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Typical Girls

The Rhetoric of Womanhood in Comic Strips

Susan E. Kirtley

268 pp. 6 x 9
59 illustrations
Pub Date: May, 2021

Subjects: Comics Studies
Gender & Sexuality Studies
Literary Studies, American
American Studies
Rhetoric & Communication

Series: Studies in Comics and Cartoons

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In the years following 1975, a group of female-created comic strips came to national attention in a traditionally male-dominated medium. Typical Girls: The Rhetoric of Womanhood in Comic Strips uncovers the understudied and developing history of these strips, defining and exploring the ramifications of this expression of women’s roles at a time of great change in history and in comic art. This impressive, engaging, and timely study illustrates how these comics express the complexities of women’s experiences, especially as such experiences were shaped by shifting and often competing notions of womanhood and feminism. Including the comics of Lynn Johnston (For Better or For Worse), Cathy Guisewite (Cathy), Nicole Hollander (Sylvia), Lynda Barry (Ernie Pook’s Comeek), Barbara Brandon-Croft (Where I’m Coming From), Alison Bechdel (Dykes to Watch Out For), and Jan Eliot (Stone Soup), Typical Girls is an important history of the representation of womanhood and women’s rights in popular comic strips.

Susan E. Kirtley is Professor of English at Portland State University.



List of Illustrations

Introduction    The Women’s Liberation Movement in Comic Strips

Chapter 1        Crocodilites and Cathy: The Worst of Both Worlds

Chapter 2        Visualizing Motherhood in the Comic Frame: For Better or For Worse

Chapter 3        Punk Rock Girl: Constituting Community in Barry’s Girls and Boys

Chapter 4        Nicole Hollander’s Sylvia: Menippean Satire in the Mainstream

Chapter 5        “The Lesbian Rule” in Alison Bechdel’s Dykes to Watch Out For

Chapter 6        Establishing Community through Dis/Association in Barbara Brandon-Croft’s Where I’m Coming From

Chapter 7        Something from Nothing: The Inductive Argument of Stone Soup

Works Cited


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