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Richardson, Sarah. "‘Perseveration on Detail’: Shame and confession in memoir comics." Cultural Excavation and Formal Expression in the Graphic Novel. Eds. Jonathan C. Evans and Thomas Giddens. At the Interface, Probing the Boundaries. Oxford: Inter-Disciplinary Pr. 2013. 149–58. 
Added by: joachim (6/16/17, 6:09 PM)   Last edited by: joachim (10/20/21, 11:19 AM)
Resource type: Book Chapter
Language: en: English
DOI: 10.1163/9781848881990_016
BibTeX citation key: Richardson2013
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Categories: General
Keywords: "Fun Home", "Maus", Autobiography, Bechdel. Alison, Gender, Holocaust, Spiegelman. Art, Trauma, USA
Creators: Evans, Giddens, Richardson
Publisher: Inter-Disciplinary Pr. (Oxford)
Collection: Cultural Excavation and Formal Expression in the Graphic Novel
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Comics have long been cast as a shameful, prurient medium; a low-brow, violent or saccharine, disposable guilty pleasure for children and adolescents. The association of comics with shame takes on a new dimension in a range of memoir comics. The works of Justin Green, Lynda Barry, Phoebe Gloeckner and Craig Thompson all deal with traumatic childhood experiences - particularly those where the forces of class, religion, and sexual abuse add the stigma of shame and guilt. Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home and Art Spiegelman’s Maus, auto/biographies of the authors and their fathers use comics to progress an ethic of full disclosure in the face of secret and hidden histories. These second-hand testimonial narratives use archival and documentary evidence to create counter (and in the case of Fun Home, queered) histories and ‘family albums.’ The strategy of confession is both an antidote to a history of secrets and silence, and a cause for further shame. Spiegelman and Bechdel both explore the betrayal that is involved in representing familial secrets, and the violence of writing another’s story on their behalf. Furthermore, although Fun Home seems to reach a cleaner resolution, the trauma of Spiegelman’s family history is little aided by the narration of Maus, as suggested by its final pages. Both Spiegelman and Bechdel critique their own motivations, and struggle with the potential impossibility of completely or authentically representing the past. This struggle is particularly acute when dealing with previously repressed and traumatic histories, here that of the Holocaust and queer life in a homophobic culture. I will draw on the work of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, J. M. Coetzee and Daniel Worden’s varying work on shame, confession and testimony to support this thesis.
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