They’ve got a word for everything in academia… and if there isn’t a word already, someone will spend a whole paper justifying why they’ve made one up. It fills the field with a dizzying bevy of -isms and -ologys. I had to reassure a group of new students this month not to worry if they don’t know which term fits their research, or fuss too much about remembering them all. After all, I had to Google what “structuralism” was recently, figuring that “huh, people keep saying this word in papers and stuff, I should probably try to figure out what it means”. Turns out that pesky “structuralism” thing is basically what I’ve been doing the whole time. So that was mildly embarrassing (though it’s nice to know that there’s a specific word out there for your thing and has been this whole time… it was like a way less exciting version of when I discovered definitions of asexuality).
Structuralism in literary studies is an interest in patterns and the way stories are put together, and how they relate to one another in bigger contexts like genre (post-structuralism extends from this into all sorts of fun stuff like text deconstruction and agreeing that there isn’t one “true” reading of a work). If you’ve been following this blog for more than a few posts, that probably sounds very familiar. The more I think about it, the more the hours I spent trawling TV Tropes in high school were neat foreshadowing for my eventual fascination with archetypes and narratives, which is what I’m now lucky enough to be researching and writing about as a job. If I were to make a separate blog for more hoity-toity high-concept academic stuff, I think “The Sleepy Structuralist” would be a fun name for it, as I am, it turns out, something of a structuralist researcher, and also very very tired. A PhD is a hell of a thing. But I’m having fun, don’t worry about that. Hopefully I’ll be able to bring some of my newfound know-how to the blog soon… though I promise not to drown you in terminology.
On the blog this month:
Coming Out of Your (World’s) Shell: Growing Up and Breaking Free with Cocona and Utena (in which I make my first foray into writing about the surreal and sapphic Adolesence of Utena, as well as returning to Flip Flappers to talk about their narratives of growth and escape)
Laid-Back Camp, a (Happy) Story of Solitude (in which I sing the praises of The Cute Camping Anime for its respectful treatment of its introvert protagonist)
The final Madoka episode review! My gosh, what a journey that was.
Cool web content:
DEVILMAN crybaby, Legacies of Queerness, and Diversifying Remakes – Vrai writes about the questionable history of queer rep in the Devilman juggernaut, and how its most recent incarnation does some positive things to bring it into the current day. For instance, hot tip: don’t have literal Satan be your only gay character.
(Side note: I did not watch DEVILMAN crybaby, but I physically cannot stop listening to the opening theme music)
Pop Team Epic – Interview with Producer Kotaro Sudo – a fascinating look behind the scenes of “the shitpost anime” (and I call it that in the most affectionate way possible).
The Ontology of ‘Boys’ in the McElroy Realm, part one and part two – having spent this whole month reading academic texts about Very Serious Business, it was possibly funnier than it should have been to read these two articles about something very silly in the exact same style of language.
Black Panther and the Invention of “Africa” – the kingdom of Wakanda isn’t real, but it does speak to a deep history of Africa as a “mythologized” place, and the efforts to reclaim that for the better.
Above is a neat video essay from Zeria discussing common misconceptions about yuri as a genre, ranging from myths about its gendered marketing to the trouble with subtext (a word often misused to mean “they don’t kiss, therefore it isn’t really a romance”). You can also find the transcript here.
The Diversification of Otaku in Japanese Media – another great AniFem piece, this time looking at the tangled and intriguing history of how otaku characters are portrayed in anime, from the ’80s all the way through the current day.
What’s Wrong with Heteronormativity? — Meg-John Barker is here to answer (and explain) that question. I recently read Queer: A Graphic History, which is a very useful (and fun) book that aims to lay out the history of queer theory and lever it out of that academic jargon I was talking about in the intro to this post. The author has a blog with all sorts of interesting stuff, but this is a particularly neat post that I wanted to share!
To wrap up, I don’t think I’ve ever linked to Caitlin’s Abuse in Shoujo By the Numbers series, so I’m going to correct that now. Week by week, she’s diligently working her way through an entire catalogue of shoujo manga with a rubric in hand to measure the abusive behaviour present in the main romances. Sometimes it’s romanticised, sometimes it’s complicated–she provides discussion to go with each ranking to clarify and summarise her numerical review, as well as talk about whatever else strikes her about that particular work (be that the good, the bad, or the ugly). You can start from the most recent entry and work your way back. If you have any interest in media representation, especially in romance, they’re a fascinating read.
That’s all from me for now! As always, take care, and thank you for reading.