Jordanna Conn is a third-year PhD candidate in Text & Image Studies in the School of Modern Languages & Cultures at the University of Glasgow. She did her undergraduate degree at Stockton University in New Jersey, with a major focus in history and a minor in creative writing. Her final thesis looked at the Captain America comic series and creator and readership influence on its social and cultural storylines. She did her MLitt at the University of Glasgow in the Medieval History department, analysing bodily female autonomy and religious response in the Jewish community of Fustat, Egypt of the 12th century. Her PhD looks to combine her interest in medieval history and comics by considering Jewishness, continuity and change, and traditions and themes in illustrated manuscripts and comic books.
Reinterpretation, Renewal, and Regeneration in Jewish Tradition: A Look at the Megillat Esther and Passover Haggadah through Graphic Novels
The process of regeneration is also a process of reinterpretation, turning over the old to experience the new. In Jewish tradition, old stories are continuously in the process of renewal and reanalysis, as various movements and communities present cultural and religious tales within the lens of their own understanding of the world and the actions of individuals and communities. This is done in a text-and-image context by regenerating the purely literary form of traditional festival texts, such as the Megillat Esther and the Passover Haggadah, by showing how the modern comic medium transforms the evolving methods of storytelling through two ancient, constant stories within a visual presentation. Furthermore, these stories represent a narrative regeneration that echoes the real-world experiences of Jewish communities. In the text-and-image medium, the recent J.T. Waldman’s Megillat Esther uses both Hebrew and English to connect the old story with the present, but also weaves in rabbinic interpretations throughout the ages to show the regenerative nature of the text. Similarly, Jordan Garfinkel and Erez Zadok’s Passover Haggadah Graphic Novel reminds the reader of persecutions both in the past, but also the renewal of the Jewish community. These graphic novels use dynamic art styles, shifting form and visuals in an echo of the way interpretations of the narrative shift throughout the ages. The aim of this paper is to show these graphic novels as examples of modern visual midrash, representing a blend of reinterpretation which shows a modern form of storytelling regenerating ancient narratives for the current reader.