Submitter and Co-author information

Heather McCardell, University of WindsorFollow

Standing

Graduate (Masters)

Type of Proposal

Oral Research Presentation

Faculty

Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Faculty Sponsor

n/a

Abstract/Description of Original Work

This paper analyzes Rob Lloyd Jones’s picture book Beowulf, illustrated by Victor Tavares, and explores how the relationship between text and pictures creates gendered expectations and understanding of monstrosity and heroism by focusing on the characters of Beowulf (the male hero), Grendel (the male antagonist), and Grendel’s Mother (the female antagonist who lacks a hero equivalent). This paper examines this Beowulf re-telling under the lens of children’s literature critic Perry Nodelman’s theory of the relationship between text and pictures; described as collaborative and supportive, the text makes the pictures more assertive while the pictures extend the details of the text. Together, pictures and text create a more specific narrative and experience for readers than either is capable of alone. Nodelman notes how one of the main functions of pictures books is to provide readers, namely young children, with greater understanding of how the world around them works, and this working of things includes understanding of the human body. Using this theory, this paper examines the expectations of gendered bodily experience in this children’s picture book, demonstrating how masculinity exists along a flexible border that allows the hero and male antagonist to cross over from hero to monster and vice versa through the physical similarities between them; in contrast, femininity exists within strict confines as either powerful and dangerous monster that must be destroyed, or silent and passive props in the background. This particular pictorial re-telling of Beowulf defines the expectations of gendered bodies, with men participating in more flexible roles including king, hero, and monster, whereas women’s roles are not as fluid and confined to wife, waitress, or monster.

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Pictures and the Presentation of Gender in Rob Lloyd Jones’s Beowulf

This paper analyzes Rob Lloyd Jones’s picture book Beowulf, illustrated by Victor Tavares, and explores how the relationship between text and pictures creates gendered expectations and understanding of monstrosity and heroism by focusing on the characters of Beowulf (the male hero), Grendel (the male antagonist), and Grendel’s Mother (the female antagonist who lacks a hero equivalent). This paper examines this Beowulf re-telling under the lens of children’s literature critic Perry Nodelman’s theory of the relationship between text and pictures; described as collaborative and supportive, the text makes the pictures more assertive while the pictures extend the details of the text. Together, pictures and text create a more specific narrative and experience for readers than either is capable of alone. Nodelman notes how one of the main functions of pictures books is to provide readers, namely young children, with greater understanding of how the world around them works, and this working of things includes understanding of the human body. Using this theory, this paper examines the expectations of gendered bodily experience in this children’s picture book, demonstrating how masculinity exists along a flexible border that allows the hero and male antagonist to cross over from hero to monster and vice versa through the physical similarities between them; in contrast, femininity exists within strict confines as either powerful and dangerous monster that must be destroyed, or silent and passive props in the background. This particular pictorial re-telling of Beowulf defines the expectations of gendered bodies, with men participating in more flexible roles including king, hero, and monster, whereas women’s roles are not as fluid and confined to wife, waitress, or monster.