Tuesday, April 12, 2005


DTWOF in the halls of academe

Just found out that tomorrow, Allison J. Kelaher Young, a professor in the College of Education at Western Michigan University, is presenting a paper about Alison's comics during a panel at the American Educational Research Association conference in Montreal. The paper's called "Presentation of Self in Not-so-Everyday Comics: Curricular Implications of the Comics of Alison Bechdel," and it's part of a panel entitled, "The Performative Discourse of Identity in Queer Studies." This isn't actually the first time somebody's written a paper about Alison's work. We know of a few others, including "Humour in Alison Bechdel's Comics," a thesis penned by Finnish student Tuula Raikas in 1998. Anybody know of some we should add to our list? We also know that sometimes professors put Alison's books on their syllabi. Anybody ever take a class where they had to (got to) read DTWOF? I want to compile a list for posterity.
The Oberlin student who is writing her thesis on DTWOF should be added to your list. I saw her posting on the Livejournal site.

Could you possibly post the syllabi/paper references when you compile them? I would love to see the final list as I am a grad student in American Studies working on the history of feminist and queer movements and I think DTWOF has been a tremendous live video feed for lesbian history and politics.

I once wrote an essay for a Sexual Ethics class about queer identity in which I referred to Lois's troubles with her attraction to Jerry.
I put Post Dykes to Watch Out For on my reading list for the MA module 'Sexual Identities in the 20th Century'. Head to head with How Loathsome (Ted Naifeh and Tristan Crane - a feet-first studs-up queer-goth-fetish-transgender extravaganza) for a satisfying ideological tussle.
This was at Sussex in the UK, which is a bit of a queer theory haven - they've just opened the Centre for the Study of Sexual Dissidence. (Subliminal psychology: send Sydney on sabbatical....)
Hi. I'm a queer English professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and I am writing a book on lesbian print culture in the twentieth-century US. I teach an undergrad class on that subject, and have assigned "Split Level Dykes To Watch Out For." Students love love love it, and some of them run out and buy all the books the second they finish it. Then they start using the characters as shorthand for other issues (Lois for trans issues, or Clarice and Toni for problems of assimilation and difference, and of course, Mo for themselves). Alas, I've probably only made Alison Bechdel about 3 dollars in royalties, but I'm pretty sure I've made her a lot of converts who check the web to keep up with the strip.
I used an OHP slide of the strip where Carlos explains to Rafi about the difference between his wifebeater shirt and Rafi's camp counselor's shirt in a conference paper I gave at the International Gender and Language Assoc conference a couple of years ago. My point related to part of my doctoral research (about young British gay men appropriating and recasting linguistic behaviour which generally belongs to working class straight guys), but really I just wanted an excuse to use the strip. It went down a storm...
i'm writing an honours thesis [i think it's called a 'dissertion' in america] about children's literature with gay, lesbian and bisexual people in. i was planning to reference dtwof because of lots of mentions of 'heather' and also the development of janis and raffy.

i haven't actually *written* it yet, so i don't know if that counts. . .
Anne Thalheimer's work mentioned earlier as a paper was published as a Ph.D. Thesis in 2002:

Terrorists, bitches, and dykes: Gender, violence, and heteroideology in late 20th-century lesbian comix by Thalheimer, Anne N., Ph.D., University of Delaware, 2002, 218 pages; AAT 3046632

Abstract (Document Summary)

Ever since its rise in the 1970s, feminist theory has defined its field, and often its methods, by a series of dualities that have provided clarity and momentum to feminism even as they have been widely disputed. At first, the category "woman" proposed a gender binary (man/woman); later, the gay rights movement emphasized the binaries of hetero/homo and in/out. Although identifying as a member of any of these categories was an initially liberating action, many women eventually felt limited by those binaries.

The dissertation explores the implications of lesbian comix for these problematic binaries. The introduction discusses how outing someone as (for example) lesbian fails to fully recognize the myriad aspects of any subject and offers framing as an alternative. Instead of being reduced to a single side of a reductive binary, subjects can be framed as many things simultaneously and move among several frames. Chapter One discusses framing as a way of understanding the particularity of this material and its dependence on the frames it invokes as comix. Chapter Two focuses on what it means to frame any text, including comix, as lesbian.

Whereas the first two chapters outlined problems, histories, and theories with the help of sequences, the following two use sequences to illustrate two key modes of resistance prominent in lesbian comix: gender representation and violence. An analysis of a panel from Alison Bechdel's Dykes to Watch Out For poking fun at Judith Butler's landmark Gender Trouble focuses Chapter Three's discussion of gendered performativity through drag in lesbian comix. Chapter Four uses this discussion to foreground a reading of a rape-revenge sequence from Diane DiMassa's Hothead Paisan , whose use of the comix medium makes readers complicit in Hothead's revenge. The conclusion reviews the effects of using lesbian comix to raise questions about framing beyond comix in a world where binaries no longer suffice even though the dominant ideology tells us that there are no other options to explain who and what we are, as subjects and as people.

that's the only thesis that comes up on a ProQuest/UMI search using the keywords "Bechdel" and "dykes".
A WorldCat search on "Bechdel" and "dykes" brings up these two works, as well as all of Alison's comic collections in various languages:

Cooper, D. (1992). Discontents : New queer writers. New York: Amethyst Press, Projected Date: 9204.

Oberlin College, & Multicultural Resource Center. (1997). A tip o' the nib! : Celebrating the works of gay and lesbian cartoonists : Featuring alison bechdel (dykes to watch out for), howard cruse (stuck rubber baby), diane DiMassa (hothead paisan), rupert kinnard (cathartic comics) : Saturday, november 1, and sunday, nov. 2, 1997. Oberlin, Ohio: Multicultural Resource Center, Oberlin College.
Cool. I'll post a list soon on the DTWOF website.
I am also currently writing an as yet untitled chapter of my PhD thesis at the University of Sydney on DTWOF.

Thank you for these postings - it is really nice to know that there are others out there currently working on DTWOF. Thus far I have only been able to locate a limited number of academic articles etc. other than those that have been mentioned already. You probably already know about them:
* There is a chapter in Kathleen Martindale's "Un/popular Culture: Lesbian Writing After the Sex Wars" on Dykes and Hothead.
* There is also a chapter by Gabrielle Dean in an anthology called The Gay 90s on Dykes, Hothead and some work by Fish.
*Deborah Meem and Michelle Gibson gave a paper entitled "‘Comic Books on Steroids’: the Function of Stereotypes in Maus and Dykes to Watch Out For” a couple of years ago.
there's a comment way up at the top about the oberlin student--

that's me! and it's not a thesis! i'm just an undergrad, and this paper is just a continuation of a winter term project! not a thesis! not a thesis!
Following that comment, um, about the other comments, that's me too (Anne)! I did write a dissertation partially about DTWOF, and have published a handful of pieces using DTWOF and have used it in classes; I can send along a CV and syllabi if they'd be helpful. And I am presenting a paper at this year's MLA called (channel Sydney here with me...) "'Since When Have You Been So Hung Up On Terminology?': Dykes to Watch Out For's Shifting Trends in Lesbian Representation."

It's really excellent to find out about all these other folks writing about DTWOF! Hurrah!
See "Watch Out! Alison Bechdel’s Comics as Cultural Commentary," by Briana Smith, in FEMINIST COLLECTIONS v.25, no.2 (Winter 2004). It's an essay review of all the books.

I'm the co-editor of FEMINIST COLLECTIONS, and my partner had been urging me to publish something on the DTWOF books ever since I took my position in 2000. I was delighted to meet Bri at a National Women's Studies Association conference and find out she was interested in being the reviewer. And Alison came through with a cartoon for the cover of the issue in which the review appeared.
My girlfriend wrote a paper about queer comics our Junior year at Barnard... I could see if she could dig it up! :)
Dear Oberlin student writing the non-thesis paper: so it's not a thesis - but be PROUD! be LOUD! none o' this "I'm just a little undergraduate!" Your paper counts too.


PS but sorry I called it a thesis.
Not writing but reading...I think it was _Split-Level_ that was assigned in Intro to LGBT Studies at Rice University (prof: the awesome Lynne Huffer) in the spring of 2000. it took me about two years after that to save up the $ to buy all the rest of the books...
I'm a Senior Lecturer in Business Studies at a university in London (UK), and recently I took a professional development course on teaching in higher education, in which we were required to write a short dissertation on current issues in tertiary-level paedagogy. I focused on the increasing corporatisation and politicisation of higher education, and, to illustrate the point, made reference to some of Ginger's misadventures in teaching. The instructors loved it, and are currently using it as an example to this year's students of how to write a good course dissertation.
I'm doing a small paper on queer comics which touches on DTWOF. It's for a Queer Lit class at Occidental College taught by the amazing Professor Robert Ellis. I've had to advocate comics as lit/art to him, but he's very open to studies of queer popular culture. Well, back to my paper.
Two more:

there's a chapter called "The "Phallacies of Dyke Comic Strips" in an anthology called The Gay '90's, edited by Foster, Siegel, and Berry, published in 1997 by NYU Press.

There's a chapter of Kathleen Martindale's book, Unpopular Culture: Lesbian Writing After the Sex Wars, that is about DTWOF, entitled "Back to the Future with Dykes to Watch Out For and Hothead Paisan. Published by S.U.N.Y press in 1997.
I'm pretty sure that this woman has taught a course with your strip in it.
Hi, I am giving a paper on DTWOF at WisCon, a scifi/fantasy feminist conference in Madison WI, memorial day weekend. My paper is titled, "Gender Bending Dykes to Watch Out For" and deals with Bechdel's use of gender in the strip and how gender ideas change throughout the life of the strip. Just thought you would like a heads up!
I just wrote a term paper for an English class at Portland Community College (Oregon) on D2WO4. We had been studying political cartoons and our assignment was simply to write about our favorite cartoonist.

My paper consisted of the central reasons why I like the strip, with quotes from various cartoons, all sourced with artfully-designed footnotes. It was a rather enjoyable assignment! :-)
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