CFP: “Transmedia Storytelling: Questioning Canon in 21st-Century Popular Culture Narratives” (NeMLA 2017, Baltimore, Deadline 9/30/2016)

My colleague Mary Ellen Iatropoulos (co-editor of the recent volume Joss Whedon and Race) is organizing a session at the March 2017 meeting of the Northeast Modern Language Association in Baltimore, Maryland, focusing on questions of what is canon in comics, film, and television.

“Transmedia Storytelling: Questioning Canon in 21st-Century Popular Culture Narratives” considers how shifts between comics, film, and television affect authorship and interpretation of stories, around what is considered canon among readers and fans.

Examples abound in recent adaptations of comics for television and film, as well as continuations of films and television in comic book format. There is the continuation of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the debates as to whether these texts are considered official continuations of the story began on television, as well as continuations of Whedon’s Firefly/Serenity and Dollhouse, and comics-only prequels to Mad Max: Fury Road and the J. J. Abrams Star Trek films.

Related topics may consider how recent adaptations of United States comics for film and television alter what is considered canon in the original comics, as with DC and Marvel’s numerous adaptations, including SupergirlPreacher, Suicide Squad, and Jessica Jones. 

As well, in Japanese comics, there are considerable debates among fans–and academics–regarding the canonical status of anime that diverge sharply from their source material, before new adaptations emerged that were more faithful to the original text. Such was the case of the manga Fullmetal Alchemist, whose initial anime adaptation in 2003 diverging so much from the manga that a later adaptation, Brotherhood, was produced and considered by some to be more accurate.

Submissions may also consider the place of films that are based on entirely new content with limited involvement by the original mangaka, such as One Piece, or cinematic continuations that alter the original story substantially, such as the transition of Madoka Magica from television to film.

Abstracts and short bios are due September 30, 2016, at this direct link to NeMLA’s CFP List web site: https://www.cfplist.com/nemla/Home/S/16416

Please consider forwarding the following CFP to any colleagues who may be interested in this session. For more information, please email maryiatrop@gmail.com.

“Transmedia Storytelling: Questioning Canon in 21st-century Popular Culture Narratives”
Northeast Modern Language Association, Baltimore, Maryland, March 23-26, 2017
Deadline: September 30, 2016
https://www.cfplist.com/nemla/Home/S/16416
More information: Mary Ellen Iatropoulos, maryiatrop@gmail.com

Description: How does transmedia storytelling inform and influence contemporary understandings of the relationships between medium, auteur, canon, and fandom? When both fans and creators are “creating” meaning out of transmedia texts, what counts as canon – as the “real” character or story? By what criteria and to what critical end is such a judgment made, and to whom do we grant the right to make such judgments? This panel session seeks proposals that explore the often-vexed but equally-often fruitful relationships between readers, writers, auteurs and fans in the world of 21st-century popular culture narratives.

Abstract: How does transmedia storytelling inform and influence contemporary understandings of the relationship between medium, auteur, canon, and fandom? Although clearly successful in connecting with audiences hungry for more stories set in these universes, transmedia continuations of films, television shows, and comic books illustrate how the marketing of auteurism obscures as much as clarifies complexities in authorship, collaborative production, different reading styles demanded of audiences across different media, and the relative importance of dynamics between intention vs. reception and narrative continuity vs. formal dissimilarity. For example, the continuation of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in comic book format yielded mixed reactions, as some fans accept each issue as the next stage of Buffy’s story, while other fans discount the comics as outside of the Buffyverse canon. Participatory audiences, though they can destabilize canonical rigidity and auteur status in favor of playfully productive cultural work, in some ways still depend upon the textual organizing principle called an auteur, in order for them to be a community.

If an auteur is not the only factor defining canon, then the radically different modes of interaction and aesthetics on screen and on the page must be acknowledged. Much is different: production strategies, patterns of representation, theories of auteurism, reception, aesthetic techniques, storytelling tools, and the audience size for the comics as opposed to the film franchise and television series. Even if scholars and audiences decide to treat these texts as part of a single canon, that decision should be made in cultural conversations among audiences and scholars, not by the fiat of one entity, even if it is the author. Authors, audiences, and critics all contribute intellectual labor to canonicity debates, so all have the right to define the borders of important texts. When both fans and creators are “creating” meaning out of these transmedia texts, what counts as canon – as the “real” character or story? By what criteria and to what critical end is such a judgment made, and to whom do we grant the right to make such judgments?

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