Spotlight on New Publications – The Hysterical Subject of Shojo

Puella Magi Madoka Magica is easily one of, if not the most memorable – and influential – anime series to run on Japanese television and expand outside Japan – in recent years. So far, however, responses to Madoka have been limited to reviews, blog and forum posts, and other personal reflections, not scholarship. This is not surprising – the low speed of scholarly publishing, especially in the humanities – is a well-known issue.

So, it is quite exciting to see what I believe is the first full-length scholarly article published in English on Madoka:

Shen, Lien Fan (2014). The hysterical subject of shojo: The dark, twisted heroines in Revolutionary Girl Utena and Puella Magi Madoka Magica. In N. Jones, M. Bajac-Carter, and B. Batchelor, (Eds.). Heroines of film and television: Portrayals in popular culture. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

Prof. Shen (Film and Media Arts, University of Utah) presented earlier versions of this paper at A Comic of Her Own, the University of Florida Conference on Comics and Graphic Novels, and at the 2013 AX Anime and Manga Studies Symposium.

In the abstract the author submitted for the Symposium, she provided this description:

“Literally meaning a girl or girls in Japanese, shojo entails cultural connotations of innocence, purity, and fragile female figures with full range of emotion.  Anime portrays a significantly large number of shojo heroines to exaggerate this female representation as an object of fetish eroticism. This essay pays attention to the portrayals of shojo heroines in two anime works: Revolutionary Girl Utena and Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Whereas shojo heroines are granted magic power as a form of female empowerment, the symbolic system of anime posits shojo heroines both as the subject and the Other, emphasizing their sexuality through visual symbols and narratives. Situated in psychoanalytic frameworks, this essay highlights shojo heroines’ persistent quest after ‘who am I to others’ as the hysterical subject who fully recognizes her subject self as an object in the masculine order. Through the examples of Revolutionary Girl Utena and Puella Magi Madoka Magica, I argue that the hysterical subject, the dark and twisted shojo heroines, is self-reflective in understanding her subject as one among many represented objects in the world, acknowledging the fundamental misrecognition of the self autonomy. This form of self-reflectivity may show us a way in which female subjects speaks an alternative language with and for herself/itself, hysterically yet persistently inquiring into her/its relation with others as a challenge of the masculine order.”

There may, of course, have been some changes between the version she presented then, and the final published version, but hopefully, even the abstract gives a general idea of the questions the author is asking, and the direction she pursues.

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2 thoughts on “Spotlight on New Publications – The Hysterical Subject of Shojo

  1. It’s a shame that I haven’t seen anyone write a similar book about Haruhi Suzumiya, but I guess a female character that started out as a god instead of becoming a god-like figure in the story isn’t as interesting for scholars addressing women in anime. Oh well.

  2. Pingback: The 12 Heroines of Christmas ~ Utena | I Wish I Lived There

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