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Kahn, Ariel: "Pursuing paradise. Jewish travel comics as feminist spiritual quests." In: Studies in Comics 7.2 (2016), S. 237–264.
|Resource type: Journal Article
BibTeX citation key: Kahn2016
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Keywords: Glidden. Sarah, Israel, Judentum, Libicki. Miriam, Reisebericht, Rottner. Racheli, USA, Zeffren. Ilana
Collection: Studies in Comics
Although much has been written about the impact of Jewish culture and identity on comics and graphic novels, to date, no culturally specific hermeneutic has been used to expand our understanding of the relationship between Jewish comics and the cultural matrix in which they are formed. The relationship between Kabbalah and Literary criticism has been explored by Bloom, Handelman, Wolffson and others. However, once again, it has never been applied to comics, despite the deeply visual nature of Kabbalistic imagery and symbolism. I will utilize the celebrated Kabbalistic ‘travel’ narrative of the Four Sages who enter the Pardes, the Orchard, or Paradise, which will serve as a paradigm for analysing the work of four female autobiographical comics artists. In the Rabbinic tradition, PaRDeS became an acronym for four layers or levels of interpretation – Peshat, the literal meaning of a text, Remez, its symbolic structure, Drash, its relationship to other texts, and Sod, its mystical meaning. Each of the four sages represents a model of a particular approach, and the fate they meet acts as a critique of the potential reductiveness of that approach, if used exclusive of the others. I explore the work of four female artists who mediate between personal and collective quests for meaning in their work, focalized through their own experiences. All of these artists were featured in the touring exhibition Graphic Details, curated by Sarah Lightman and Michael Kaminer. Sarah Glidden and Miriam Libicki visit Israel as outsiders, and write from Diasporic perspectives; Glidden struggles with received ideology on a Zionist Birthright tour, while Libicki seeks to embed herself in the army, and pass as ‘fully Israeli’. Sztokman argues that ‘the “Israel” that Diaspora Jews prefer to usher into their identities remains a powerfully and singularly male construct’. In addition to deconstructing this masculine construct from a Diasporic perspective, the inclusion of work by Israeli artists Racheli Rottner, and Illana Zeffren, reflecting on their relationship to the Diasporic vision of faith and identity, provides more nuanced and alternative models of cultural critique and religious dialogue from Israeli perspectives. I seek to initiate a mutually enriching dialogue between Kabbalah and comics, interweaving a feminist interpretation of the Kabbalistic story with a Kabbalistic reading of these feminist comics, which celebrate the power of Jewish narrative, symbolism and hermeneutics in subtle and surprising ways.
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