Fantastic alterities and The Sandman.

Round, J., 2012. Fantastic alterities and The Sandman. In: Jakaitis, J. and Wurtz, J. F., eds. Crossing Boundaries in Graphic Narrative: Essays on Forms, Series and Genres. McFarland, pp. 71-92.

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Abstract

This article explores the ways in which the comics medium enhances our understanding of literary models of the Fantastic. It examines the presence and depiction of multiple worlds in Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, with specific reference to the role of the comics medium and its denial of mimesis when creating such alterities. It initially uses literature review to establish a contemporary working model of the Fantastic, taking as its basis the framework devised by Tzvetan Todorov, and incorporating the later work of Rosemary Jackson, A B Chanady, and Christine Brooke-Rose. It establishes the position of the Fantastic as a literary mode lying between the marvellous (supernatural accepted) and the uncanny (supernatural explained), and clarifies the distinction between the mode of the Fantastic (which encompasses various genres) and the genre itself. The article then considers the ways in which both the form and content of the comics medium sustain the mode of the fantastic. It broadly discusses the ways in which the following factors contribute to this process: • subject matter: fantastic events, super powers, alternate worlds • non-realistic aesthetic: pop art, stylised visuals, fiction of fonts (invoking the tension between hand-drawn and computerised artwork or lettering) • authorial reticence: the possibilities for surpassing or discarding narrative voice • the role of the reader: as both interpreter and co-creator. It then focuses more closely upon the genre of the Fantastic, establishing the ways in which this genre is opposed to both magical realism (outright fantasy) and realism (where such events are explained). It summarises the role of various qualities of the Fantastic in this regard, which include an antinomy between the natural and supernatural, author reticence, over- or under-determined language, and a defiance of absolute meaning in favour of interpretation or hesitation . The article then proceeds to two case studies, taken from Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: A Game of You and The Kindly Ones. The first analyses the construction of two contrasting alterities (‘The Land’ and ‘New York’) and examines the ways in which, despite initial appearances, these two worlds are both equally removed from the referent of ‘reality’. It proceeds to discuss the use made of over- and under-determined signifiers, the transformation motif, intertextuality, and the redefinition of static notions (home, gender) as fluid and undefined. It deconstructs The Kindly Ones in similar terms, considering the ways in which its triple alterities are all simultaneously validated by the text and the role of motifs such as multiple names and duplicated characters. It concludes that, like the Fantastic, the comics medium exposes the notion of ‘reality’ as a constructed referent, which the text’s alterities comment on. The nature of the medium allows for the construction and sustenance of multiple worlds without recourse to a stable notion of reality. As the reader’s hesitation destabilises interpretation of reality versus fantasy, absolute meaning is denied. It therefore seems that comics offer what might be best described as a postmodern vision of the Fantastic.

Item Type:Book Section
ISBN:978-0-7864-6663-4
Number of Pages:223
Subjects:Arts > Graphic Arts
Literature
Group:Media School
ID Code:19430
Deposited By:Dr Julia Round
Deposited On:29 Feb 2012 10:41
Last Modified:12 Jun 2013 16:30

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