ACLAR: Melancholy, loneliness and shame


And… here is the abstract by my colleague Wendy and I that has been accepted for the ACLAR conference (info here:

Melancholy, loneliness and shame as constructed in Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault’s graphic novel Jane, the fox & me.

(Angela Thomas and Wendy Wilson)

This paper uses feminist post-structuralist theory to explore how emotions of melancholy, loneliness, and shame are constructed in Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault’s graphic novel Jane, the fox & me. Gender, subjectivity, embodiment, control and the paradox of self-production/destruction are the strands that are clearly interwoven in the everyday discourses and discursive practices in which the emotions of the protagonist Hélène are constituted.

The paper will draw upon Foucault’s theory of subjectivity (1972) to theorise how Hélène is positioned within complex social discourses related to bullying and peer relationships within the school narrative. It will show how the taunting experienced by Hélène leads to practices of self-silencing (Ussher, 2011), body regulation (McNay, 1992), and the desire for invisibility (Malson, 1998). Psychoanalytic insights into desire, fantasy and anxiety (Lacan, 1958) will also be taken up to understand how Jane, the fox & me reflects contemporary feminine investments in certain subject positions and practices, such as body shaming, body image distortion (BID) and eating disorders (Malson, 1998).

The effect of these discursive practices as inscribed on (McNay, 1992) and resisted by (Foucault, 1979; Ussher, 1997) Hélène, as articulated through both written word and visual image, will be examined. In doing so, particular moments within the narrative which shed insight into the manifestation of melancholy, loneliness, and shame will be selected and analysed closely using critical multimodal discourse analysis (Halliday & Matthiesson 2004; Martin & White, 2008; Kress & van Leeuwen, 2006; Painter, 2008; Painter, Martin & Unsworth, 2013).


  • Foucault, M. (1972) The Archeology of Knowledge and the Discourse on Language (trans. A.Sheridan). Pantheon Books: New York.
  • Foucault, M. (1979). The history of sexuality, Vol. 1, An introduction. (1990 Edition). London: Penguin Books.
  • Halliday, M.A.K. & Matthiessen, C.M.I.M. (2004). Introduction to functional grammar 3rd ed. London: Arnold.
  • Kress, G., & van Leeuwen, T. (2006). Reading images: the grammar of visual design. 2nd ed. Routledge: London.
  • Lacan, J. (1958). The directive of the treatment and the principle of its power. Ecrits: a selection (trans. A.Sheridan, 1992 edition), pp. 226–280. Routledge: London.
  • Malson, H. (1998). The thin woman: Feminism, post-structuralism and the social psychology of Anorexia Nervosa. London: Routledge.
  • Martin, J. R., & White, P. (2005). The language of evaluation: Appraisal in English. London/New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • McNay, L. (1992) Foucault and Feminism: power, gender and the self. Polity Press: Oxford.
  • Painter, C. (2008). The role of colour in children’s picture books: choices in AMBIENCE. In Unsworth, L. (Ed.) New literacies and the English curriculum. London: Continuum.
  • Painter, C., Martin, J. R. & Unsworth, L. (2013). Reading visual narratives: Image analysis of children’s picture books. Sheffield: Equinox Publishing Ltd.
  • Ussher, J. M. (1997). Fantasies of femininity: Reframing the boundaries of sex. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
  • Ussher, J. M. (2011). The madness of women. East Sussex: Routledge.

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