Saturday, May 05, 2007

Winsor McCay

We decided this morning to shift some sessions around at the IASD conference in Sonoma in June and I won't do the paper on Dead of Night, etc. after all, though it's still the basic idea for a chapter in a book, and I might do it in Lincoln UK in September. Instead we're moving my Winsor McCay talk into that session. I don't think I posted my proposal for it here:

Winsor McCay: An American Artist in Slumberland

Winsor McCay (1867-1934) created not one but two of the most influential of all instances of dream art: Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend and Little Nemo in Slumberland, which ran concurrently in American newspapers from approximately 1903 to 1914. Their astonishing and often radically anti-authoritarian celebration of the bizarre and grotesque, barely masking violent and sexual material beneath the surface, reflects the same cultural concerns we see in the contemporary rise of psychoanalysis and rapid growth of cinema as a popular art form. In this presentation, participants will analyze and discuss selected McCay strips to isolate the key stylistic features and psychological concerns characteristic of McCay’s cartoons and thus of his distinctive stance as an under-recognized American artist. For this purpose, we’ll focus on Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend: each strip economically represents a single nightmare, so a dominant metaphor, anxiety, or theme may be identified in each one. On the basis of our analysis of these two influential strips, we’ll consider McCay’s early contributions to the American animated cartoon tradition, arguing one significant thesis: the comic cartoon tradition built on inspiration from McCay’s early work in taking mutability as its defining convention and metamorphosis as its outstanding trope. Although mutability of image seems an inherently available feature of animated drawing, the realist tradition rejected it, while cartoonists like Max Fleischer (Betty Boop) and Chuck Jones (Bugs Bunny) took up the example of McCay’s authentic dream aesthetic.

So what I'll work on in St. Mary's while teaching the class May 14-June 1 is the chapter I have to do for the book on dreams and education, the McCay talk, which I'll supplement with work at the LoC when I get back, and randomly revising old poems.

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