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Graphic Wales: Exploring identity, landscape and language in Carol Swain’s Gast

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The graphic novels of Carol Swain frequently take rural Wales as their setting. Her most recent publication in 2014, Gast, continues her preoccupation with an isolated Welsh community. It explores aspects of liminality and fluidity, of blurred boundaries, both in terms of identity and of language. This article discusses the ways in which Swain represents and intertwines the landscape and language of Wales in order to demonstrate the child protagonist’s absorption into rural life. This article will consist of three parts. First, it introduces the work of Carol Swain and provides a brief summary of Gast that will help to contextualize some of my analysis. It will then discuss Swain’s mix of the Welsh and English language, and how language is used both to establish identities and confuse them. Gast is a graphic novel of intense silences, but when words are spoken they have an almost poetic weight to them, and this section will discuss the importance of conversations in the story. Finally, this article looks to the landscape of Gast to demonstrate how the isolation of the community is reflected in the sprawling countryside, but also how the protagonist comes to explore and understand the sparseness of her surroundings. By comparing Gast to the canon of Welsh writing in English, such as Brenda Chamberlain’s Tide-Race ([1962] 2007) and Cynan Jones’ The Long Dry in 2006, and to the recent S4C/BBC Wales drama, Hinterland (2013), this article aims to situate Swain’s text alongside the fiction that reflects a realistic image of the Welsh identity.

Keywords: Llanfyllin; Welsh; agriculture; childhood; community; rural

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Aberystwyth University

Publication date: July 1, 2019

More about this publication?
  • Studies in Comics aims to describe the nature of comics, to identify the medium as a distinct art form, and to address the medium's formal properties. The emerging field of comics studies is a model for interdisciplinary research and in this spirit this journal welcomes all approaches. This journal is international in scope and provides an inclusive space in which researchers from all backgrounds can present new thinking on comics to a global audience. The journal will promote the close analysis of the comics page/text using a variety of methodologies. Its specific goal, however, is to expand the relationship between comics and theory and to articulate a "theory of comics". The journal also includes reviews of new comics, criticism, and exhibitions, and a dedicated online space for cutting-edge and emergent creative work.

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