From our Toronto conference, here is the Graphic Fiction 1 Panel. In this podcast, you will hear discussions of Charles Burns’s Black Hole, Jeff Lemire’s, Essex County, and Ken Dahl’s Monsters.
Communicating vessels and discursive virulence in Black Hole, J. Ryan Marks
J. Ryan Marks is a University Graduate Fellow in the Masters program at the Pennsylvania State University.
Black Hole intentionally confuses conscious states and blurs the boundary between the mind and the body. The inscrutability of Charles Burns’s design can lead to readings that impose a psychoanalytical narrative based on a collection of symptoms. However, these signs reflect back on themselves. Instead, tracing surrealism’s influence on Burns in the writing of Black Hole—an approach suggested by textual allusions made to early surrealists such as proto-graphic novelist Max Ernst—allows for an examination of the comic’s psychological content that preserves the subjectivity of its teenage protagonists. By drawing out surrealism’s roots in studies of hysteria, we can look at how the Bug allegorizes bodily terror associated with teenage sexual desire.
Aging, Memory, and the Body in Jeff Lemire’s Essex County, Katie Mullins
Katie Mullins is a third-year PhD student at the University of Toronto in the department of English. Her research interests include feminist and gender theory, theories of the body, literary representations of memory and time, contemporary Canadian literature, animal studies, and the interaction between text and images. She has published scholarly articles on children’s literature, Canadian fiction, and Canadian graphic narrative.
This presentation explores the connections between ageing, memory, and the body in the second book of Jeff Lemire’s trilogy, Essex County. Lemire presents a model of remembering in which the protagonist confronts the ageing process by engaging with a variety of past experiences and temporalities to suggest the multiplicity of selfhood. Although Lou frequently experiences his ageing body as restrictive, disabling, and Other, the relationship between memory and the body that enables Lou to tell his story, or review his life, also helps him experience moments of engagement with his present embodied experience in the external world.
Ken Dahl’s Monsters, individual risk, and the crisis of embodiment, Matt Weber
Matt Weber earned his master’s degree from Penn State University in the spring of 2012, and will begin work toward his PhD this fall. In addition to his interest in contemporary biopolitics, his interests include modernism, contemporary fiction and narrative theory.
This paper examines Ken Dahl’s efforts in his book *Monsters* at depicting and unsettling dominant attitudes surrounding disease. Through his depiction of the infected body as a “monstrous” entity, Dahl harnesses the comics medium to level a critique of the modern individualization of risk, as famously termed by Ulrich Beck. In his graphic depiction of the shame and stigma surrounding venereal disease, Dahl throws into relief those biomedical logics that place total responsibility on the individual. Most saliently, his depiction of herpes virions as sentient beings encourages readers to practice what Catherine Belling has called “double seeing,” which works against moralizing notions of individual responsibility.