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Drawing from Life

Memory and Subjectivity in Comic Art

Jane Tolmie

Publication Year: 2013

Autobiography has seen enormous expansions and challenges over the past decades. One of these expansions has been in comics, and it is an expansion that pushes back against any postmodern notion of the death of the author/subject, while also demanding new approaches from critics.

Drawing from Life: Memory and Subjectivity in Comic Art is a collection of essays about autobiography, semiautobiography, fictionalized autobiography, memory, and self-narration in sequential art, or comics. Contributors come from a range of academic backgrounds including English, American studies, comparative literature, gender studies, art history, and cultural studies. The book engages with well-known figures such as Art Spiegelman, Marjane Satrapi, and Alison Bechdel; with cult-status figures such as Martin Vaughn James; and with lesser-known works by artists such as Frédéric Boilet.

Negotiations between artist/writer/body and drawn/written/text raise questions of how comics construct identity, and are read and perceived, requiring a critical turn towards theorizing the comics' viewer. At stake in comic memoir and semi-autobiography is embodiment. Remembering a scene with the intent of rendering it in sequential art requires nonlinear thinking and engagement with physicality. Who was in the room and where? What was worn? Who spoke first? What images dominated the encounter? Did anybody smile? Man or mouse? Unhinged from the summary paragraph, the comics artist must confront the fact of the flesh, or the corporeal world, and they do so with fascinating results.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi

Cover

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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Introduction: If a Body Meet a Body

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pp. vii-xxiii

What is at stake in comic memoir and semi-autobiography is embodiment. Remembering a scene with the intent of rendering it in sequential art requires nonlinear thinking and engagement with physicality. Who was in the room and where? What was worn? Who spoke first? What...

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Allusive Confessions: The Literary Lives of Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home

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pp. 3-25

With its rich and intertwined narratives of a family’s history, a father’s closeted sexuality, and an artist’s coming of age and coming out, Alison Bechdel’s 2006 graphic memoir Fun Home has quickly emerged as an essential text in the vanguard of contemporary graphic narrative. As scholars incorporate...

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What Is an Experience?: Selves and Texts in the Comic Autobiographies of Alison Bechdel and Lynda Barry

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pp. 26-43

If, as is likely, all autobiographies can be read as containing (implicitly or explicitly) a theory of autobiography, we might well read Alison Bechdel’s comic autobiography Fun Home as locating itself at the constructivist end of the spectrum, along a continuum extending from autobiography...

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Animal Subjects of the Graphic Novel

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pp. 44-66

Just what is it about comics that summons the human in bestial form? From George Herriman’s Krazy Kat to Art Spiegelman’s Maus, from the animal-human preoccupations of superheroes like Spider-Man and Batman to webcomics variations on the “funny animal” genre in Kean Soo’s Jellaby...

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Uncaging and Reframing Martin Vaughn-James’s The Cage

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pp. 67-85

Objectivity, Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison argue, is inextricably linked to our ideas, our practices, our history of subjectivity. This claim does not only hold for science but also for (popular) culture, and it also goes the other way round: subjectivity in culture cannot be thought of...

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Comics as Non-Sequential Art: Chris Ware’s Joseph Cornell

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pp. 86-111

One of the elements of Chris Ware’s artistic biography most frequently attested to is his affinity for the work of Joseph Cornell, but it is also one of the least analyzed. The scholarly archive is nearly silent on the topic, the massed media deeply and unreflectingly reiterative. Dozens of websites...

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Yukiko’s Spinach and the Nouvelle Manga Aesthetic

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pp. 112-143

First scene: a cinematic sequence of “shots,” twenty-one narrow vertical panels spaced evenly over seven pages, fading in from black and out to white. Amid the play of electric lights blazing in the dark, fragments of numbers and letters appear, lit and neon signs giving just enough information...

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Memory, Signal, and Noise in the Collaborations of Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean

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pp. 144-162

Neil Gaiman is best known for his novels and for writing The Sandman, one of the foundational titles of the DC Comics Vertigo imprint. The novels and The Sandman, along with a number of Gaiman’s other works, occupy a recognizable genre, somewhere between fantasy literature and...

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The Graphic Memoir in a State of Exception: Transformations of the Personal in Art Spiegelman’s In the Shadow of No Towers

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pp. 163-184

This essay explores the graphic memoir In the Shadow of No Towers by Art Spiegelman as an example of autobiographical recording in graphic form of the very public national tragedy of 9/11. Unlike Spiegelman’s previous foray in deploying the graphic memoir form for the memorializing of...

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History, Memory, and Trauma: Confronting Dominant Interpretations of 9/11 in Alissa Torres’s American Widow and Art Spiegelman’s In the Shadow of No Towers

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pp. 185-206

Nearly three thousand people died in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, with countless others directly and indirectly affected by the disaster. Yet despite a multiplicity of stories, experiences, and perspectives on the attacks, a limited series of images...

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You Must Look at the Personal Clutter: Diaristic Indulgence, Female Adolescence, and Feminist Autobiography

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pp. 207-240

In 1975, pioneering feminist artist Carolee Schneemann performed what would eventually become one of art history’s landmark works. Titled “Interior Scroll,” the piece began when the fully clothed Schneemann entered the room, disrobed, and wrapped herself in a white sheet. She...

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A Female Prophet?: Authority and Inheritance in Marjane Satrapi

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pp. 241-263

Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis is a book about rebellions, both the largescale rebellion of the uprising against the Shah and the personal rebellions of teenagers listening to rock music. But the formal rebellions of the book—whether performed by the Islamic Revolution, punk children, or...

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Showing the Voice of the Body: Brian Fies’s Mom’s Cancer, the Graphic Illness Memoir, and the Narrative of Hope

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pp. 264-287

The cover illustration of Brian Fies’s graphic memoir Mom’s Cancer shows a person with a bald head.1 Only a few stray lines suggest wisps of hair. The person, who is wearing pink and white striped pajamas, is leaning forward, more out of weariness than anticipation: she, or he, cannot hold the...

Contributors

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pp. 289-292

Index

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pp. 293-300


E-ISBN-13: 9781617039058
Print-ISBN-13: 9781621039907

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2013

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Biography as a literary form.
  • Autobiography -- Authorship.
  • Comic books, strips, etc. -- Technique.
  • Comic books, strips, etc. -- Authorship.
  • Cartooning -- Technique.
  • Memory in literature.
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