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1 Introduction A period of intense social upheaval and technological innovation, the last thirty to forty years of the twentieth century were notable for the vibrant and fractious struggles of ethnic and racial minorities, women, and the underclass overall. The era gave rise to second- and third-­ wave feminisms, ethnic studies programs, antiwar movements, the multicultural wars, postcolonial voices, and radical transdisciplinary experimentation in literature and art. Historical recovery projects, ethnic and feminist manifestos, and an unapologetic politicized (re)interpretation of inherited modes and media sprung up. Part of the postmodern era, this was a period in which scholars claimed that history was over, at least for Europeans; a diminished present, the only reality; unmediated representation, impossible; and identity, a fiction. Writers and artists contended with the question of how to do creative work if there was no history or agreed upon cultural context, only the shattered remnants of a broken world with no possibility of representation and no self to represent it. A growing body of artistic production by women and ethnic minorities exposed the myth of universality as a Western notion that disregarded non-­ Western epistemologies and experiences. Individual identity was itself deconstructed: the notion of an autonomous, unchanging, singular self was determined to be a sociohistorical construction. Scholars , artists, and activists redefined identity as relational, fluid, and multiple . But even as certain sectors of the academic world were declaring the death of the subject or making claims about post-­ identity, publication of autobiographies and memoirs in the United States burgeoned. The self was very much alive and now, more than ever before, clamoring to be seen and heard in previously unfathomable modes.1 By the 1970s, American culture, previously described as a melting pot, began to be acknowledged as a stew.2 Rather than an undifferentiated union, then, the United States was seen as a collection of variables in proximity. Relatively unheard voices and unseen images of women and underrepresented minorities proliferated in literature and art, often in hybrid autobiographies composed of image and text. Although visual and literary studies have historically been considered separate disciplines,3 over the past fifty years disciplinary borders and medium-­ specific art practices have become increasingly permeable . Scholars, writers, and artists are more likely than ever to work across disciplines and media. In this book I use approaches from literary and visual studies to examine hybrid forms of autobiography that Introduction 2 blur established disciplinary boundaries. Although pictures have been used to communicate since cave paintings and images and texts have been together since at least the sumptuously illustrated Book of Kells,4 this is a new category of autobiographical expression that I call variously visual autobiography (a term British photographer Jo Spence used to refer to her work as early as 1979), “intermedia autobiography,” “interart autobiography,” “intersectional autobiography,” “transmedia autobiography ,” “hybrid autobiography,” or simply “autobiography in image and text.” In a 1964 essay, writer-­artist-composer-­publisher and cofounder of Fluxus (an international experimental art movement of the 1960s and 1970s) Dick Higgins introduced the term “intermedia”—artwork that “seems to fall between media” (Horizons 18), a practice-­ form he praised (rather naively) as arising because “we are approaching the dawn of a classless society, to which separation into rigid categories is absolutely irrelevant” (18). In 1984, Higgins revised his comments. Borrowing the term “intermedia” from the 1812 writings of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Higgins defined intermedia as “works which fall conceptually between media that are already known” (23). Distinguishing mixed media from intermedia, Higgins explained that mixed media “covers works executed in more than one medium, such as oil color and gouache” (24). Intermedia are works in which “the visual element . . . is fused conceptually with the words” (24). He described the “tendency for intermedia to become media with familiarity” (26). Once an intermedia becomes recognized as its own form, then, it ceases to be intermedia. The illustrated memoir, the graphic memoir, and perhaps now even the artists’ book are examples of this historical process of recognition of new artistic forms. Higgins’s point, then, is that the condition of intermediality is temporary. The visual autobiographies I discuss in this book are at various stages. Each of these terms emphasizes a set of relations between the visual and the verbal. I will use them interchangeably throughout. A necessarily capacious category, visual autobiography encompasses a wide range of self-­representations—glimpses into a moment of a life or self—and self-­ narrations—stories of a life or self developing over time. Like...


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