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Elena Kurz

Graphic Novels - Paper Abstract



            I've been thinking about three different things in terms of subjects for my paper.  The first, and one that I'm leaning towards the most, is looking at memoir as graphic novels.  I would use both Fun Home and Persepolis but I would also look for at least one or two other examples of memoir as graphic novels.  I would look at how the authors use this different medium to express their own stories, how it can enhance or express differently the author's story versus a more traditional prose form.  I would focus especially on how the words and images interact with each other within the work.

            The next possibility is looking at feminine imagery within comics.  I'm not sure which comics I would use specifically but I would definitely use Black Hole, it is actually the novel that gave me the idea for this topic because of the pervasive and repeating image of a slit (we all know what this looks like).  I think I would have look at the rest of the novels for the semester and maybe find a couple outside of class readings in order to develop a more specific area or this topic to write about, but I would be looking to direct it towards depictions and uses of feminine imagery in a sexual manner.

            The final topic that I am thinking of doing is to look at the manner and uses of illustration within graphic novels.  I'm thinking of using Persepolisas one that I would use and then possibly some later ones.  I feel like the comics are illustrated, stylistically, the way they are because it's the only way that the author can draw.  How the character's look, how the settings look, how the color or shading or lack of either is used, all of these things are conscious decisions used to tell the story a certain way.  Even if the words were the same, if the images were stylistically illustrated differently then the story itself would be different and have new meaning (even if the actual things being drawn were exactly the same, the stylistic choices would change everything.)  This topic is one that I am really interested in doing (and I guess I could sort of marry it somehow to the notion of memoir) but I don't know how to focus it or slim it down or go about it, so if I can't figure that out then I'm going to go with the memoir idea I think.

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  1. Unknown User (bck1)

    I agree with you that your last topic is the most interesting one, as that is something that I have always struggled with as well. Especially considering Fun Home, whose creator Bechdel says on her website,

    I had a series of boring, awful office jobs after I got out of college in 1981 [...] One day I drew a picture in the margin of a deranged naked woman holding a coffee pot, and called it, "Marianne, dissatisfied with the breakfast brew. Dykes To Watch Out For, Plate no. 27." Then I drew some more deranged women doing different things, in hopes that one day I really would rack up twenty-seven of them. Then a friend suggested that I try to get one into the feminist newspaper where we volunteered, and my first one was published in June of 1983. Over the next couple of years I started doing multi-panel strips instead of single-panel drawings with a caption. And eventually I got some papers to actually pay me for them. Then more papers. Then in 1986 Firebrand Books published a collection, and continued publishing a book every couple of years. Then in 1990 I quit my day job.

    Sounds like a bonafide artist, doesn't it? I would especially be interested in your notion that a stylistic change in format would in return change the meaning of the story. Now, even though I'm planning on doing this in my paper, I think I have a research strategy that may help you in this section of your paper: ask our fellow classmates to borrow and copy their graphic narratives that we did for the first paper. This way, you have the same narrative being repeated using different stylistic tendencies from which you could draw some conclusions about what parts of the meaning are changed specifically. Also, you could tie this into your theory of artists only being able to draw what they can draw, etc.

    And as far as setting a bit of focus on this topic, you could choose to set your analysis within the context of a specific area of the graphic novel, for instance, villains, heroines, or fathers. This way, you would only need to focus your attention on the styles and techniques employed in the creation of specific characters. Good luck.

  2. Since you've phrased your abstract in terms of three potential topics, I'll adress them in sequence....

    1. If you're wanting to look at graphic novels as a medium for memoir/autobiography, then you'll have a lot to choose from -- in addition to the two you mention here, Maus has a complex memoir-within-a-memoir structure, and even C. Burns has said in interviews that Black Hole has a lot of elements from his days growing up in 1970s Pacific Northwest.  Beyond the ENGL 339 syllabus many other possibilities await when it comes to personal memoirsin graphic form.  In other words, you're going to need some additional focus -- beyond the merely graphic element -- to make your work easier.  If you liked Fun Home, I'm thinking that Craig Thompson's Blankets might be a good fit (although I'll confess to only having skimmed the work because I was too cheap to purchase it at the time!).

    2. Personally, I like your second topic best because it points a way toward other graphic novels -- Jimmy Corrigan and that novel's absent mothers comes to mind -- but also other discourses & writers not limited to the graphic narrative genre.  To get a sense of the many possibilities your project elicits, have a look at this website on the monstrous feminine.  I find Burns' work to be interesting because it's set during the 1970s, a time in which a lot of gender seems up for grabs.  There's definitely plenty of material for this second topic, much of it having to do with very ancient/mythological figurations of the Great Goddess, birth canals, caves, male terror, etc.

    3. This last topic looks like more of a general methodology you'd want to utilize regardless of the subject matter (for example, with your ideas #1 and #2).  If I'm missing something, let me know & we can talk!

  3. Unknown User (ajk10)

    Hey Elena,

     I apologize for hitting this midweek.  The first topic is one that I am also tempted towards, but I feel that it needs to be made more specific, dealing with one specific issue within the aesthetic of memoirs, perhaps focusing on that division between the narrative "I" and the central "I" and how the art informs that division in a way that straight text cannot offer.

    The second topic I believe is your strongest and I think the idea of a slit offers a real tool to plumb the depths of the development of comic art-this space bracketed by the outside world into whichahem-"things" disappear.  A reading into the use of the gutter as a sort of slit and how the comic world has offered a subversive and theoretically corrupting world might also offer a window into how we view the feminine entity.  I think it would be worth looking into fairy tales like Little Red Riding Hood, perhaps Angela Carter's  "The Bloody Chamber" would help in terms of informing and exposing the theory behind these fairy tales, and rewriting these myths of a tempting and corrupting feminine entity that exists in the slits of society (in Little Red Riding Hood's case out in the woods, away from the village).  Another book that might help you, but brushes more towards queer theory is Jeanette Winterson's "Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit".  Very interesting topic that you could wield as a number of different critical tools (no pun intended).