White Rapids


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A short lecture on White Rapids by Pascal Blanchet

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White Rapids

  1. 1. An Introduction to White Rapids ENG 412 Dr. Kathleen Dunley
  2. 2. Challenges <ul><li>How can/should an author successfully convey the importance of a smaller “sense” of history? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The “sense of history” is a concept developed by historian by David Glassberg. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Implies a way of looking at the past that is “ at the core of who[we] are and the people and places [we] care about.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reflects the intersection of the intimate and the historical ; the way that past events of a personal and public nature are intertwined, so that public histories often forcefully, and surprisingly, hit home. </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. Okay… so… <ul><li>If a sense of history is… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Personal/localized </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Less “academic” in tone and scope </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>And is supposed to ignite passion… </li></ul></ul><ul><li>… Do we, as readers, “get it?” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>If so, Blanchet succeeds. If not, the work, on a “big picture level,” fails. </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Reading the text <ul><li>The story here unfolds itself… the images and scant text place reader in the driver’s seat. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>We can disregard pages and text w/o losing a sense of the work. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>We are expected to fill in gaps and imagine additional details </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>We are free to relate this to our own memories and experiences. </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Evoking the past <ul><li>Blanchet never lived in the town of Rapide Blanc. In a recent interview he made the following comments: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>I ’ ve heard about this story since I was a child ; my grandfather worked for the Shawinigan Water and Power Company during the 1950s and he had to go to Rapide Blanc many times a year. As a fisherman, my grandfather loved to go fishing there and was a friend of many of its residents. That place has always fascinated me… I first tried to gather the whole story of Rapide Blanc, which meant a lot of research because most of the houses and buildings were demolished. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=143502 </li></ul></ul></ul>
  6. 6. The research <ul><li>The town did exist, and its decline is documented on the web. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Run this site through google translator to get a more archival sense of the town: http://www.lerapideblanc.com . </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The following slides are actual images of Rapide Blanc </li></ul>
  7. 7. An early artistic rendering of the town.
  8. 8. Aerial photo of the town at its height
  9. 9. A recent aerial. Notice the houses in the upper right and the cleared land at the bottom.
  10. 10. The remaining houses are used for corporate retreats. Here, a former resident sits outside one of the homes. The other structures have been demolished.
  11. 11. The challenge… <ul><li>Blanchet constructs a history, but it’s a common one, even here in America. </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>In Arizona, there are hundreds of “boom towns” that now lie in ruin. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Playas, New Mexico-- a nearby former company town </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>This link leads to a pitch .pdf document that is &quot;selling&quot; the land to potential buyers. This pitch came out before Home land Security purchased the site. The images are pretty remarkable: http://www.emrtc.nmt.edu/pdf/Playas%20Overview.pdf . </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Also check out the “fabulous ruins of Detroit” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>http://detroityes.com/home.htm </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  12. 12. How does he get us to care? <ul><li>Current arguments (courtesy of my last 412 class): </li></ul><ul><ul><li>By not forcing the history on us and letting us engage with the images </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>By designing a book that is fun and complex when it needs to be complex </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>What do you think? A perfect discussion question… </li></ul></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Common visual vocabulary <ul><li>If we look into the history of commercial illustration, we can get a sense of where Blanchet draws his inspiration </li></ul><ul><li>This common vocabulary helps to make the text look and feel “old” while uniting it with more established schools of visual thought </li></ul>
  14. 14. Art Deco <ul><li>The angular lines and often whimsical style of Art Deco advertisements can be seen in various scenes, such as when the designer is shown working on his illustrations for the town. The design of the building lobby that opens the book also shows Art Deco influence. </li></ul>
  15. 16. Bauhaus <ul><li>The examples above show the German Bauhaus design style. Here, the limited color palette is a direct connection to Blanchet's style, while the creative use of fonts can be seen throughout the text. Further, we see reflections of the whimsical use/layout of words (the image on the left) and the angular design (on the right) reflected on various panels. </li></ul>
  16. 18. Modernism <ul><li>On the left is a more &quot;high brow&quot; style ad. Again, note the limited color palette, the angular designs, and the more whimsical illustration style used in the faces. On the left is a more &quot;low-brow&quot; ad for frozen dinners. The &quot;happy-go-lucky&quot; style of 1950's advertisements is present on many pages of White Rapids-- at least while things are going well in the town. </li></ul>
  17. 20. Constructivism <ul><li>Visible perhaps more than any of the above is the influence of Russian Constructivism, and especially the style's impact in advertisements and graphic design. Here, we see, once again, a limited color palette, angular lines, and often whimsical placement of images and text. Further, the lines of the image often displace and allow for viewing in various areas of the image. This technique is very clearly seen in the early boardroom scenes, as well as in later illustrations of the dam. </li></ul>
  18. 22. Regardless… <ul><li>Regardless of how one defines the style, it is clearly retro, and perhaps, at times, a little nostalgic. </li></ul><ul><li>For discussion, consider the style and the structure of the story. What works? What doesn’t? </li></ul><ul><li>Can a text like this function in the same historical sense as Maus? Why or why not? </li></ul>
  19. 23. Next steps <ul><li>NOT optional: Participate in the discussion. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Optional: If you’re keen on this work, check out more Blanchet at: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>http://www.pascalblanchet.ca/ </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>http://www.comicsreporter.com/index.php/briefings/eurocomics/5890/ </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Optional: Also check out this interview: http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=143502 </li></ul></ul></ul>