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Dara Aber-Ferri


I want to explore the use of the graphic novel as a medium for memoir and autobiographies.  I am particularly drawn to this subject because my whole life right now seems to be revolving around the memoir.  I am in Non Fiction II and I just finished the first non fiction course as well as Modern Memoirs.  I find that memoirs can be the most interesting and expressive forms of writing.  And now I have broken into yet another aspect of autobiography, the graphic novel memoir.

I am intrigued by this aspect of non fiction and I want to read some more novels beyond Persepolis and Fun House.  I will try to read Deogratiasand/or Alan's War before I write my essay so that I have more information to work with and more stylistic variety.  I also found an article from Time that discusses the new directions of this genre.

I would also like to explore the more visual aspects of memoir.  In writing non fiction, it is the authors job to stay in the realm of truth while shaping it into a creative form.  But with the inclusion of images, how much visual truth mus the author show the reader?  Is it ok for the author to then draw the people as cartoon animals, or does that make it a lie and thus fiction?  I also think it is interesting that some of these new graphic non fiction novels are not illustrated by the author, like Alan's War, some are collaborations.  I wonder again if this is crossing over the non fiction line.

Time Article:,9565,542579,00.html

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  1. I'm noticing that three of the four works you mention involve life during wartime -- whether officially declared or not.  At least if you're an American, sometimes comics are the only way to get direct witness from the people involved, since network media rarely cover that.  Still autobiographical but one step closer to war reportage is Joe Sacco's Palestine, and I'm sure there must be others as well.  Why do you think so many have been published?  Why do people read about such (frequently) horrifying events?  At least in terms of their publishability, they all owe something to Spiegelman's Maus -- is that on your radar, as well?  In what ways does the comic of witness owe something to Shoah survivor stories?  Then again, maybe this particular focus upon war isn't what you're looking for....It would be helpful to find a way to narrow your scope, though....

    I really like your desire to discuss images alongside our conceptions of autobiography/memoir.  My recollection is that most current print autobiographies almost have to include one or two sections of photographs in the book -- to help readers visualize the narrator? some other reason? --and so a thoroughly graphic memoir is an interesting thing to consider.  Did your modern memoir course include any works beginning to theorized the genre?  That could help you to talk about the various works in relation to each other.  Looking forward to seeing what comes next....

  2. Unknown User (era6)

    My first comment must be that your topic needs some narrowing, but you raise several interesting points that are worthy of exploration. Also, as Professor Cooper has already said, Maus is certainly out there for your paper as well. I don't know of many graphic novel memoirs, though-- just the ones we have for class actually seem to represent a pretty interesting sampling.

    In terms of actually narrowing your scope, it might help to think of questions you want to answer through your research. Since you brought up Alan's War, you might want to ask how much of the author is in a graphic memoir vs. a written memoir, or what is lost in collaboration? What does a graphic memoir produced entirely by the author give us that a written memoir cannot? Even more general- what does the visual impact of a graphic novel do for a memoir? Fun Home, especially, explores situations that are incredibly personal, and the effect of such a personal story seems amplified when we get a visual accompaniment.

    Good luck!

  3. Unknown User (ala8)

    Well the past two comments cover a lot and are very in depth, so I will do my best to say something worthwhile or at least helpful! Since you mentioned taking creative non fiction and the modern memoir class you could try and think about how you would create your own graphic memoir. In other words think about how you would like to portray yourself through both the words and the images. How would you draw yourself? What kind of style would you use? Etc. I just think that a more self reflected portion of the essay could be really interesting since you seem to have experience in writing about some of you own life.

    Another aspect that can help enrich your essay could be researching the various authors and what inspired them to document their lives in not only a autobiographical form but in a graphic novel form as well. I know there are a lot of interesting articles about Persepolis that discuss how/why she created her novel and how it is important in relation to her religion and country. Also I remember someone in class mentioning that the author of Fun Home would take pictures of herself and use those as a reference for the panels that showed her father. Perhaps you could find something interesting about that.

    So I hope my comments were somewhat helpful or perhaps they helped you to think about more directions you could take your paper in. Good luck and see you in class!