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The Myth of May 1968 in Bandes dessinées

Screech, MEJ (2017) The Myth of May 1968 in Bandes dessinées. Belphegor, 15 (2). ISSN 1499-7185

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Abstract

The Myth of May 1968 in bandes dessinées. Summary The events of May 1968 have entered the French national mythology in the form of a simplified and exemplary narrative: May is generally believed to have been a student-led uprising, whose transformative legacy was socio-cultural rather than political. Popular perceptions of May also contain strong elements of mythical fantasy as defined by the mythologist Geoffrey Kirk: all the rules governing normal actions, normal reasoning and normal relationships were suspended or distorted during May; consequently, as if by magic, anything suddenly became possible. Vast amounts have been written about May and about its mythological accompaniment. Studies have also been carried out into how May influenced French comic strips, notably by Aeschimann and Nicoby, as well as by Rolland. However, hardly anything has yet been said about the way the uprising itself is evoked in comic strips, despite their being a key aspect of French popular culture. This article fills a gap by studying comic strip representations of May. I draw on previous critical writings about May and about French comics, as well as on a range of strips, most of which have hitherto received little or no critical attention. The coming pages consider a historical reconstruction, a sociological study, a light-hearted comedy, a tale of the supernatural, and a CD booklet, as well as two graphic novels, two counter-factual dystopias, and various parodies. My purpose is to examine how these comics contribute to and/or contest the mythology that has grown up around May. We shall see that several artists construct myths about May, as well as exploiting the multiple possibilities mythical fantasy offers; other artists are more critical of May’s attendant mythology. However, all of the comic strips indicate that May has come to be remembered via a collective deformation of reality, which no longer corresponds to historical fact.

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