The Visual Representation of Gender in Illustrated Children’s Books in Iran and Sweden Today : A study of ‘The lover and Sanam’ and ‘That’s what a princess does’

University essay from Lunds universitet/Avdelningen för konsthistoria och visuella studier

Abstract: Since culture has been changing over the time in all of the societies, the notions of gender and sex-role stereotypes as two of the constitutive parts of culture have been altering as well; due to the development of contemporary movements such as feminism and gender-related discourses. Nevertheless, because of different social environments and different rituals and values the development pace and pattern of such changes do not follow the same rhythm and same character in all countries. Moreover, culture has always been depicted in sagas, fairytales, as well as visual arts, and recently on TV and other modern media. Thus, traces of the mentioned alternations can be found in them; as it is nowadays in the alternation of the way gender is depicted in advertisements for example. Thus, the question that the current thesis is looking for is that to what extent the visual representation of gender in the children’s books has been influenced by these global changes; or has there been any change that can be distinguished in this part of artistic-cultural products which is aimed for children at all or not? In addition, how the depiction of gender can be seen and tracked in them? This research argues about an examination of two children’s books namely The lover and Sanam (عاشق و صنم) written by Mohammad Reza Shams and illustrated by Ali Namvar published in Persian language in Iran 2003, and That’s what a princess does (Så gör prinsessor), written and illustrated by Per Gustavsson and published in Swedish in Sweden 2003, which both have slightly the same concept in the story, but are illustrated in two different cultural contexts, shows existence of gender-based stereotypes in these two examples of artistic-cultural productions of the mentioned cultures. This might also show that to what extent the development of feminist or similar cultural discourses as well as changes in the society, can potentially affect the artworks and in this case illustrations.

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