Lynda Takes the Line for A Walk — Abstract for the Transitions 8 Conference

Lynda Takes the Line for A Walk: Attitudes and Philosophies of Drawing in Lynda Barry’s Comics

Transitions 8, 10 November, Birkbeck, University of London (detailed program)

Lynda Barry’s What It Is (2008), Picture This (2009), and Syllabus (2014) are not simply educational or self-help books on making comics, they reveal Barry’s theory about drawing and about creation. In my presentation I examine what Barry’s explanatory texts, creative exercises, and autobiographical comics inserts reveal about her philosophy of drawing.

In her exercises designed for either students or readers to engage in making drawings, Barry emphasizes the importance of bodily engagement in thinking and in creation. This idea appears in comics scholarship as well, but, unlike scholars, Barry thinks of the line as a trace of one’s personality. This way Barry engages in an ongoing discourse on the authenticity/conventional nature of the line in comics. Authenticity in non-fiction storytelling has become possibly the most overinvestigated term in the study of comics autobiography and journalism, but the relationship between the line and the drawer and the line and the story has not been studied that much.

While approaching Barry’s work, I reach back to theories of drawing by Jan Baetens, Hillary Chute, Jared Gardner, Simon Grennan, Philippe Marion, Nick Sousanis, and parallel theories in contemporary approaches to drawing in contemporary art, namely by Karen Kurczynski, Elizabeth A. Pegram, Katherine Stout. Philip Rawson’s Drawing and Laura U. Marks’ recent article “I Feel Like an Abstract Line” have shaped my understanding of the line and provide the starting point of my analysis of Barry’s work.s

As the title of the presentation hints, I believe Barry’s idea of drawing a line is closely related to that of Paul Klee. I will show that, similarly to Klee, Barry considers the line as a partner of the drawer. I also offer close readings of some of the drawing exercises Barry designed for her students and for the reader, and these pages will serve as prompts to illustrate the already mentioned theories on the nature of the drawn line.

barry what it is 157


“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.



Edited collection has been published

I am really happy to share this piece of news with you:

“Turning the Page – Gendered Identities in Contemporary Literary and Visual Cultures” has been published. It is based on a 2-day international conference for young researchers held in 2014 at ELTE Budapest. My friend Kata Gyuris and I organized this conference, and the newly published book has been edited by Kata, Dóra Vecsernyés and me.

We have papers on soap operas and gender under Communism, ghost writers of female jazz autobiographies, motherhood in Bulgarian theatre, Italo Calvino and Jeannette Winterson, female space in contemporary African novels, crossdressing, reality tv, and many other topics!

Many thanks for Bence Bodó for the layout design, Gergely Oravecz for the cover, and for Judit Friedrich, who is the series editor.

Behold the beautiful cover and the inspiring table of contents, and you can download the full PDF for free via this link:

turning the page covertable of contents

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.


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).


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.