If you ever wanted something to back up the argument that academic studies of pop culture are simply ways to give people a way to intellectually justify the guilty pleasure of pop culture consumption while using a jargon-impregnated smokescreen to make obvious statements seem revelatory, this trio of presentations given as part of the Modern Language Association of America’s “Material History of Spider-Man (A 50th Anniversary Observance)” event might be just what you’re after.
Here’s a couple of quotes from the papers’ abstracts to whet your appetite, and some obligatory fish-in-a-barrel ripostes from yours truly:
Looking back to textual-visual practices in medieval Europe reveals both similarities and differences that help explain the trans-fictional, cross-media Spider-Man of today.
At last, a reason to study medieval Europe: explaining why Spider-Man looks different in the movies and the comics!
Considered within the frame of Foucault’s biopolitics, Peter Parker’s famous encounter with the irradiated spider leads not to his individual empowerment, but rather to the co-opting of his body (as he dons the red, white, and blue costume) for the purpose of policing the laws of the state.
At last, a reason to study Foucault: to reinterpret an eight-page 1960s superhero comic in terms of French social theory!
Drawing on Eco’s analyses of serial structure (1962, 1990) as well as current work on superheroes, I argue that the life of the famously adolescent Spider-Man continually reverts to a basic blueprint meant to insure the character’s long-term commercial exploitability.
Well, actually, that’s pretty bloody spot-on, to be honest.