Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis



First Advisor

Jeanne Garane


According to Will Eisner, “comics communicate in a ‘language’ that relies on a visual experience common to both creator and audience. Modern readers can be expected to have an easy understanding of the image-word mix and the traditional deciphering of text. Comics can be ‘read’ in a wider sense than that term is commonly applied” (Eisner, 1). In this research, I examine Bakhtin’s theories of heteroglossia and polyphony within Joann Sfar’s Le Chat du Rabbin (2002-2006). By taking a closer look at ‘language’ in Le Chat du Rabbin, both textually and visually, I apply Bakhtin’s theories of heteroglossia and visual polyphony in order to analyze the role of the image-word mix that Eisner mentions above in Le Chat du Rabbin. In this research I plan to ‘read’ Le Chat du Rabbin using a similar approach to that of Will Eisner, attempting to use a wider and more analytical approach of the ‘language’ in the text. I will apply Bakhtin’s terms in order to explain how to better analyze a comic, or bande dessinée.

In the first chapter, I provide a brief historical overview of the bande dessinée. The French language equivalent of a comic, the bande dessinée is a popular literary choice for all ages in the Francophone world. In addition, I analyze what it means for a bande dessinée to be Jewish in content. Joann Sfar, having both Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jewish parents, is known for publishing works that address Judaism. In the last section of this chapter I address this theme by analyzing what makes a bande dessinée Jewish.

In the second chapter, I apply Bakhtin’s theory of heteroglossia to Le Chat du Rabbin. Analyzing textual elements such as the role of the narrator, the author and characters within the story, this chapter demonstrates how heteroglossia indeed plays a role in the bande dessinée medium. This disproves Bakhtin’s claim in his Discourse in the Novel (1941) that the novel is the best literary medium to use to represent heteroglossia.

The third chapter analyzes visual elements of the bande dessinée and how these illustrative components, similar to Bakhtin’s theory of polyphony, present different visual points of view. Eisner says, “In its most economical state, comics employ a series of repetitive images and recognizable symbols. When these are used again and again to convey similar ideas, they become a distinct language – a literary form, if you will” (Eisner, 1). It is through careful analysis of both text (heteroglossia) and images (visual polyphony) that this research analyzes how Bakhtin’s theories of heteroglossia and polyphony are equally identifiable in the bande dessinée medium as they are in the novel.

The fourth chapter analyzes examples of heteroglossia and polyphony in the animated film, Le Chat du Rabbin. In analyzing the film, this research will show how the text progressed into animation and includes new elements such as sounds, movement and other various elements.


© 2016, Brian Boomhower