald.)


22 Chapter 1: Combray Heuet, and the Accessibility of Proust I. Introduction Marcel Proust's seven volume opus la recherche du temps perdu is simultaneously celebrated for its genius and notorious for its difficul ty. His prose and narrative construction "[demand] active readership," but the complexity and size of the work cause many potential readers to approach the work with some reticence (Dubois 86). The concept of involuntary memory is integral to la recher che as is the presence of a strongly personal narrative voice these abstract, subjective features contribute to the psychological analysis that has come to characterize the novel (see Ifri, Landy). For these reasons, adapting the work into a different medium (such as film or bande dessinŽe ) can be a daunting task. Proust's work and the writer himself are so deeply entrenched within French cultural identity that any adaptation is automatically held to extremely high standards: the BD model is traditiona lly one of brevity, and may not do justice to Proust's dense, complex prose. When examining an adaptation in a BD format, the tension between a novel of high cultural regard and a form that is so often associated with popular consumption and shallow mater ial is especially evident. StŽphane Heuet's adaptation of Combray the first part of the first novel of la recherche was produced with the intention of taking advantage of bande dessinŽe 's reputation as an easily accessible, widely enjoyed medium and u sing it to bring Proust to a wider audience. This intersection of high and low culture did not come without criticism: although in recent years Proust has gained some pop culture attention (for example, Alain de Botton's book How Proust Can Change Your Li fe recalls myriad self help titles), his position in the


23 literary canon is still lofty. Film adaptations of Proust have been attempted, but few have received reviews implying that they are worthy of the original text (the discussion of Ifri later in this chapter will explore this). The difficulty of successfully adapting Proust can be attributed to how distinctive his prose is, particularly when describing memory. Memory informs the narrative's content and structure, and the narrator's spontaneous, uncon trolled memories prevent the text from following an easily digestible linear chronology. Memory's significance in Combray is underscored by the heavily detailed descriptions provided by narrator pseudo Marcel, and to experience those memories in images alo ngside words is certainly a unique experience. Heuet often creatively connects panels depicting the narrator's current experiences with those of his memories, and his control over the artwork can emphasize the narrator's lack of control over his remembranc es. He produced this adaptation on his own, without a commission from a BD publisher, and his stated desire only to make Proust more accessible to a wider audience complicates the perception of BD and comics as media produced with the sole intent to be pu rchased on a mass scale. There has been much debate over the success of Heuet's work as a faithful adaptation of the original, but the fact that this conversation exists implies that his attempt to "democratize Proust" was ultimately successful. II. Pos tmodern Approaches Steven Connor's book Postmodernist Culture offers several analyses of the influences of postmodern theory on various aspects of society, including architecture, fashion and the performing arts, as well as literature, and includes an exam ination of the


24 effects and influences of consumer culture within these fields. The opening of his chapter on literature includes an analogy relating that discipline to "a multinational conglomerate, selling and distributing a large number of diverse produc ts in different ways, and by different means," and continues by cementing the separation between postmodernism and iconic modernist authors "like Pound, Eliot and Woolf [who] were opposed to and horrified by the automated mass culture of the twentieth cent ury" (104). He offers a relatively simplified illustration of this division with a reference to an essay by Leslie Fiedler, "Cross That Border Close That Gap," which asserted that: the writing of the present [i.e., postmodern writings] challenges and should continue to challenge the generic integrity of high culture, that integrity that had been hitherto guaranteed by its distance from the Western, the romance, the detective story. [] Fiedler sees the signs of a new hospitality to the popular in the n ovels of Kurt Vonnegut and John Barth, with their embrace of the Western and science fiction. Fiedler's influential essay is an early definition of postmodernism as a movement of merging, a deliberate complication of the idea of generic integrity. (Connor 108 09) Fiedler's emphasis on postmodern literature as literature that refuses to shy away from popular appeal is especially relevant to a discussion of graphic adaptations of novels. It recalls Charles Hatfield's discussion of the rise of the phrase "gra phic novel," which he claims was a term coined by publishing companies to attract a wider, more affluent "direct market audience" (Hatfield Alternative 29). If we examine Hatfield's assertion in the context of Fiedler's discussion of high culture vs. mas s culture, and


25 postmodern works' willingness to court an audience of the latter, we reach an interesting conflict. If we accept Hatfield's statement that publishing companies introduced "graphic novels," a product marketed as distinct from "comics," to wi den their market, then arguably graphic novels are as much a work directed for mass culture as standard comics are especially since Hatfield's discussion implies that publishers believed the only people buying and reading comics were members of a small, cultish group of the population. However, Hatfield's characterization of the target audience for graphic novels as an affluent group seeking artistic legitimization of the comic implies that readers of "graphic narrative" were members of a higher social ni che than readers of comics. I would argue in support of Hatfield's assertion that the "graphic novel" as a tangible product, a product more book like both in appearance and narrative style (i.e., a beginning, middle and end in one volume, rather than an ex tended serial that can occasionally cross over into other series and plotlines), was developed primarily with the interest to expand a market base. Hatfield is referencing American companies, of course, but his statement is also supported by Ann Miller's discussion of the development and packaging of French bande dessinŽe in the later twentieth century the French publishing companies also wanted to expand their market by appealing to adults, thus the establishment of specialized houses and the commission ing of works that contained material deemed more "adult appropriate." While the connection of the genre to economic interests may qualify graphic novels and bande dessinŽe as postmodern art forms, their classification is complicated by the sustained desire to separate them from comics. Oddly, it appears that to produce a work that appeals to a wider consumer base, the genre must be marketed in a fashion that


26 makes readers believe they are part of an elite group that appreciates the works as "art," separate from the newsstand comics that inspired them (presumably not worthy of being considered "art"). This strange relationship between the postmodernism of graphic narrative, based in its origin from the economic interests of publishing companies (whose actio ns almost literally mirror Connor's analogy of the literary establishment acting as a "multinational conglomerate"), and the modernist principles found in the marketing techniques that so desperately work to classify them as a "higher" art form than comic books, foresees the difficulty in analyzing graphic adaptations of novels particularly one that is so definitively modernist as Proust's Du c™tŽ de chez Swann According to Connor, however, the relationship between postmodernism and modernism expands fa r beyond the examination of individual works, into the classification of the movement itself. Connor proposes that, rather than seeing postmodern literature as evidence of a clean "break" with modernism, "the postmodernist transformation, or advance, can be seen as a selective intensification of certain tendencies within modernism itself" (109). Connor's analysis, while comprehensive, is perhaps somewhat dated: his book was released in 1989, when graphic novels were just beginning to become subjects of c ritical consideration. However, he provides varied and detailed discussion of how to examine several aspects of contemporary culture, literature included, through a postmodernist lens particularly the interest in creating art that appeals to the masses w ithout losing its definition as "art," a struggle with which many comics researchers can sympathize. His discussion of the numerous criteria for considering a literary work "postmodern," combined with Ann Miller's extensive discussion of bande dessinŽe as a postmodern form (although she acknowledges the early influences of modernism), is


27 invaluable in establishing a base from which to study StŽphane Heuet's adaptation of Combray and its critical reception. Heuet's adaptation of Combray was first published in 1998; as of this writing, he has also adapted A l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleur (2002), and Un Amour de Swann (part 1 published in 2006, part 2 in 2008), both released in two volumes. Heuet provides illustrations to text reproduced verbatim from Prou st's novel, and those illustrations are strongly reminiscent of the ligne claire style which defines HergŽ's Tintin Heuet's adaptation is an intriguing product of immediately recognizable components: the words of Proust and the art of HergŽ, two authors who themselves could be considered iconic figures of the French literary canon, even though many would view them as inhabiting opposite ends of the literary spectrum. When analyzing the work from a point of view which considers consumerism and the inherent intellectual value of a text, these decisions become even more interesting; for some reviewers, the French literary elitism represented by Proust's work clashes inexcusably with the mass culture appeal of comics as represented by HergŽ styled illustration s. I intend to conclude this chapter with a discussion of the positive and negative reviews of Heuet's Combray including some written by members of the general public. While the work has not yet received much attention from scholarly writers, it has pro ven to be a popular topic for literary bloggers an interesting theme, given the idea of a graphic adaptation intended to reach a wider audience.


28 III. BD, Comics and Postmodernism Miller's examination of the placement of bande dessinŽe in the tradition of postmodernism is especially interesting to consider when the BD in question is an adaptation of a text by Proust, whom Miller herself invokes as an example of a modernist author (126). Before delving into the complexities of a postmodern adaptation of a quintessential modernist narrative, however, it is necessary to establish what definition of "postmodernism" will be used here. Miller describes postmodernism by first defining what it rejects: modernism. Citing Jean Franois Lyotard, she discusses th e modernist concept of the "grand narrative," or grand rŽcit texts that celebrated Enlightenment values of humanity, democracy, and scientific advances, and anticipated the eventual victory of Marxism. Postmodern narratives, on the other hand, place no cr edibility in these sweeping narratives and are characterized by "small narratives ( petites histoires ) that are provisional and contingent" (Miller 125 26). Miller continues by defining Tintin as "an illustration of faith in grand narratives" (126). Inven ted by Belgian artist HergŽ in 1929, the Tintin series told the stories of the eponymous towheaded journalist and his faithful dog, Milou (Snowy in English translations). Tintin's investigative adventures take him all around the world, and HergŽ's depictio ns of the indigenous peoples he encounters have sparked some controversy; certain volumes have been rewritten to soften the impact of the racist caricatures that were more common mid twentieth century. 10 Tintin 's early colonialist overtones and its "fascina tion with speed and motion" are cited as major examples of how the series fell 10 In 1945, fifteen years after the original publication of Tintin au Congo HergŽ himself "expressed regret" and voluntarily edited the work, removing a classroom scene in which Tintin teach es Congolese children "about [their] fatherland: Belgium!" (Onishi 1).


29 into the modernist mold. Miller's discussion of early Tintin as a modernist work (or at least a work admiring of modernism), the artistic similarities between Heuet's adaptation and HergŽ's original artwork, and the identity of Heuet's original text as a classic modernist narrative place the BD adaptation of Combray in a slightly baffling position. What is the significance of taking a modernist narrative, adapting it in a style that is also associated with modernism (i.e., art reminiscent of HergŽ and Tintin ), but adapting it to a genre (i.e., graphic narrative) that is frequently labeled postmodern? A postmodern analysis of Heuet's Combray cannot be based on text alone; rather, it is necessary to examine his juxtaposition of text and illustration, as well as the effects on the narrative structure and voice. One of the major tenets of postmodern theory is the influence of a consumer culture on art, as presented by Fredric Jameso n in Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism In a society in which "culture' has become a product in its own right," art will naturally reflect this commodification of an abstract concept (Jameson Postmodernism x). He further explains t he effect of cultural commodification on literature in his essay "Ideology, Narrative Analysis, and Popular Culture," where he criticizes the view that high culture and popular culture are antithetical to one another. Such a simplistic and arbitrary dichot omy is not appropriate given the present cultural situation; instead, one must prepare a comparison between "literary or artistic modernism on the one hand and the conventional or formulaic' production of mass or media culture on the other" (Jameson "Ideo logy" 545 546). For many critics, Heuet's adaptation will be painted as a creation of the "production of mass or media culture," given the associations of BD with mass audience appeal, and even (especially?) the financial


30 motivations for publishing compan ies to package romans graphiques as a separate and distinguishable product from BD directed at children. To determine the success of Heuet's efforts, one must analyze his own motivations for producing the work: a desire to "democratize Proust" (Arnold), to challenge both the gap between perceived high and pop culture and the idea that "popular" culture is inherently antithetical to high culture, as also challenged by Jameson. The bulk of the critical discussion of Heuet's Combray is based in fevered deb ate of whether Proust should be democratized at all, rather than an analysis of the representation of Proust's text. It seems that for many, Marcel Proust is such an iconic and revered figure of French literary culture, and A la recherche such a masterful and epic uvre, that they should both be left alone, comfortable in their cultural niche. Heuet is not the first to encounter difficulty in creating a Proust adaptation film versions have been fairly coldly received as well. However, the fact that bot h admirers and detractors of Combray base their criticisms in its accessibility demands a closer examination of the perception of Proust and A la recherche within both high and popular culture. Examining Proust's exalted position as a figure of academia and French cultural identity necessitates studying the tensions that occur when his celebrated and highly complex novel is adapted to a medium that has been so often associated with cheap, commodified, mass produced culture. The debate over the cultural p osition of comics and how they can be related to classic works of literature has been prominent for much of the twentieth century; this argument was perhaps held most fervently during the 1950s, when many authorities in the U.S. and France adopted strong p ositions against comics.


31 Discussing the rhetoric behind this period may assist an examination of the contemporary ramifications of producing comic adaptations of classic literature. IV. Adapting Proust to Visual Media Lydia Davis opens the introduction to her translation of Swann's Way with an acknowledgment of the work's iconographic influence on modern culture, even to those who have not directly studied or even read the work. "Say Proust,'" Davis remarks, "and they will immediately think madeleine' and tea,' if not cork lined room'" (Davis vii). While arguably Proust's work is most keenly studied with respect to its broad scope, narrative style, and historical significance, it is his highly descriptive language that has caused various objects and scenes within his work to have the most widespread resonance within a population including critics, casual readers, and people who are simply aware of popular culture. la recherche du temps perdu is a daunting body of writing to read, let alone adapt. R epackaging the work into a film or, as discussed here, a BD is a loaded task: it requires taking a text notorious in Western culture for its difficulty and association with the intellectual elite and presenting it in a form that, while occasionally lauded as high art, can simultaneously be considered lowbrow entertainment for a mindless audience. The semantic divide between "cinema" and "movies" is not quite so different from the one between "graphic narrative/novel" and "comics" one term is reserved fo r those works which are viewed as fulfilling particular, but arbitrary artistic requirements (involving, for example, creative intent, experimental techniques, and a purposeful attempt to interest a small group of the population); the other is a dismissive catch all term for products that try to interest a broader population (or the "lowest common


32 denominator," if a critic is feeling especially nasty). A director desiring to adapt the work to a film must address the expectations of both Proust devotŽes and the general public she or he must attract if the film is to be a financial success. Pascal A. Ifri discusses this intimidating prospect by specifically recounting five attempted film adaptations (four completed) of Proust's cycle. His article focuses on the challenges of translating Proust's narrative style to the visual format of film. Perhaps one of the most difficult hurdles when adapting Proust's text to a visual form, such as film or bande dessinŽe is the exclusion or diminishment of the narrativ e voice. Davis credits the perceived "difficulty" of la recherche to the fact that "the interest of this novel, unlike that of the more traditional novel, is not merely, or even most of all, in the story it tells []. In fact it does not set out to tell a linear, logically sequential story, but rather to create a world unified by the narrator's governing sensibility" (Davis xvi). Davis's characterization of the work as focusing on the narrator and his influence in the creation of the world of the novel, rather than a traditionally structured story where the interest lies in the plot and characters, already presents a problem for an aspiring filmmaker: if one of the key features of the novel is the importance of the narrator's voice and role, and the actio n is merely a vehicle for that voice, how does one make a film that is both entertaining and faithful to the original text? Ifri addresses this challenge by characterizing the easiest texts to adapt as "heavily functional narratives," where "all the direct or has to do is tell the same story by using images and sounds instead of just words. [] [It] essentially means transferring the material from one medium to another without making substantial modifications" (Ifri 16). He presents Proust's narrative as "h eavily indicial," meaning that the work is "mainly


33 made up of description and reflection" (17). Interestingly, many of the challenges Ifri references as the most difficult to surmount when filming Proust notably, the lack of a strictly chronological nar rative and the "[exploration] of what hides behind the visible reality" (Ifri 18) seem to be adapted fairly well and effectively in Heuet's bande dessinŽe While film and bande dessinŽe are both art forms heavily dependent on the visual element, in this particular instance, BD has an advantage over film in that the incorporation of text is, while not always necessary, equally important when it is included. The temporal malleability that Ifri describes as so difficult to relate to the screen does not pre sent an equivalent challenge to Heuet, based solely on the temporal flexibility inherent in the form of his adaptation. Heuet does put his own spin on some of the text, insofar as choosing which sentences to cut from the original, and which scenes require him to invent dialogue, but it is my opinion that the tone and technique of Proust's original text, characterized as it is by its temporal fluidity, corresponds surprisingly well to the narrative produced by text and art in a graphic adaptation. Proust's text is notable in its blending of the present and the past; the significance of memory to the narrator; and the extent that individual scenes of his childhood are ritualized to the point of being representational of his entire childhood. Brian G. Rogers suggests that by eschewing a chronological narrative, Proust is able to present events according to their importance, and emphasize how significant childhood occurrences are to his adult life: the relation of a childhood anecdote "is at once the faithful t ranscription of the child's state of mind and the commentary on it of the older man who no longer shares it" (207 208). As Marcel's own reflections disturb his sleep and as unintentional reflections on the past intrude on whatever actions he may be carryi ng out in the present,


34 the reader is immediately provided with a recounting of the narrator's past. The simultaneous presence of two different timelines is subtly presented, but gives a distinct cast to the novel: while the events described occurred in the narrator's childhood, their influence has obviously stretched to the present, and the reader experiences these events as occurring presently. The events repeated over and over during the narrator's childhood stays at Combray have become ritual, represent ative events of his childhood just as Combray is representative: a physical location acting as an analogue to the temporal location of childhood. Specifically referring to the iconic scene of the madeleine, Serge Dubrovsky describes this double effect as a result of a simultaneously "initial" and "initiative" experience: an "initial" experience in that [it] opens the chapter "Combray II" and Recherche properly speaking. But it's also initiative : in the passage from voluntary to involuntary memory, the ess ential experience of the book is situated, the experience which produces the book. (108) The representation already so vital to the original narrative is mirrored in the quality of bande dessinŽe as an art form heavily dependent itself on representation. H euet draws heavily from the original text, directly quoting the narrator in panels superimposed over much of the art in the first few pages of the work. If the text is in yellow, framing the art of the panel, it is directly lifted from the original work. Heuet does not skimp on Proust's words, but he also invents speech, combining condensation and expansion. Conversations that Proust only obliquely describes, offering a description of their subject without providing any substance, are more fleshed out in Heuet's panels. One example appears in the first few pages of Heuet's adaptation: Proust's original


35 narration of how his mother and grandmother would entertain and distract him with "une lanterne magique" heads the first panels in its indicative yellow t ext box, while the rest of the page is given over to Heuet's imagining of the scene. In Proust's original text, it is the narrator who tells us that the magic lantern would narrate the story of Genevive de Brabant; in Heuet's presentation, it is Franois e, the maid, who announces "j'ai prŽparŽ la lŽgende de Genevive de Brabant," a declaration soon followed by the more domestic assurance that, for dinner that night, she has prepared "du buf ˆ la casserole" a detail not mentioned in the reminisces of Pr oust's narrator (Heuet 4). Instead of the narrator retelling the story of Genevive, Heuet illustrates Marcel's grandmother delivering the recitation. The narrative of Genevive is excluded from Proust's text, which offers his memory of the way the lantern produced the scenes of the tale, rather than any details of the tale itself (fig. 1). 11 The creation of this dialogue, and the fact that Heuet considers it important enough to make the effort, is indicative of the change in the role of narrator necessitat ed by the movement from one form to another. In Proust's original text, the narrator's own voice dominates he creates the narrative, the reader is exposed to what he sees in the present and what he remembers seeing in his childhood. Even in his memories the narrator's identity is still firm as the controller of the story, and the two voices are quite distinct. After recounting certain tales from childhood, "Marcel the man laughs long and heartily [] [providing] a detached, wry, ironical voice contrast ing with the na•ve reactions of the young Marcel" (Rogers 208). 11 This figure, and all those referenced hereafter, may be found in the Appendix of this thesis.


36 Lydia Davis describes "a handful of slightly different I 's [present] in the novel as a whole, but the two main I 's are those of the rather weary, middle aged narrator as he tells the story an d the narrator as a child and young man," suggesting that, despite the numerous perspectives within the narrative, the reader can identify the older Marcel as the most authoritative voice (viii). Heuet's adaptation does include the narrator's original tex t and that text is still providing the main drive of the narrative, but the very duty of Heuet's role of visually presenting what has in Proust only been presented in text changes the effect of the narrator's address to the reader. The art does not exclud e images of the narrator as a child that is, the majority of the art is not presented as being from "a child's eye view." The fact that the reader is able to see the child narrator's face, to watch him watching as it were, observe his interactions with h is family instead of only hearing about what he sees, affects the level of insertion into the story. To simplify, if there were no images of the narrator's face, it could be assumed that the reader was restricted to only seeing from the narrator's eyes: w e cannot observe ourselves in the same manner in which we can observe other people. We watch the boy, waiting for his mother, watching the door, instead of merely watching the door with him. The reader is now deeper into the narrative: even though we are s eparate entities outside of Marcel, we are able to both hear his narrative and observe scenic details implied, but not specified, by his recounting of memory. Heuet's dialogic inventions do not distract from the quality of the original text, but rather pro vide a wider screen to observe Marcel's childhood experiences. 12 12 Heuet's adoption of the ligne claire style of HergŽ may also be read as an effort to en hance reader engagement. Heuet has argued that the simplicity of the style aids a reader's understanding of the narrative (Morgan 68), but given Tintin's entrenched


37 V. Illustrating Involuntary Memory The concerns presented by Ifri in his discussion of adapting Proust for film, namely how to represent temporal malleability and the simultaneous presenta tion of the past and present, seem to indicate the generic advantage of BD. The temporality of graphic narrative is itself flexible, and can be controlled by any number of artistic decisions which are simple to render on the page but highly effective to t he reader. As discussed earlier, the analysis of the panel and the page as two separate but coexistent entities allows the graphic narrative to easily and abruptly flip between chronologies, periods, or perspectives between panels, while remaining in one constant whole within the boundaries of the page. While much of the art describing events from Marcel's childhood is presented in a fairly realistic manner, those panels representing his moments of remembrance in the present are more artistically experime ntal: the first page, when Marcel begins relating his memories, features panels containing iconic details juxtaposed against each other (the Eiffel tower rises out of the sea, adjacent to a bedroom window hovering in the sky, and a carriage is drawn over t he sea next to a couple in a gondola), with the eyes of the narrator superimposed over the scenes as his vision continues back to his childhood (fig. 2). These fantastic illustrations destabilize the reader, drawing them out of the linear chronology they m ay have expected, and preparing them for the recursive narration that underscores the importance of memory within Combray The presence in francophone popular culture, it might also provide a more unconscious anchor fo r a reader who might be more familiar with BD than high literature.


38 surrealism underscores Marcel's subjectivity: memory, like dreams, can be unconsciously altered or invented, and the reader may a bsorb this as a nod to the potential unreliability of the narrator. Marcel's eyes are illustrated in such a way to imply eye contact being made with the reader a tool, perhaps, to increase engagement and allow them to identify more easily with the highly personal stories related by Marcel. One exception to this example of Marcel's childhood being illustrated more realistically than his present is the young narrator's similarity to Tintin. Any reader familiar with Tintin will recognize HergŽ's influence on the art of Combray ; the distinctive ligne claire style, with its bold outlines and bright, flat color, was used in order to "show that [Proust] could be read and understood simply" (Morgan 68). Tintin is a recognizable character to many francophones, and one who has a very strong presence in French popular culture. 13 His simple, undetailed face is very similar to the depiction of the young Marcel (figs. 3 and 4). By using an artistic style that is so deeply embedded in the childhood memories of so many f rancophone readers (and likely a fair number of anglophone readers as well), Heuet increases the text's familiarity and accessibility. Readers will be able to relate more to the strength of the presence of Marcel's childhood memories by remembering their own. The depiction of the adult Marcel, however, is more realistic he is not illustrated as HergŽ's adult characters are; there is more expression in his eyes, for example (fig. 5). The artistic style simultaneously represents the separation between th e 13 While English translations of Tintin have been available for decades, the comic has never reached the same heights of popularity in English speaking nations as it has in French speaking realms. The character itself, however, enjoyed a resurgence of Anglo American popularity with the 2011 release of The Adventures of Tintin a multimillion dollar 3D blockbuster directed by Steven Spielberg.


39 narrator's adulthood and childhood and brings an older reader closer to the childhood of Marcel by presenting images that recall their own childhoods. Heuet's most effective presentation of the past colliding with the present is, perhaps, in his depictio n of the iconic madeleine scene. The artist does not underestimate the importance of this scene it is drawn out, the perspective focuses beyond the dŽcor of the room to his hands breaking the pastry, lifting the spoon to his lips, and finally a tighter and tighter focus on his face and eyes (fig. 5). In this form, Heuet is able to literally represent the reunion of memory and present experience: the "bonjour, tante LŽonie" that he said so often to his cookie dispensing aunt as a child is literally writte n on his face. Proust writes, "Et tout d'un coup le souvenir m'est apparu," and it is really true the memory does appear, visible and accessible, and placed immediately adjacent of an illustration of our narrator as an adult. The art on the following pag es, instead of representing an intrusion of the past into the present, shows the present filtering into the past: the scent of the madeleine filters in a continuous, unbroken stream out of the present set panel, into the panel depicting the narrator's aunt 's bedroom, and through the village of Combray itself (figs. 6 and 7). The shape of the steam is undisturbed and consistent; the gutters' delineations between the panels are unimportant to the unity of this representation of memory. Heuet's representati on of the scent of the madeleine leading into a scene from Marcel's childhood illustrates the involuntary memory that is so essential to Du c™tŽ du chez Swann : although a scent cannot itself be seen, Heuet is allowing the reader to observe it. The illustr ation of a scent is an obviously artificial device; even if an author speaks of seeing a scent, it is understood to be metaphor. Heuet's artistic control over the


40 construction of the scene emphasizes Marcel's lack of control over his memory, and just as h e is helpless to prevent the recollections of his childhood, so is the reader. The natural movement of the eye follows the image of the scent across the page and into the panel of Combray; we are drawn into the world just as Marcel is. The words of Prous t's narrator, who accesses vivid memories and recreates them for the reader by the detail of his description, are superimposed onto the memories themselves: the narration of remembrance cannot be separated from its visual depiction. V. Combray 's Receptio n Although it has been over ten years since the publication of Heuet's Combray it has received little academic attention. This may be due to the fact that much of the scholarship surrounding comics and graphic novels focuses on original works, rather tha n adaptations. However, several personal bloggers with literary interests shared their reviews of the work, and both The New York Times and Time magazine published articles when the work was translated into English (these articles were mostly discussions of the novelty of Proust in comics form, rather than in depth reviews of the adaptation itself). Positive reviews can be found under Combray 's listing on Francisca Goldsmith of The School Library Journal paints it as a great riff and interpr etive play on the original" ("Reviews: Graphic Novels 3/1/2008"), while Booklist 's critic, Gordon Flagg, describes it (although not disparagingly) as "a Classics Illustrated treatment for culture snobs ." Alan Riding's discussion of the adaptation in The New York Times quotes Heuet's intention to democratize Proust by presenting it in this condensed, image heavy format. It is this democratizing intent which proves so polarizing: those who admire the


41 adaptation praise this effort; those who scowl at Heuet's work lambaste him for even considering such a direction. The two American mainstream media sources addressing Heuet's Combray approach the work not from a critical perspective, but rather an observational one. Riding's article in The New York Times read s as more of a profile of Heuet, describing his motivations for producing the adaptation, summarizing his process, and briefly referencing its reception in France any judgment on Riding's part is not apparent. Riding's Times piece prioritizes an analysis of the significance of adding Heuet's adaptation to the canon of Proustian paraliterature. He takes care to reference the different histories of comics in France and Belgium and the US; Riding mentions that presenting Proust in "a comic strip format is no t that surprising," citing the popularity of AstŽrix (whom he calls "the most successful comic strip character ever"). To emphasize that the success of a BD adaptation of a well known French novel is not without precedent, Riding includes figures from a 19 97 Culture Ministry poll "estimating that every French person reads an average of 14 comic books per year [] [and that] a third of sales are to adults," and the existence of previous adaptations of French classics such as Hugo's Les MisŽrables and Dumas's The Count of Monte Cristo ("A Debut" 1). While Riding's piece also provides a summary discussion of Heuet's creative process, its focus is more on the curiosity of presenting such a landmark text in what many Americans would consider an unconventional form. Arnold's piece reads more like a personal reflection on the work. Even so, he acknowledges the medium's place in its respective countries. He qualifies his reading on his status as "a crude American, [so] I enjoy comix more for how well they entert ain me, than for how much mileage I can get


42 out of deconstructing them. I will leave that to the French" ("Abomination or Magnum Opus?"). Arnold's implication that American and French readers would naturally have nearly polarized approaches to a comics st yle Combray provides a viewpoint alluded to in several of the anglophone reviews for Heuet's adaptation. Earlier in his piece, Arnold states that upon the work's publication, "it caused a literary scandal, as only the French can manage." Similarly, Ridin g's article quotes from the review of Combray published in Le Figaro in which HervŽ de Saint Hilaire described it as "blasphemous" and "catastrophic," going so far as to title his review "It is Marcel Who is Assassinated" ("A Debut" 1). Saint Hilaire ap pears to be in a minority with his opinion, but the sincerity of his derision more than makes up for it. A second review published in Le Figaro in 2000 is titled "La deuxime mort de Proust," as Saint Hilaire refers to Heuet's plan to publish a graphic ada ptation of A l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs He dryly bemoans a second exposure to "l'il de StŽphane Heuet, ou plus exactement sa main dessinatrice, [qui] est biendisons maladroite." Saint Hilaire's review is brief, but his summary of grievances wi th Heuet's adaptation appears to hinge on "ces notations insignifiantes [et] ennuyeuses," warning his readers that "nous sommes menacŽs de dix volumes ˆ venir. Pour se consoler, on peut toujours aller voir l'exposition Marcel Proust, l'ƒcriture et les ar ts' ˆ la Bibliothque de France." 14 His contempt for Heuet's adaptation may be linked to the strike against American comics of the 1950s, during which so much of the criticism 14 Interestingly, an article published one year la ter in Le Figaro describing a Proust exhibition at the MusŽe Carnavalet, offers "[une] autre actualitŽ proustienne": that StŽphane Heuet was awarded the Prix du cercle littŽraire proustien for his BD of A l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs ("Double actua litŽ proustienne")


43 was grounded in a distaste for American consumer culture. If Heuet's adaptation makes Proust more accessible, that may increase its consumption; evidently, Saint Hilaire wishes Proust to remain in his high position in French culture. His recommendation to readers to investigate an academic exhibition relating to Proust, rather than purchasing a comic book, underscores his reluctance to praise a work that would condense the original novel: an exhibition would expand on the details of Du c™tŽ du chez Swann requiring a knowledge and familiarity with the work that is reserved for a few. Heuet's easily digestible adaptation would probably not provide the same enlightenment, in Saint Hilaire's opinion. Despite the inclusion of this negative review (and in both articles, it is the only negative critique cited), Riding and Arnold judge Comb ray not by its faithfulness to the novel, but by Heuet's intention to make Proust more accessible, and to encourage people to read the original text. Arnold dabbles in some criticism notably, he finds that while the comics form allows a condensation of P roust's novel to its essential themes, "one of those themes, the ability of art, and particularly literature, to evoke all things lost or forgotten or unimagined has been flouted when the book's images are made literally visible" but ultimately, he praise s the work for providing "a little Proust [which] is better than none" ("Abomination or Magnum Opus?"). A sampling of independent blogs and alternative news sources, however, yields reviews that are more engaged with the work itself. Charles Mudede, writi ng for Seattle's alternative newspaper The Stranger does not seem to take issue with the intent of "democratizing" Proust rather, it is this particular form of democratization that he finds unsuccessful. Mudede briefly discusses how "contrived" Heuet's "comic strip" is,


44 before heading into the meat of his article: that for "the masses" to fully understand Proustian modernism in an easier, contemporary context, they should read Martha Stewart Living Instead of attempting to access Proust through a BD ad aptation, which includes his original text and the conventions of its nineteenth century setting, modern American readers will (he proposes) glean the same effect from Stewart's reminiscences of New England garden parties. Ultimately, Mudede's issue with H euet's adaptation is that he has misinterpreted the intent of Proust's original novel; Mudede quotes Gilles Deleuze's interpretation that A la recherche is about "the apprenticeship of a writer," and Heuet's distillation and abbreviation do not adequately illustrate this apprenticeship and development. Heuet's chosen medium does not appear to be much of an issue, if one ignores the possible snub implied by "comic strip" in fact, Mudede's insistence that Martha Stewart presents a modern analogue to Proust 's style and process would defy any claim he could make to comics being too pedestrian for Proust. The domestic column he loves so much is itself in a magazine, a product of mass culture. Aside from his perception of Heuet's work as "contrived," the grap hic narrative form is perfectly acceptable to present Proust Mudede merely claims that it is the adaptation of the content that is flawed. A blogger who gives only the name "Sarah" is better pleased with her reading of Combray The tone of her review is quite different from that of Mudede, Riding or Arnold as can be expected, as she is not writing for a widespread and commercially produced publication. Like the other writers, Sarah proposes Heuet's Combray (and his two part adaptation of A l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs not yet published when the previously mentioned reviews were written) as ideal for those looking for a "brush up" or


45 an introduction to Proust. Her review displays little academic jargon, and chooses not to speculate on its effect on the Proustian canon. Though Sarah observes the stylistic similarities between Heuet and HergŽ, there is no in depth analysis of French BD tradition versus the tradition of American comics. The internet is frequently an anonymous place, and Sarah gives u s no clues to her last name or occupation she could very well be a professional academic but the light tone of her review and the reader reviews on Amazon illustrate that if Heuet wanted simply to democratize Proust, he has succeeded. His publication of this adaptation has inspired discussion of Proust's original texts and intentions outside of the academic sphere, is underscored with encouragement to explore the original texts, and the condensed, illustrated adaptation appears to have motivated member s of the general public to engage themselves in critical conversation. Sarah describes reading the comic as "painless," which certainly speaks to the popular perception of reading Proust as an arduous task best left to those who have been trained for it. Nearly anyone in the US can access the Internet, however, either through home connections or publicly provided ones, and thus anyone can participate in critical conversation. The number of reviews of Heuet's Combray and the wide spectrum of people writin g them may prove the success of Heuet's intention to present Proust to a greater audience, and ameliorate the perception of comics and graphic novels as a broadly reaching media that can encourage and promote critical discussion of the graphic novels thems elves or, when applicable, the works inspiring them.


46 Chapter 2: Pride and Prejudice and Pop Culture I. Introduction Like Marcel Proust's, Jane Austen's works have been the object of tremendous critical attention, and her notability in the English lit erary canon is comparable to Proust's in the French. Unlike Proust's one multivolume opus, her novels stand independently of each other; but, like Proust's Recherche they are often studied as a whole body representative of the social customs and condition s of her day in this case Regency England society and particularly of how women participated in this world. The significance of Austen as a female writer and the predominance of female protagonists is a natural focal point, and Austen criticism has ev olved alongside feminist theory. Lloyd W. Brown calls this direction to Austen "customary" for critics, and offers a fairly detailed discussion of how feminist readings of Austen gradually shifted from signifying a "collective classification" of subjects such as romance and marriage as "feminist" (due to their association with traditional socially conditioned perceptions of the feminine) to a perspective more in tune with the political liberation movements of the twentieth century (321 322). Brown's arti cle was published in 1975, and as the feminist movement has developed since that point, so has Austen's significance in the literary canon and popular culture. Any study of an Austen adaptation, therefore, requires appropriate attention to how well it ref lects the modern feminist reading of her novels. The past decade has seen a massive rise in Austen's presence in popular literature and film, witnessing several film adaptations, unofficial sequels to her novels, and


47 reimaginings of her works that splice them with other cultural fads (Seth Grahame Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies published in 2009, has sold over 700,000 copies to date, sold film rights, and had a companion prequel published in 2010 ("Pride and Prejudice and Zombies"). 15 Laura Mille r, writing for Salon reveals just how popular Austen is in the realm of paraliterature, with "60 published sequels and continuations' of Pride and Prejudice alone ," including one work that characterizes Austen herself as a vampire, who observes with some puzzlement her cultural status in the twenty first century. Miller pithily describes Austen's position as "the grandmother of chick lit," a writer whose women centric romantic texts have influenced numerous romantic works of "fan fiction" and inspired th ousands of women of varying ages to swoon over Mr. Darcy, whether portrayed by Colin Firth or Matthew Macfadyen in the most popular film versions, or by Darcy's modern day parallel and namesake in Helen Fielding's novel Bridget Jones's Diary (not accidenta lly played by Colin Firth in the film adaptation). Miller's glib description illustrates one of the more pertinent questions in contemporary study of Austen and her representation in modern literature: "chick lit" is often used fairly derisively to catego rize light novels marketed directly to women, with characters enjoying luxurious lifestyles and repeated designer brand name dropping. The use of the infantilizing term "chick" recalls the genre's cinematic parallel, "chick flicks," which are also usually presented as only really interesting to women viewers (frequently 15 This is not the only example of a melding between Austen's genteel comedies of manners and horror monsters: the same company published Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and two other publishers put out their respective versions o f Mansfield Park and Mummies and Emma and the Werewolves all in late 2009.


48 accompanied by the image of a boyfriend or husband being reluctantly dragged along to the vapid feature to please his companion). Associating Austen with this term and its connotations, ho wever, is problematic when one considers her long respected position in the English literary canon; it's not only female academics who appreciate Austen's work, after all. Austen has also enjoyed a long period of popularity as a person, with the term "Jan eites" coined by George Sainsbury in 1894 to describe those readers devoted to the woman behind the works (Lynch 13). The term persisted throughout the twentieth century, and self identified Janeites often take it upon themselves to determine whether an A usten adaptation is suitably "faithful" to the original. Janeites, according to Linda V. Troost, are "resistant to anything that looks like a slur on their beloved Jane, with whom they strongly identify" (398). This obsession with faithfulness to Austen 's original intentions (as arbitrary as they may seem), combined with the sense of identification with Austen and the "ideological polarity [of] Austen as object of scholarly concern versus Austen as object of popular consumption" (Troost 398), make the 2009 Marvel adaptation of Pride and Prejudice a particularly interesting adaptation to study. In this chapter, I will analyze the adaptation, presentation and marketing of Marvel's Pride and Prejudice as it reflects a feminist interpretation of the origi nal text, how these issues have been addressed in critique of filmed Austen adaptations, and how this graphic adaptation fits in the study of Austen's influence on modern popular culture. Studying Austen through a feminist lens has a long history, and one may find similarities between the sentiments expressed in her novels and Mary Wollstonecraft's foundational Vindication on the Rights of Women Austen has also been a favorite subject of early


49 twentieth century feminists, such as Virginia Woolf; and the co ncerns expressed in Pride and Prejudice that the upper class women of its story are subjugated by a society that compels them to judge their every behavior by how likely it is to lead to marriage are echoed in second waver Betty Friedan's The Feminine Myst ique In discussing how rendering the story in images affects its feminist messages, I will draw from Laura Mulvey's important work on feminism and women's portrayals in film, "Visual Pleasure in Narrative Cinema." While financially successful, this adapt ation ultimately fails to properly reflect the feminist implications of the original novel; the rhetoric of its marketing and the style of its illustration instead reduce the work to a fairly unexceptional period romance. Much of the reception of this ada ptation concludes that it only confirms perceptions of gendered literature within contemporary American culture. The adaptation's style and Marvel's marketing techniques undercut the notion that an adaptation produced by a comics publisher could ever be c onsidered a work of literature of quality comparable to the original. II. Austen Within and Without the Literary Canon: From Eighteenth to Twentieth Century Feminism Claudia L. Johnson opens her essay, "The Divine Miss Jane: Jane Austen, Janeites, and th e Discipline of Novel Studies," with a discussion of interpretations of Austen's works grounded in sexuality, a topic which emphasizes the polarization so apparent in Austen criticism. Johnson summarizes the opinion put forth by Roger Rosenblatt and Roger Kimball, who characterize Austen as "obviously straitlaced and


50 straight off limits to the nonsense of sex and gender analysis if tenured radicals had not turned the world, the obviously prim Miss Austen included, upside down" (Johnson 144). According t o Johnson, these two theorists "[pressed] fantasies about the serenity of Regency England into the service of heterosexual presumption, [that] men are gentlemen and women are ladies" and will behave according to the social constructions applied to each g ender (144). Johnson then refers to the critical backlash that occurred in 1995 when Terry Castle, a professor of literature at Stanford University, published an essay in the London Review of Books proposing the significance of homosocial ("homophilic" wa s Castle's term of choice) relationships within Austen's novels. Castle's suggestion extended to Austen herself, as her essay was a review of a collection of personal letters, rather than a rerelease of a novel, and her review was provocatively titled "Was Jane Austen Gay?". Johnson clarifies that Castle merely discussed Austen's intense attachment to her sister and claimed that sister sister are just as important as marriage in the novels, if not more so. [] But no one expected the vehemence that followed as scores of people rushed to rescue Austen from the charge of "sister love" []. Vainly did Castle plead that she never said that Austen had an incestuously lesbian relationship with her sister: the words homophilic and homoerotic provoked readers to an nounce that the limits of tolerance had been reached. Castle "polluted the shrine," and this would not be suffered. (145 46) Johnson focuses on the struggle between those critics who would hold a "normative" view of Austen, including Rosenblatt, Kimball an d others who responded so


51 negatively to Castle's review, and readers who interpret Austen's works to show that she is "disengaged from dominant moral and political norms, particularly as these are underwritten by the institutions of heterosexuality and mar riage" (148). This underscores Austen's position as an author of dichotomies: not only the interpretation of her work as supportive or critical of Regency social norms, but also the split in her authorial identity as a producer of high culture versus a pe rsonality of popular culture. The perspective of Austen as the latter was in play in the early twentieth century, with perhaps the first example of fiction illustrating the effects of Jane Austen and her works on contemporary readers: Rudyard Kipling's "T he Janeites." Published in 1924, "The Janeites" tells the story of an eponymous secret society established in an English military company during World War I. The characters in Kipling's tale discuss Austen's novels and the author herself while at war, wit h all of them save one eventually dying from an artillery attack. Johnson compares the lives of Kipling's Janeites with their analyses of her novels, which seem to begin and end with balls, leisurely pastimes and the search for a husband. Johnson deftly p laces these analyses within the story's context, claiming that the soldiers "cathect onto Austen's novels precisely because there was nothin' to em'" (152). This sense of attachment to Austen and an interpretation of her novels as light and predictable r omantic tales is not just a construct of Kipling's story: Johnson cites Christopher Kent's research of how Austen's novels were recommended to British soldiers suffering post traumatic shock syndrome after the war. For soldiers whose minds were shattered by dynastic history, the famously limited dimensions of Austen's fictional world could feel rehabilitative; her parlors could feel manageable; her very


52 triviality could feel redemptive. Assumptions about feminine propriety embedded within this fantasy a bout transparency, restraint, poise shore up masculine lucidity and self definition when these, along with English national identity itself, were under duress. (154) Johnson's examination of early twentieth century critical attitudes toward Jane Austen u nderlines the fact that, during this period, the academic establishment was still occupied mostly by male professors. Her analysis of the views of critics who hold to a "normative" view of Jane Austen and her discussion of Kipling's "The Janeites" also su pports the idea that the prevailing academic perception of Austen would filter into popular representations of her work and influence. As the century progressed, so did the study of Austen and her texts. During the 1970s, Austen regained the attention o f a number of literary critics as the bicentennial of her birth was observed. By this time, feminism had become a major political and cultural topic in the United States and England, and the classics began to be reread from a feminist point of view. 16 Aust en, one of the best known pre twentieth century English language female writers, is a particularly interesting subject for feminist critique due to her prominence as a figure of popular culture: her works were not originally intended for a solely female au dience, yet her title as the "grandmother of chick lit" affords her influence over a branch of genre fiction that is written for, marketed to, and assumed to be read by only women. However, analyzing her work from a feminist viewpoint is also 16 Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar's The Madwoman in the Attic was first published in 1979, and became an emblematic work of analysis of the nineteenth century woman's literary wo rld. In their introduction to the second edition, Gilbert and Gubar acknowledge Mary Wollstonecraft's influence on "the Romantic heritage of aesthetic and political rebellion" (xxx) that informed their discussion of Victorian authors, including Austen.


53 not exempt f rom division. Lloyd W. Brown, writing in 1973, provides a fairly comprehensive examination of Austen's place in the "feminist tradition," opening by stating that it is "customary" to consider her "as a representative of what critics have called the femin ist tradition' in the English novel," and qualifying this assumption by acknowledging the prominence of "love and marriage" in her novels (321). This association seems overly simplistic, but to his credit, Brown soon addresses the need to attach a clearer definition of feminism if we are to take a feminist approach to Austen. Brown supplies two definitions of feminist tradition that have been applied to Austen: the first is Frank W. Bradbrook, Jr.'s extremely broad "collective classification" of the tradi tion as defining "novelists (Burney, Edgeworth, Radcliffe, and Austen, for example) who happened to be female and whose themes (whatever their nature) happened to be similar" (321). Brown tactfully dismisses Bradbrook's argument by suggesting that, on the other hand, more recent developments in Jane Austen criticism seem to assume that feminism in the novel should be examined not merely as a collective classification,' but as a coherent body of opinions held by the novelist on the identity and social func tions of women. And insofar as this approach is based on the novelist's (assumed) analysis of female identity, it seems to respond to contemporary pressures, generated by the liberation movement, for thoughtful evaluation of female images in society and li terature. (322) Brown's article continues along these lines, studying Austen by standards promoted by the feminist movement of the 1970s. However, he also studies the possible influences of eighteenth century feminist rhetoric (with which Austen would hav e likely


54 have been familiar) on her novels, and concludes that Austen's work displays the ideals embraced by "liberationist" feminists such as Mary Wollstonecraft, particularly when Austen's characters challenge the gendered behaviors of Regency social rol es. Brown characterizes Persuasion 's Anne Elliot as a disciple of Wollstonecraft, particularly in the rejection of "female constancy [as] a result of social conditioning," a criticism of inherently feminine qualities that Brown sees repeated in "the modern liberationist's rejection of passivity as the feminine' ideal" (327). The skepticism toward the source and benefits of perceived female qualities exhibited by many of Austen's heroines is a major tenet of Wollstonecraft's feminist writings. She rejects the perception of women's innate intellectual inferiority to men in her landmark work A Vindication of the Rights of Woman blaming instead an unjust social system that denies women equal and sufficient education. Preventing women from accessing education was, Wollstonecraft claims, an effort on the part of men to "make [women] alluring mistresses rather than affectionate wives and rational mothers" (2), and the perpetuation of such a structure only confirms that women will be "treated as a kind of subordi nate beings, and not as a part of the human species" (3). Wollstonecraft sharply criticizes the then contemporary idea that a woman's education should ensure that "the cultivation of the understanding is always subordinate to the acquirement of some corpo real accomplishment" (41) a sentiment echoed in Mr. Darcy's (and Austen's?) critique of the ideal "accomplished" woman of the Regency era. During Elizabeth Bennet's first visit to Netherfield, drawing room conversation (preceded by Elizabeth's decision to eschew a card game in favor of reading, a choice declared "quite singular" by the husband of the elder Bingley sister) turns to this ideal of femininity.


55 Darcy dismisses the idea that a woman who can "paint tables, cover screens and net purses" merits b eing called "accomplished" (Austen 27). Pressing Darcy to elaborate his ideal of the truly accomplished woman, Miss Bingley somewhat ironically suggests that tables, screens and purses are not enough, and that "no one can really be deemed accomplished, who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with. A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and mann er of walking, her tone of voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved." "All this she must possess," added Darcy, "and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive readi ng." (27) Both Darcy and Elizabeth, therefore, fit within the feminist tradition defined by Wollstonecraft's insistence that a woman should not only be allowed education, but that she should be judged and respected due to her intellectual accomplishments, instead of those that are merely domestic and decorative. Miss Bingley is offered up as a foil to their more enlightened opinion, invested as she is in the patriarchally reinforced conception that a woman's worth is determined by her proficiency in trivia l, non stimulating tasks. Brown cites this exchange at Netherfield as a critical point of evidence that Pride and Prejudice follows Wollstonecraftian feminism to the point that it is the novel in which "we are most aware of a conscious, and extended, preo ccupation with


56 conflicting concepts of education for women and the relationship between that education and marriage" (Brown 328). In the Marvel interpretation of this scene, Hugo Petrus illustrates Elizabeth engrossed in a book while the others play ca rds, but adapter Nancy Butler has chosen to omit Mr. Hurst's judgment of her choice of pastime as "quite singular" (Butler Pride and Prejudice ). 17 Mr. Hurst is absent from Netherfield altogether, in fact; however, it is not an uncommon technique in adaptati on to assign a line of dialogue to a different character. 18 Butler's decision not to include this particular line of dialogue, and her abridgement of Austen's description of Elizabeth's entrance into the drawing room, rather lessen the significance of her d ecision to read. Butler's brief caption "After seeing Jane to sleep, Lizzy joined everyone in the drawing room" does not indicate that Elizabeth had even been invited to participate in the game, which diminishes the importance of her decision to reject what was a conventional and expected diversion for women. Additionally, the fact that reading is a solitary pursuit, as opposed to the multi person (and acceptably mixed gender) game of cards, sets her further apart as an exceptional woman for her time: she is both uninterested in following the social doctrine stating that a genteel young woman must be socially adept and charming, and capable of and desiring to independently improve her mind. Just how unusual Elizabeth's behavior is is 17 A nother significant difference between Butler and Petrus's adaptation and Heuet's work is that Heuet conceived of the project, adapted and illustrated it all himself. Butler and Petrus were separately commissioned by Marvel, and neither of them independentl y conceived of the adaptation, nor did they choose the other as collaborator. 18 A similar shift was made in Claude Chabrol's 1991 film adaptation of Madame Bovary where the iconic association made between Charles Bovary's name and "charivari" is transpose d from a scene of schoolroom taunts to a derisive comment made by Emma, pronouncing her husband's name similarly to "charivari."


57 underscored by Mr. Hurst's look of "astonishment" in Austen's original text (25); the only look she receives in Petrus's illustration, however, is a catty sidelong glance from Miss Bingley. This is, of course, not the only scene in which Elizabeth rebels against socially ma ndated female behavior. It is preceded by her famous three mile walk to Netherfield, which leaves her "with weary ancles, dirty stockings, and a face glowing with the warmth of exercise" (and the Bingley sisters' opinion of her correspondingly sullied) (Au sten 23). Her rejection of Mr. Collins's marriage proposal can be read as a rejection of the idea that a woman should marry someone who can provide a comfortable lifestyle, regardless of their personal unsuitability; and considering Mr. Collins's hold on t he entail of the Bennet estate, perhaps it can also be read as a rejection of the idea that women should be ineligible to inherit property. Brown reads Pride and Prejudice as a text confirming that "Austen is sympathetic to the eighteenth century feminist revolt against narrow male definitions of female personality and women's education" (332). Austen also indicates how both men and women suffer from a "repressive image of womanhood" (336), as Jane Bennet discovers after Mr. Bingley leaves Netherfield and seemingly abandons any interest in her. Jane, who is described as the loveliest Bennet sister (and the only blonde in the Marvel Bennet brood) acts as a Regency woman should: polite, demure, and cognizant of the benefit a good marriage will bring to her f amily. However, her adherence to convention causes Darcy to doubt the sincerity of her feelings toward Bingley, and Darcy's advice that his friend cease his courting leads to misery within both camps.


58 The positive attention paid to Elizabeth's active re jection of engaging in what is normative female behavior (for her society), as well as the consequences shown when one too strictly follows convention (in addition to Mr. Darcy's ill thought advice to Mr. Bingley based on how well Jane fits the model of an ideal regency woman, Mr. Collins's obsequious devotion to Lady Catherine and the social hierarchy comes to mind) made Jane Austen a beloved subject among twentieth century feminist critics. When feminist theory began to develop in the twentieth century, A usten was cited nearly universally within influential texts. In A Room of One's Own Virginia Woolf credited Austen with being one of the first authors to use an identifiably female voice (Benstock, Ferriss, and Woods, 154). Many twentieth century feminist s referenced the same core group of nineteenth century women (e.g., George Eliot, the Bront‘ sisters, Emily Dickinson) and Austen is often presented as a sort of matriarch of the period. But by mid century, feminist theory began to expand beyond feminist r eadings of classic (usually female authored) texts, encouraging discourse on the structure of Western culture and the middle class lifestyle. Emblematic of this approach is Betty Friedan's major work of second wave feminist thought, The Feminine Mystique Friedan's text is a reaction to the notion that reappeared in the 1950s that a woman was incomplete without a husband and children indeed, that her whole identity ought to be founded in her possession of a family and role as a housewife, and that educa tion should be abandoned at the first opportunity of marriage. Curiously, Friedan's illustration of how American culture perpetuated and responded to the idea that a woman should be in the home is not dissimilar to the daily life of a Regency woman of the gentry. In the twentieth century, of course, female behavior was determined not only by


59 social and familial pressure, but by industry and marketing; to reflect and preserve the new paragon of femininity, "[h]ome sewing became a million dollar industry. Ma ny women no longer left their homes, except to shop, chauffeur their children, or attend a social engagement with their husbands" (Friedan 17). With the exception of chauffeuring children, Friedan's examples call to mind the needlework skills of an "accom plished" woman, the day trips to Meryton the Bennet daughters so enjoy as an opportunity to observe both hats and soldiers, and the frequency and importance of balls. Friedan's anxiety over dropping college enrollment rates among women, an increasing numbe r of women quitting college once enrolled, the concept that "too much education would be a marriage bar" (16), and her citation of a 1960 New York Times article discussing "the problem of the educated housewife" (22) are stunningly reminiscent of Mary Woll stonecraft's anxieties of two hundred years earlier. The Feminine Mystique is hailed as a watershed text for second wave feminism, and one of the first major works to encourage examining the effects of American pop culture on women's identities. Austen re mained a central example in the second wave discourse that bloomed after The Feminine Mystique although for much of the century she was still confined to literary critique. Ellen Moers's 1976 text Literary Women posited that Austen's works found much of t heir merit by improving upon the female literary tradition of the time surpassing narratives that were seen to offer little more than entertainment (Benstock et al., 156). As Austen's influence and her stories expanded beyond English literature seminars and onto television and film screens, she began to receive more attention as a cultural figure, instead of merely a literary one. The discourse evolving from The Feminine Mystique and particularly Friedan's concern with


60 how women were "indoctrinated" int o femininity through "magazines, advertisements, and popular fiction" (Benstock et al., 154) that is to say, through images positions a modern comic adaptation of Pride and Prejudice under a particularly interesting critical lens. III. Visualizing Fem inism in Austen Adaptations Pride and Prejudice received its first big screen treatment in 1940, featuring Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson as Darcy and Elizabeth; fifty five years later, the BBC produced a six hour miniseries of the story. The latest mo vie adaptation was released in 2005 and stars Keira Knightley as Elizabeth, an actress familiar to younger audiences from her role in the big budget action film Pirates of the Caribbean The latter two versions appear to be the most popularly discussed am ong modern Austen enthusiasts. The website "The Republic of Pemberley" (which describes itself as "a haven in a world programmed to misunderstand obsession with things Austen") contains several forums for Austen fans to discuss the novels and their adapta tions; a post from "Kathi" illustrates perhaps the most common judgment regarding the 1995 and 2005 adaptations, proposing that the 2005 adaptation "misses the mark by a pretty wide margin," even granted the doubt that "any movie could really do the book j ustice" ("Did the movie do it justice?"). One of the moderators of the site's forums states that the 1995 miniseries is "the more popular adaptation" among the site's regulars ("P&P2 or P&P3"). 19 Often, this version's popularity is attributed not only to i ts adherence to the 19 The Republic of Pemberley has assigned abbreviations to the film adaptations the 1940 version is "P&P0," the 1995 miniserie s is "P&P2," and the 2005 film is "P&P3."


61 novel's plot and assumed intentions, but its faithfulness to the details of the period regarding set design and costuming. The significance of visual authenticity determining the "faithfulness" of a film or comic adaptation of Pride and Prejudice becomes problematic when applied alongside feminist critique. Laura Mulvey's highly influential essay "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" was perhaps one of the first works to introduce a fairly structured method for analyzing how patriarcha l societal conditioning was reflected in cinema, emphasizing the presence of the "male gaze" and how it manifests in camera angles and scenic composition. Modern cinema, Mulvey proposes, reflects how "pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female" (4) that is, a woman character is reduced to a female body by a male observer, whose gaze is reflected through the camera and passed on to the audience, who may see only a pair of legs representing the character (5). Mulvey's origina l rhetoric, particularly her concentration on the fragmentation of the female body, provides a base for analyzing the visual construction of the Marvel Pride and Prejudice I will supplement this analysis with arguments drawn from Anna Despotopoulou's ext ension of Mulvey's critique to period film adaptations. Despotopoulou gives examples of how Mulvey's concepts of the male gaze in film can appear in an Austen adaptation, and her analysis provides a good example of how to interpret a comic adaptation. De spotopoulou's essay "Girls on Film" focuses on recent film versions of Austen's Mansfield Park and Henry James's The Portrait of a Lady While she does not discuss Pride and Prejudice in particular, her analyses of Austen's oeuvre in general and of Mansfi eld Park heroine Fanny Price in particular provide a solid template for


62 examining the images of the Marvel published adaptation. By Despotopoulou's standards, a successful feminist film adaptation of a Jane Austen novel reflects how the text "[satirizes] the superficiality with which some women approached those media of culture (music, reading, languages, etc.) which had only one purpose: to ensure their marketability in a marriage oriented society" (117). She praises the efforts of Mansfield Park direct or Patricia Rozema to subvert the male gaze, through scenic composition, her presentation of Fanny to the viewer, and the design of a "more austere and stark" set and wardrobe (127). According to Despotopoulou, Rozema presents Fanny as "a high spirited, d auntless character with an unstoppable intellectual drive," a description that could easily apply to the independent and intelligent Elizabeth Bennet (122). In the film, Fanny often directly addresses the viewer while looking into the camera, a technique which Despotopoulou states confirms her "need for intellectual acceptance," and prevents the audience from "[stepping] into the position of voyeur, which, whether appropriated by men or women, tends to transform the subject into object of desire" (127). Despotopoulou credits Rozema with not only subverting the male gaze, but critiquing and mocking it: when another female character enters a room full of admirers, Rozema focuses on the male characters' desire for Mary Crawford, rather than the object of th at desire. [S]he films the men looking at Mary longingly, through the juxtaposition of hilarious, dazed faces, while the spectator is denied the same pleasure since Mary has her back to the camera. (127) While Mary is the subject of the male gaze of other characters, it empowers her, rather than diminishes her: showing the "hilarious, dazed faces" of the men both transforms them into objects of mockery and removes the power that their sexual desire


63 might have otherwise given them. Their desire has rendered them helpless, disabled agents, rather than spurred them to aggression and dominance. Likewise, the decision to show Mary's back to the audience, rather than shooting with the camera acting as Mary (and the men gazing into the lens), bestows more power to her. In showing her back to the audience, Mary acknowledges them through her intentional ignorance. Similarly, the presentation of "austere" sets and costumes serves a double benefit to a feminist adaptation: the lack of elaborate fabrics and numerous cos tume changes challenges the tendency of a patriarchal audience to dismiss women as creatures obsessed only with fashion, and a stark environment emphasizes the oppression faced by nineteenth century women during daily life. Fanny Price's plain black frock and her engagement with the camera (and by extension, the audience) save her from being nothing but "a passive image of visual perfection" (Mulvey 8). Despotopoulou criticizes adaptations (e.g., Merchant Ivory) that invest too much energy into "eye catch ing" costumes in the interest of attracting a mass audience, claiming that such an obsession "fetishizes both the costumes and the female bodies that model them," reducing intellectual heroines into passive objects of a patriarchal gaze (128). The visual interpretation of Austen presented by Rozema's Mansfield Park a successful feminist adaptation according to Despotopoulou, is not mirrored in Marvel's adaptation of Pride and Prejudice The widespread dismissal of comics as a popular art form, separate from high art, complicates the reception of the Marvel adaptation. In addition to analyzing Nancy Butler's textual adaptation and Hugo Petrus's characterization and illustration, one must examine Marvel's intent in publishing, advertising and distributing this volume. Marvel


64 produced this adaptation as part of its Illustrated Classics line, first introduced in 2007, which includes among its titles the adventure narratives of Treasure Island The Man in the Iron Mask and The Last of the Mohicans (Price). In her introduction to the hardbound graphic version of Pride and Prejudice Butler describes her conversation with Marvel editor Ralph Macchio about producing a "female friendly" comic for the collection. "I mean Treasure Island and The Man in the Iron M ask are great books, but they are boy books," Butler says, reinforcing the concept of inherently gendered literature and establishing the idea that a comic based on a "girl" book must necessarily be designed and marketed differently from one based on a "bo y" book (Butler Pride and Prejudice Introduction). The Marvel adaptation undertook this task by creating and marketing a comic that adheres to modern social constructions of femininity, particularly how it is presented to teenage girls. Marvel chose Butl er to write the adaptation because of her career as a writer of Regency period romance novels; this detail, in addition to Petrus's illustrative style and the fashioning of the issue covers to resemble women's fashion magazines, contributes to a work that fails to meet the standards for a feminist visual adaptation as described by Despotopoulou. When considering the question of whether this adaptation will be received well by modern Janeites, it is necessary to also consider how its publisher presented it. Marvel heavily advertised the series before its publication, and as seen above in Butler's comments, its philosophy seems to have perpetuated the idea of gendered literature by presenting the title as a book "for girls." This reasoning may lead many to believe that this adaptation only strengthens the division between a "high culture" Austen adaptation and a low culture comic series made


65 only with the cynical intention to attract the money of female readers to a company that made its fortune by marketing superheroes to boys. IV. Reading and Receiving Marvel's Pride and Prejudice Through a Feminist Lens Perhaps the best way to critique Butler and Petrus's Pride and Prejudice would be to analyze how well (or how poorly) it follows the techniques modeled by Rozema's film adaptation of Mansfield Park Returning briefly to Rozema's principal techniques for producing a feminist adaptation, the reader of Butler and Petrus should observe the contents of panels (does Elizabeth broach the fourth wall to address th e reader?), the attention paid to costuming and scene illustration, and whether women are portrayed as being active observers or passive objects of the gaze. There are few panels in which any character is illustrated as making direct eye contact to the re ader (usually the glance is directed just slightly to one side); however, the first appearance of such a portrayal is not Elizabeth engaging with the reader, but Darcy. When Elizabeth arrives at Netherfield to visit her ailing sister, the panel depicting h er entrance into the dining room presents her as a small, non detailed figure, looking slightly ashamed; this image is framed by Caroline Bingley and Darcy turning their heads to observe her. The following panel is a close up of Darcy's face, his eyes not cast to the side but looking straight on, with a slight but approving smile he is cast as adjudicator of Elizabeth, and evidently his judgment is favorable (see fig. 8). Close up panels of characters' faces are frequently found in this adaptation, but no character gets this treatment so often as Elizabeth and her "fine pair of eyes." Austen's original text does not provide much explicit description of the appearance of the


66 characters; however, this compliment paid by Darcy seems incredibly significant to Petrus. The frequency of panels depicting Elizabeth's eyes reflects Mulvey's analysis of the fragmented female body as evidence of the male gaze (5); perhaps more interestingly, other panels of Elizabeth cut off her face below the nose and are not acco mpanied by dialogue. While Petrus's illustrations avoid becoming more blatant examples of the pornographic sexualization of the female body by fragmenting it (there are no panels only focusing on legs or torsos, for example), the fragmenting of her face i s still problematic. It not only reduces Elizabeth's level of intellectual engagement with readers addressing them not with cogent conversation, as Fanny Price did, but with a smoldering, silent gaze but it also undermines what Austen depicts as her m ost attractive quality to Darcy: her intellect and skill at conversation. These illustrations of Elizabeth under the male gaze are compounded by the depiction of wardrobe and the physical appearance of the characters themselves. Each character's attire changes for every scene; this is contrary to the 1995 BBC miniseries, which provided a relatively limited number of dresses for the Bennet sisters (garments were worn repeatedly for the ball scenes, while there were perhaps two or three everyday dresses wo rn during a time span of over a year); elaborate clothing was reserved for characters who were portrayed as shallow (e.g., Mrs. Bennet, the Bingley sisters). Petrus's character design is similarly problematic. Obviously taking his cue from the modern, med ia enforced ideal of female aesthetics as seen in popular films and fashion spreads, Petrus's illustrations of the Bennet sisters are uncomfortably anachronistic. The panel introducing the five sisters illustrates them with full, glossy lips, heavy lashed eyes, and tousled, free flowing hair; the glowing quality of the art combined with their features


67 put the reader in mind of cosmetics advertisements. Lydia, in particular, presents a jarring sight: placed in the center of the panel, she gazes up with her hands clasped and her lips alarmingly dark. Her facial expression is startlingly reminiscent of the poses one might see on the cover of a magazine marketed for heterosexual men (see figs. 9 and 10). Sonny Liew's and Dennis Calero's cover designs for each issue of Pride and Prejudice add another complicated layer to this adaptation. Two of the covers present the characters in a realistic style, similar to Petrus, but three take a more stylized approach to the illustrations. All of the covers, however, ar e designed to mimic the covers of women's magazines such as Cosmopolitan (or perhaps, given this adaptation's target audience, Seventeen ). The "headlines" are based on the details of the novel: "Bingleys Bring Bling to Britain," "Spring's Randiest Ribbons !," and "What to Think When He Thinks You're Thinking" are three examples (figs. 11 and 12). Structuring the covers for each issue to resemble women's magazines reflects Marvel's intentions to court a young female audience for this volume, as well as Butl er's intentions to "modernize" the novel and make it more relatable to a mainstream audience (women's magazines may be found on any grocery store checkout rack, after all). However, the relation of this comic to publications that often perpetuate a patria rchal social construction, combined with the reinforced male gaze within the work itself, turns Marvel's Pride and Prejudice into an adaptation that encourages female readers to conform to social conditioning very different from the concept that Austen's text intended to show the faults of such behavior. This tacit persuasion may be all the more effective given Butler's choice to exclusively refer to Elizabeth as "Lizzy" in the narrative captions, establishing the kind of informal


68 relationship between re ader and character that is underlined by use of a familiar nickname. 20 Marvel's packaging of the series to resemble women's magazines and the energy given to promoting it among female readers in particular seem to support the idea that instead of producin g a work that reflected the subtle social critique of the original novel, they merely wished to present a romance story that would sell to girls. This perceived goal further evidences the social constructions of women and girls' inherent interests (romanc e! Dresses! A passionate kiss at the finale!). Several panels are reminiscent of the pulpy "romance comics" marketed to women during the fifties and sixties and made famous by Roy Lichtenstein's pop art; the illustrations of Jane after receiving news of M r. Bingley's departure for London and, several pages later, of Elizabeth after rejecting Darcy's first proposal, show close ups of their despondent faces, their eyes brimming with thick tears (see figs. 13 and 14). 21 Marvel's Pride and Prejudice like Heuet 's Combray has received the majority of its critical attention from non academic readers. There are a few significant differences 20 This also adds an interesting element to the panel in which Darcy makes eye contact with the reader. Assuming the majority of readership will be young, presumably heterosexual women, and will therefore identify with Elizabeth, Petrus's illustrations reflect the internalization of the male gaze as explained by Mulvey and Despotopoulou. Although Elizabeth is the protagonist and Darcy the apparent object of desire, it is still the reader who is looked at by Darcy. Elizabeth is still the object of the gaze, and by extension, the reader is as well. 21 The similarity to Lichtenstein's paintings (which he adapted from actual comics, often without credit) becomes even more intriguing when one considers the tension felt by many comics fans toward the artist. Bart Beaty provides an interesting analysis of the idea that comics "can only inspire art, not create it" and that criticism of Lichtenstein's pop art style was extended to a criticism of its "roots in mass culture, fu rther disdaining comics as not art" (Beaty 251 252). Even if a reader of this Pride and Prejudice is unaware of the tension between construct of high and mass culture, a panel reminiscent of one of Lichtenstein's paintings of teary women carries the conno tations of pulp drama.


69 between the two that ought to be considered, however. Marvel's version was released serially, with five separate issues over five months before being collected into a single volume published by Marvel's house company, as opposed to Heuet's decision to publish his work through a company more associated with traditional novels. Perhaps because of Marvel's origins as a comic book c ompany and its fame in the field, bloggers writing for comics centered websites seemed as interested to review it as did those writing for Austen centered sites. Reception from both camps was, at best, lukewarm, with critics on both sides often finding fau lt with the same aspects of the work. Writers for comic review sites found just as much fault with Butler's failure to convey Austen's original sense of ironic social critique as Janeite bloggers did with Petrus's supermodel esque illustrations of the Ben net sisters. Karyn Pinter of the website Comics Bulletin expressed disappointment in the rushed feeling of the adaptation, commenting that "[p]ersonality seems to be the unfortunate victim" of Butler's abridgement of the work ("Pride and Prejudice #1 Revi ew"). Timothy Callahan of the Comic Books Review minces no words with his critique of both the text and art: like many other reviewers, he finds the condensed version of Austen to be lacking in much of the charm and intelligence of the original text, and c alls Petrus's characters "Frankensteinian," concluding that "this isn't a good comic. Not at all" ("Pride and Prejudice #1"). While reviewers coming from a background in literary Austen studies may criticize this adaptation, they don't appear to generally reject the idea of an Austen graphic novel or comic book series. Perhaps falling to stereotypes of Janeites, much of their dissatisfaction with the art style is due to its failure to be "reminiscent of the regency period" ("Seen Over the Ether"), but an equal amount is based on interviews with Butler,


70 notably her discussion of how she wished to simplify Pride and Prejudice and her more romantic interpretation. Butler's background in romance novels may cause Janeites to consider her a curious choice if an adaptation faithful to Austen's social critique and wit were desired. This opinion is supported by her statements that her adaptation is [O]ne of Marvel's first attempts to woo a mostly female readership, and if all goes well, you might be looking forwar d to more romance driven Marvel Illustrated books. So if you'd like to see more romantic classics done as illustrated comics, please give Pride and Prejudice a try. ("Pride and Prejudice Now Available") Butler's view of Pride and Prejudice as "romance d riven" is certainly not totally incorrect, but it does imply that she is not quite cognizant of the element of social critique within the novel or if she is, that she has chosen to gloss it over in favor of producing a work that would be more commerciall y successful with young women. It seems fairly clear that any Janeite's criticism of this particular adaptation comes not from the decision to present it as a comic, but in the inconsistencies of the ultimate product; no review comes close to implying that Butler has caused "a second death of Austen," to paraphrase HervŽ St. Hilaire's review of Heuet's Combray Perhaps this can be attributed to Jane Austen's solid presence in popular culture as well as academia; she is such a familiar figure of paraliterat ure and "Austen inspired" works that a comic adaptation seems rather tame. It seems safe to say, however, that Butler and Petrus, under the guidance of Marvel, have produced an adaptation that is rather lackluster. Their ignorance of Austen's social comm entary and the reinforcement of female stereotypes evident in their


71 marketing are far more damaging to this work's quality as an adaptation than the mere fact that it tells the story with captions and speech bubbles.


72 Conclusion This project originated fro m my own interest in reading graphic novels. While I had never read any of the adaptations produced by companies like Classics Illustrated or Graphic Classics I have enjoyed reading titles such as Alison Bechdel's Fun Home Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis and Neil Gaiman's Sandman (which inspired me to study literature at the college level). I had seen graphic adaptations in libraries and bookstores, and the process of examining their positions within the comics genre and how they fit into the cultural his tory of comics provided a valuable new perspective to my comprehension of just how varied reception to comics and graphic novels is. Although I had always felt there was a difference between "comic books" and "graphic novels," I had never been able to sat isfactorily define it Charles Hatfield's discussion of how the concept of the graphic novel was constructed by publishing companies was particularly edifying, and emphasized just how arbitrary the guidelines for "low" and "high" culture can be. Becoming more familiar with postmodern critique and its analysis of consumerism and cultural identity, and how often people wish to dismiss a work because of its associations with mass production and ease of accessibility, was an important perspective my research. I had not recognized, for example, just how symbolic of consumerism American culture was in the mid twentieth century until I read about the efforts of dŽsamŽricanisation that took place in France. Both of the adaptations I studied here are exceptional a mong other comic adaptations. Many modern adaptations attempt to relocate the work to a different context


73 (i.e., the Romeo and Juliet of the yakuza, as referenced in the introduction). Heuet's Combray and Butler and Petreus's Pride and Prejudice both pre serve the narrative within its original period, but they also both attempt to make the work attractive to those readers who might not enjoy the novel, which leads to more subtle modernization. Heuet takes Proust's work, which has for so long been seen as something that can only be appreciated by a very particular (educated, intellectually elite) reader, and not only condenses it but presents it in a Tintin esque style that would be recognizable, familiar, and perhaps even reassuring to nearly any French pe rson. The art of Pride and Prejudice is more realistic (and often more eroticized), but the cover designs' resemblance to women's magazines (while still including illustrations of characters in period dress) places them in a unique position to Marvel Illu strated's other adaptations, where the cover art is simply a scene from the story. Heuet produced his work independently; Marvel commissioned its adaptation. The histories and roles of the comic medium in their respective countries require a special appr oach to these particular adaptive works: the line between a pulpy children's comic and a more complex, adult graphic novel is still shaky at points, and adapting a text that is firmly located within a respected literary canon to a medium whose position is still tenuous can lead to widely different receptions. One of the things that most interested me about the difference in reception of "comics" and "graphic novels" was the physical form of the works. While BD have, in France, been traditionally directed a t children, they also enjoy a much wider (middle class) adult readership than do comics in the U.S. I wonder if this is due to their presentation as large, hard bound books. When American publishing companies began to spin graphic novels as acceptable ad ult reading, the works were produced in bound book


74 format as well something that resembled a traditional novel much more closely. The dismissal of comic books as pulp is likely closely connected to their cheap and flimsy physical presence: the pages are held together by staples rather than a binding, and the entire product is obviously easy to produce and just as easy to wear down and fall apart quickly. Is there an unconscious connection between the physical stability of the work and the perception of its stability and merit as a cultural product? I did not find too much analysis of this kind in my research, but I imagine that as the field of comics studies grows and expands, more critique of the physical presentation of the product will emerge. This e xamination of the physical qualities of the product and how that appearance exemplifies the ease of its production also corresponds to another of my personal interests, which I was not able to explore in full in this study: webcomics. Webcomics have an es pecially interesting position in the study of comics, particularly in their role as reflectors of popular culture. While producing a comic that will reach a readership of many thousands of people requires a publishing contract, nearly anyone can find a we bsite to host their personal comics. The U.S. Census reports that in 2007, 62% of American households had Internet access. Even if a person cannot access the Internet at home, free Internet access is becoming more and more popular across the United State s. Those with laptops or tablets can access wifi at nearly any coffee shop or restaurant (and many cities have designated areas with free public wifi); smartphones allow instant access to nearly any website from any location; and for those without computer s or wifi enabled devices, public libraries often have computers available for use. This not only means that anyone with access to a computer can publish their work, but it is potentially visible to thousands and thousands of readers. Naturally, not every webcomic reaches


75 such a large readership, but for the few who do it can be extremely lucrative. One of the ways to determine if a webcomic is "successful" is to see if they have published a book some artists self publish, but others gain contracts with more traditional publishing companies. What is truly interesting about this phenomenon is that readers will pay for a book of the comics that they can read for free online. If a webcomic is collected and then physically printed and bound, is it then cons idered a "graphic novel"? How does one define the product of that transition? If "graphic novel" is a term that grants legitimacy to what might otherwise be called "comics," then so does it grant legitimacy to comics that come from the internet. In 2007, when Time magazine ran one of its popular "best of the year" articles, one of the categories was graphic novels. The year's winning title was a webcomic, Chris Onstad's Achewood Lev Grossman, the list's compiler, justified his decision by calling Achew ood "profoundly genius," and therefore deserving of the top spot in a medium that was not actually its own (although Achewood collections have been published by Dark Horse, a comics centered publishing company, Grossman was specifically referring to the en tire web based archive). This raises the question, of course, of why a webcomic that is "profoundly genius" must be compared to a graphic novel, instead of analyzed in its original position. Perhaps webcomics are mirroring the gradual process taken by gr aphic novels in the late 1980s and early 1990s, shortly after their introduction into the wider market: originally seen as works that fit within a very particular niche and read by a rather narrow and specialized group of readers, they became more and more popular until they were a widely recognizable and present part of the broader readers' market. Webcomics may be on that route, especially as analysis of the Internet's cultural impact


76 becomes more popular; perhaps in 2017, webcomics will have their own c ategory on Time 's best of lists at the end of the year. While I was not able to address all of these questions within the scope of this project, I did gain a greater understanding of the history of the medium, and particularly how suggestions for its analy sis are being constructed. The cultural questions raised by my research also proved to be especially interesting: the borders between high and low culture are unstable, and the benefits of having a cultural hierarchy at all are called into question. I ho pe to be able to expand this research in the future, especially in the context of the physical presentation of a text, the widening influence and availability of the Internet, and how webcomics will be positioned in the canon of print comics and graphic no vels.


77 Appendix Fig. 1. "Alors Golo le scŽlŽrat" Heuet 4.


78 Fig 2. "Longtemps, je me suis couch Ž de bonne heure." Heuet 3.


79 Fig. 3. Tintin, from Tintin et les Picaros. Fig. 4. Young Marcel. Heuet 4. Illustration by HergŽ, 1976, from


80 Fig. 5. "Tiens une madeleine ?" Heuet 15.


81 Fig. 6. Et tout d'un coup le souvenir est m'apparu." Heuet 16.


82 Fig. 7. "...Reconnaissables, de mme maintenant toutes les fleurs de notre jardin..." Heuet 17.


83 Fig. 8. Darcy observes Elizabeth at Netherfi eld. Butler and Petrus.


84 Fig. 9. The Bennet sisters. Butler and Petrus. Fig. 10. Megan Fox, GQ Magazine June 2007.


85 Fig. 11. The cover of the first issue of Marvel's Pride and Prejudice Butler and Petrus.


86 Fig. 12. The cover of the second issue of Marvel's Pride and Prejudice Butler and Petrus.


87 Fig. 13. Elizabeth cries after receiving news of Lydia's elopement. Butler and Petrus. Fig 14. Crying Girl Roy Lichtenstein, 1963.


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