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June 26, 2013

SFC Professors Pen Two New Books for Summer Reading

Professors Examine Comic Book Crime & World War I Memorials

The scholarly research of two St. Francis professors can now be found in two new books that go on sale this summer.

Cover - Comic Book Crime cover - sculpting doughboys

Fine Arts Professor Jennifer Wingate’s book, Sculpting Doughboys: Memory, Gender, and Taste in America’s World War I Memorials (Ashgate), examines the unique position memorials of WWI soldiers hold in the social, cultural and artistic history of the United States. “Several of the sculptures I write about are right here in Brooklyn,” said Professor Wingate. “Some have been forgotten or destroyed over the years, but some are still the focus of neighborhood ceremonies and remembrances.”

Sociology and Criminal Justice Professor Nickie Phillips, with Staci Strobl (Professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice), wrote Comic Book Crime: Truth, Justice, and the American Way (NYUPress), a look at how comic books reflect and provoke feelings on crime and punishment in modern day society.

“We noticed that comic books have long been bypassed as a legitimate avenue for criminological inquiry,” said Professor Phillips. “It’s our hope to show how stories in comic books frequently explore ideas of authority and power post-9/11 as well as how cultural notions of retributive justice resonate in the books.”

Dr. Phillips says that while Comic Book Crime offers serious academic arguments that can be a foundation for future research, the book can also be enjoyed by comic book fans (many of whom were interviewed for the book) as well as casual readers.

“From causes of crime and victimization to race, gender, and sexual orientation, we seek to reveal how mainstream comic books envision heroes and villains and the significance of those portrayals to fans,” added Professor Phillips. “We hope fans appreciate our attempt to validate the act of reading the books as an avenue for experiencing and expressing sentiments about threats to the social order and public safety.”

World War I memorials of Doughboys, which refer to the nickname given to WWI soldiers, attracted Professor Wingate’s interest because they were mostly the product of grassroots efforts. “I collected a lot of stories about the community groups that raised money for them, the sculptors who tried to get jobs making public monuments, and the veterans and families of veterans who interacted with them once they were dedicated,” said Dr. Wingate who adds that these memorials are different from other war memorials in one key way. “WWI soldier memorials are sculptures that people actually see and interact with on a regular basis.

As new war memorials continue to be dedicated, Professor Wingate says it’s important to learn about how the meanings of the ones we already have evolved over time. “I hope people will come away with an appreciation of the complexity of public sculpture and war memorials in particular, and perhaps even reconsider and question their role in American culture today.”

From the Publishers

Sculpting Doughboy
Redressing the neglect of World War I memorials in art history scholarship and memory studies, Sculpting Doughboys considers the hundreds of sculptures of American soldiers that dominated the nation’s sculptural commemorative landscape after World War I. To better understand these 'doughboys', the name given to both members of the American Expeditionary Forces and the memorials erected in their image, this volume also considers their sculptural alternatives, including depictions of motherhood, nude male allegories, and expressions of anti-militarism. It addresses why doughboy sculptures came to occupy such a significant presence in interwar commemoration, even though art critics objected to their unrefined realism, by considering the social upheavals of the Red Scare, America’s burgeoning consumer and popular culture, and the ambitions and idiosyncrasies of artists and communities across the country. In doing so, this study also highlights the social and cultural tensions of the period as debates grew over art’s changing role in society and as more women and immigrant sculptors vied for a place and a voice in America’s public sphere. Finally, Sculpting Doughboys addresses the fate of these memorials nearly a century after they were dedicated and poses questions for reframing our relationship with war memorials today.

Comic Book Crime
Superman, Batman, Daredevil, and Wonder Woman are iconic cultural figures that embody values of order, fairness, justice, and retribution. Comic Book Crime digs deep into these and other celebrated characters, providing a comprehensive understanding of crime and justice in contemporary American comic books. This is a world where justice is delivered, where heroes save ordinary citizens from certain doom, where evil is easily identified and thwarted by powers far greater than mere mortals could possess. Nickie Phillips and Staci Strobl explore these representations and show that comic books, as a historically important American cultural medium, participate in both reflecting and shaping an American ideological identity that is often focused on ideas of the apocalypse, utopia, retribution, and nationalism.

Through an analysis of approximately 200 comic books sold from 2002 to 2010, as well as several years of immersion in comic book fan culture, Phillips and Strobl reveal the kinds of themes and plots popular comics feature in a post-9/11 context. They discuss heroes' calculations of "deathworthiness," or who should be killed in meting out justice, and how these judgments have as much to do with the hero's character as they do with the actions of the villains. This fascinating volume also analyzes how class, race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation are used to construct difference for both the heroes and the villains in ways that are both conservative and progressive. Engaging, sharp, and insightful, Comic Book Crime is a fresh take on the very meaning of truth, justice, and the American way.

St. Francis College, founded in 1859 by the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn, is located in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y. Since its founding, the College has pursued its Franciscan mission to provide an affordable, high-quality education to students from New York City’s five boroughs and beyond.


St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street, Brooklyn Heights, NY 11201

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