The Reconstruction of Gender in Portal-Quest Fantasy Graphic Novels
In Portal-Quest Fantasy, a character leaves her familiar surroundings and passes through a portal into an unknown place (Mendlesohn 2008), where she has to solve one or several quests. These familiar surroundings often coincide with the perceived reality of adolescent readers, which enables them to quickly identify and empathize with the characters and their problems.
Graphic novels, as novels using the comics medium to narrate the story, correspond to the increasingly visual nature of students’ daily lives. Depending on the specific kind of word-picture relation, they may be easier to read, making it possible to break down complex topics to classroom level. However, this also means that students need to carefully examine the text since meaning is being conveyed via different modes and thus more condensed than in an ordinary literary text.
The comics medium and the fantasy genre confront the reader with instances of otherness, both on a textual and a pictorial level. Different cultural and gender identities can be simultaneously presented and (re-)constructed through each other. Since both the fantasy genre and the comics medium have a large legacy to male heroes, any female character, especially a female protagonist, must position herself in a field of tension and genre expectations. However, this also opens up new ways of constructing a hero(ine), and opportunities to reject or correct common fantasy or comics stereotypes.
The aim of this doctoral dissertation is to explore how these texts deal with questions of gender, the long tradition of male heroes both in the comics medium and the fantasy genre, and how the EFL classroom can benefit from incorporating these texts.