Panels and politics: Bandes Dessinées and referendums in Quebec, 1970 – 2013
Kennedy, Harriet Emily Isobel
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This thesis consists of a semiotic and socio-‐political exploration of Québécois bande dessinée (BDQ) and Quebec Nationalism since 1970. It uses BDQ as a lens through which to analyse key moments in the history of Quebec’s Nationalist Movement. This thesis is based on a close textual reading of more than eighty editorial cartoons as well as textual analysis of thirteen longer form comics and bandes dessinées. It consists of detailed engagement with published and primary materials on BDQ and comic scholarship as well as documentary sources. It is concerned with the potentials of form and also the Québécois quest for voice and identity as it is manifested via text and image. This thesis argues that from their earliest origins the comics or bandes dessinées produced in Quebec have been closely linked to the political development of the province. As writers and creators sought to create a new voice for Quebec via bandes dessinées, following the so-‐called ‘Springtime of Québécois Bande Dessinée’ in the 1970s, they looked to the contemporary political situation in the province for inspiration. Creators like Guilemay, Dave Rosen and Michel Rabagliati created versions of the key political figures from Quebec for their bandes dessinées while the major Francophone and Anglophone cartoonists of the province, Serge Chapleau and Aislin, provided their own versions of these figures. This thesis is anchored around the 1980 and 1995 referendums on Québécois sovereignty, two pivotal moments for Quebec political history that proved to be the source of much inspiration for contemporary creators of BDQ. Part One of this thesis situates the referendums historically within the context of Quebec’s political history. The thesis argues for the consideration of these referendums as crucial moments in this history and introduces the key political figures representing each side of each referendum debate. In Part Two the thesis is focused on the1980 referendum and addresses depictions of Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Rene Lévesque in Francophone and Anglophone editorial cartoons and bandes dessinées. In Part Three the thesis is focused on the 1995 referendum and text/image depictions of Jacques Parizeau, Lucien Bouchard, Mario Dumont, and Daniel Johnson. In Part Four the thesis draws together common themes, ideas and stylistic features from the images previously discussed and argues that these text and image representations of the leaders demonstrate distinct differences between the response to the1980 and 1995 referendums. It addresses the implications of the way in which BDQ produced for different markets, such as editorial cartoons, satirical magazines or autobiographical BD, approach political depictions in a different way. The thesis also argues that these differences reflect a shift in BDQ itself, a shift away from the political. The bandes dessinées of Quebec have not heretofore been subject to the same level of academic discourse as many other examples of Francophone BD. There exist a few histories in French of BDQ but because they are predominantly historical accounts they are what Thierry Groensteen terms “an egalitarian chronicle” where no comment is made on the relative quality of the works being discussed. This thesis seeks to widen discussion of this often-neglected incarnation of the BD form.