“The pale trees shook, although no wind blew, and it seemed to Tristran that they shook in anger”: <br>“blind space” and ecofeminism in a post-colonial reading of Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess’s graphic novel Stardust (1998)
This article calls on two branches of third-wave feminist theory – ecofeminism and post-colonial feminism – to investigate human and nonhuman interrelations in Neil Gaiman’s young adult graphic novel, Stardust, illustrated by Charles Vess. Stardust follows Tristran Thorn on his journey into the land of Faerie in his attempt to capture and bring back a fallen star. Faerie is both a natural and exotic space and Tristran’s journey “to the East” transposes an Orientalist aesthetic onto its wild geography. Tristran, as would-be coloniser, views Faerie as a place of potentially inexhaustible natural resources. The star – as the imperialistic goal – is in fact a woman, which endows the wild space with further Oriental tropes, rendering it sensual, feminine and embodied. Tristran’s imperialistic impulse is thus associated with both a cultural impulse towards the domination of nature and a patriarchal impulse towards the oppression of women. Tristran’s increasing recognition of the star’s right to a fully realised selfhood sits uncomfortably with his initial imperialistic ambitions. As the novel progresses, the East becomes not, as it has been, a natural world ripe for colonial exploration and exploitation, but a place of positive intersubjective relations between humans and non-human nature. Initially both a real and illusory textual space resembling Edward Said’s “imaginative geography,” Faerie ultimately becomes a space to call “home,” in an overt critique of the nineteenth century boy’s adventure story with its implicit glorifi cation of empire. Thus, it is argued, Stardust’s ecofeminist counter-discourse calls for mutual equality in man’s relationship with both women and the environment, positing anthropocentric and androcentric thinking as in need of re-evaluation.
Keywords: Neil Gaiman; ecocriticism; ecofeminism; orientalism; imperialism; post-colonialism; nature; indigenous peoples; graphic novels
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