Guest lecture on comics and the body

I am honored to be invited to talk at the next meeting of the Popular Culture Research Group at the School of English and American Studies at ELTE, Budapest (EASPop for short).

The talk will be in Hungarian, and it addresses my favourite topic, comics and the body. And behold the amazing poster that the group members have made for me based on a Winsor McCay page that I adore!

képregény és test easpop poszter

 

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“Postmortemistical” Look: The Memory of Things and the Traces of Personhood in Roz Chast and Ben Katchor — Abstract

Here is the abstract of the paper I’m going to present at the Ninth International Graphic Novel and Comics Conference, Retro! Time, Memory, Nostalgia, @Bournemouth University, UK, 27-29 June 2018
“Postmortemistical” Look: The Memory of Things and the Traces of Personhood in Roz Chast and Ben Katchor

The paper investigates the ways personal relationships and memories are organized around objects and things, and how these are rearranged once the object/thing is no longer possessed by a person (due to death in Chast’s memoir, and due to abandonment in Katchor’s strips). Objects are represented in both examined comics, that is, in Roz Chast’s memoir about her last years with her parents and their deaths, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? (Bloomsbury, 2014) and Ben Katchor’s collection of strips, Julius Knipl Real Estate Photographer: Stories (Little, Brown and Company 1996), as sites of a conflict between personal memory and an apersonal and atemporal existence.

In the paper I argue that in both Chast’s and Katchor’s comics, things and objects (cf. thing theory) exist in a limbo, and are used to investigate personality and personhood in scenarios of absence. Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? introduces the idea that objects, such as hairbrushes, bankbooks, photographs, and forgotten everyday objects play important and multiple roles in facing the frailty of memory, dementia and death. Things, for example old color pencils found in a drawer, represent both the past and the present, they simultaneously stand for deep personal connections and fond, and are accumulated junk the existence of which indicates future problems (can it be touched? can it be thrown away?). Likewise, Ben Katchor’s Julius Knipl Real Estate Photographer asks questions about the meaning of objects/things left behind: they exist simultaneously in a vacuum of interpretation and in the actuality of physical space. The things and objects are left behind, forgotten, stored, reserved, measured, bulked and sold, but most importantly, they are looked at and represented. The paper investigates the “postmortemistical” look (Chast) that frames these objects for the reader of the comics.

The paper utilizes questions raised by thing theory (Bill Brown and Jane Bennett), and it also builds on the materiality of living and the idea that even everyday and banal places preserve memory (reflecting on Pierre Nora’s concept). As far as methodology is concerned, I use close reading and compare recurring tropes.

knipl

 

Public lecture in Hungarian

I am going to give a public lecture tomorrow (4 Dec 2017) about the body and comics. It is partly based on my dissertation, but most of it is about my ongoing new project on the ways in which the body is involved in reading and interpreting comics. The lecture is aimed at the general public, and it will be in Hungarian. It is part three of a four-part lecture series at the Open Academy of Humanities, Budapest, given by members of the research group I am a founding member of (cf. Narratives of Culture and Identity Research Group.) Each talk is given by a different group member, and we focus on the body in space in as diverse media as computer games, distopic fiction, comics, narratology.

Here is the description of my talk in Hungarian:

III. 2017. december 4., hétfő 18.00 Képregényolvasás és testi referencia
Előad: Szép Eszter.
A képregényt nemcsak nézzük és olvassuk: az értelmezésbe az egész emberi test bevonódik. Az előadás olyan képregényeket vizsgál (főleg Katie Green, Miriam Katin és Joe Sacco műveit), amelyekben az alkotók reflektálnak a képregényolvasás taktilis és testi részére, és ráébresztik az olvasót, hogy mennyire nagy mértékben hagyatkozik testi tapasztalataira.
Helyszín, Pesti Bölcsész Akadémia, ELTE BTK, Múzeum krt. 4-6. Ifjúsági épület, III. em.

Exhibition Opening

Márton Hegedűs, author of what is called the first Hungarian graphic novel, will exhibit his work in his home town, Göd. (Göd is displayed as God in the English-speaking Internet, but that is just a coincidence. Residents of the place do not have any privileges in the afterlife.) I’ve known Márton for a year now, we took part and travelled to a comics conference in Cluj, Romania /Transylvania together. It was soooo much fun!
I love the humor of Márton’s illustration for children, and the complex ideas behind his comics for adults. So it is an honour that I can open this exhibition, though I’ve been warned that it will be a small one. But, seriously, who cares? 🙂

Here are some of Márton’s works:

A Series of Encyclopedia for Children called Ablak Zsiráf, which hints that the entirety of knowledge between letter A and letter Z are covered in the books. Literally, ablak means window, and zsiráf means giraffe, so the two protagonists of the series and returning characters of the illustrations are a window and a giraffe. They are really funny! They try everything out, they make fun of everything, and they are curious.

figura-ablak-suly figura-zsirafablakAZS_Jarmuvek_borito.indd

Illustration for Hungarian magazines >>> here is a link to Márton’s homepage for a lot of images: http://www.martonhegedus.com/illustrations

Comics: well, I can clearly identify with this one, as they are drinking coffee all the time 🙂 🙂

slussz01fent

slussz kulcs klan.indd

Extra: Animation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLFddpLrUug

 

The Ethical Stakes of Style: Crosshatching and Testimony in Joe Sacco’s Comics. Abstract.

Documenting Trauma: Comics and the Politics of Memory
A Symposium hosted by the TORCH Network

University of Oxford, 22.06.2017

Joe Sacco’s reportage has often been studied in ethical frameworks, as his comics have shed light on both the background of journalistic work and on the creation of narratives in the comics form. Sacco’s comics contribute to human rights discourse and the narratives have played important parts in revealing the complexities of armed conflicts for a Western public.

In my paper I read Sacco’s comics on the Bosnian War and study the connection between style and ethical engagement in the narratives. I explore the capability of drawing style to express engagement and compassion with the pain and vulnerability of the Other, and argue that Sacco has a compulsive relationship to drawing, which supersedes his often mentioned meticulous attention to detail. I show that the role of crosshatched backgrounds in Safe Area Goražde (2000) and The Fixer: A Story from Sarajevo (2003) create a different temporality for both the artist and the reader, the temporality of dwelling (Diprose). I show that the heavily crosshatched haptic surfaces foreground the labour of the artist, and represent his embodied presence in the work. The haptic surfaces are just as important in panel compositions as the figures giving testimony, and are expressive of an intensive, laborious and time consuming engagement with both the materials used for drawing and, more importantly, with the traumatized person who is being drawn. In the close readings of certain panels and page structures I also rely on Norman Bryson’s theory of the logic of the gaze, as well as on Laura U. Marks’ now classic investigation of haptic visuality, and ultimately show that style, and not only the choice of topic or the nature of narratives, can be representative of ethical issues.

 

Literature

Bryson, Norman. Vision and Painting: The Logic of The Gaze. Macmillan, 1983.

Diprose, Rosalyn. “Corporeal Interdependence. From Vulnerability to Dwelling in Ethical Community.” SubStance, vol. 42, no. 3, 2013, pp. 185-204.

Marks, Laura U. The Skin of the Film: Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment, and the Senses. Duke University Press, 2000.

Abstract – Presence and Disappearance: The surface of the page and narrating sexual abuse in the works of Debbie Drechsler and Katie Green

I’ll be talking at a panel at the 7th International Comics and Medicine Conference in Dundee in a couple of days (link). The topic of this year’s conf is “Stages and Pages”, and here is my abstract:

 

Presence and Disappearance  – The surface of the page and narrating sexual abuse in the works of Debbie Drechsler and Katie Green

The paper focuses on autobiographically motivated graphic narratives, namely Debbie Drechsler’s Daddy’s Girl (1996) and Summer of Love (2002) and Katie Green’s Lighter than My Shadow (2013), and examines representations of the violated female body in relation to the surface of the page. Both authors use the expressive power of background, and build on the emotional potential of patterns against which the body is performed. Furthermore, both Drechsler and Green utilize the notions of presence and absence their visual representations of deeply traumatized heroines.

Drechsler deconstructs the idea of form and background in her tragic and disturbing stories about incest: she often visually disguises her female protagonists by making them blend in with backgrounds. Simultaneously, her work features backgrounds of dark rhythmic patterns, minute strokes, curves as a canvas on which the character’s emotions and moods can be represented. Green uses a system of visual markers of anorexia, anxiety and guilt – such as the gaping mouth or the black cloud of scribble – not only to indicate the emotional state of her protagonist, but on a different level also to structure the pages and the connect layout with content.

In the works of both Drechsler and Green, emotionally motivated visual markers eventually influence the very structures of the narratives, and in Green’s case, the very format of the published work. The very body of this heavy, more than 500-page long book that promises lightness in its title can be interpreted as a metaphor for the body – think, for instance, about its scrapbook-like design and the disintegration of the protagonist’s body

Apart from form and pattern, absence will also be studied: Green’s sequence of black (142-145) and white (384-386, 388) pages will be interpreted as performative gestures and performative spaces where the anorexic body is present by its disappearance.

 

IMG_9872

Absztrakt – Képi testet öltés és önreprezentáció önéletrajzi képregényekben

Oravecz Gergely Blosszájáról fogok beszélni Kolozsváron. Arról, hogy a vonal nem csak esztétikai tényező, de a narratívában is komoly szerepe van. Sok példával.

A konferencia neve: Tendenciák a kortárs magyar képregényben és képregénykutatásban, időpontja: május 6–7.

vonal

Képi testet öltés és önreprezentáció önéletrajzi képregényekben

Az előadás Oravecz Gergely Blossza c. stripsorozatában vizsgálja az alkotó önreprezentációs stratégiáit és azt, hogy ezek árnyalásához az alkotó kézjegyét és testi lenyomatát viselő vonal hogyan járul hozzá.

Elsősorban a rajzolás folyamatára és annak talán legkisebb egységére (ha létezik ilyen), a vonalra fókuszálok. A vonal Jared Gardner megfogalmazásában nyom (trace), mégpedig a rajzoló kezének közvetlen lenyomata (54). A kéz („the hand”) fogalma egyaránt jelenti az aktuálisan megrajzolt panelt vagy oldalt, illetve az alkotó felismerhető stílusát. A vonal és a kéz fogalma egyrészt a rajzolás átéltségére, hitelességére, másrészt az alkotás fizikai, testi aspektutásara utal. A véget nem érő folyamatot, amiben az identitást számtalan önarckép sorozataként hozza létre az alkotó, Elisabeth El Refaie képi testet öltésnek [pictorial embodiment] nevezi (51).

Egy olyan értelmezési keretben igyekszem tehát Oravecz Blosszáját értelmezni, mely a képregényt – tömeges és nyomdai előállítása mellett – az oralitáshoz közelíti, és a vonal (és stílus) társadalmi és kulturális kódoltsága mellett is annak performatív, átélt, és expresszív jellegét hangsúlyozza (graphic enunciation). Így válik az önéletrajzi ihletettségű képregény az autentikusság fix értelmezésétől lemondva is auratikus műfajjá (Chute 112).

képregényén

Hivatkozott irodalom:

Baetens, Jan. —. “Revealing Traces: A New Theory of Graphic Enunciation.” The Language of Comics. Word and Image. Ed. Varnum, Robin and  Christina T. Gibbons. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2001: 145-155.

Chute, Hillary. “Comics Form and Narrating Lives.” Profession 2011: 107-117.

El Refaie, Elisabeth. Autobiographical Comics: Life Writing in Pictures. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2012.

Gardner, Jared. “Storylines.” Substance 40.1. 2011: 53-69.