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Modernism's Graphic Women

In her book Graphic Women: Life Narrative and Contemporary Comics, Hillary L. Chute argues that graphic narratives by women are invested in an “ethics of testimony” and assume the “risk of representation.” According to Chute, writers like Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Phoebe Gloeckner, Lynda Barry, Marjane Satrapi, and Alison Bechdel “revisit” and “repicture” life narratives not as a form of catharsis or didacticism but rather as “textual” and “material” testimonies thereby provoking us “to think about how women, as both looking and looked-at subjects are situated in particular times, spaces, and histories.” In addition, says Chute, they ask us to “rethink the dominant tropes of unspeakability, invisibility, and inaudibility that have tended to characterize trauma theory as well as our current censorship-driven culture in general."

Long before Chute’s contemporary graphic women began “complexly visualizing” their lives and experiences, Modernist women like Djuna Barnes (i.e. Ladies Almanack; Ryder; The Book of Repulsive Women), Stevie Smith (i.e. Collected Poems; Me Again: Illustrated by Herself), Leonora Carrington (i.e. The Hearing Trumpet) The Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven (i.e. Body Sweats: The Uncensored Writings of…), Claude Cahun (i.e. Disavowals), and others had already written graphic narratives, thus themselves bravely and audaciously taking on the “risk of representation.”

This panel seeks to examine the work of Modernism’s graphic women and will consider, but not be limited to, questions like the following: How are modernist women employing the graphic (broadly understood) in their work and to what end? How might we define the relationship between life narrative and the graphic (again considered broadly) in these women’s texts? Do these women’s graphic narratives, like those considered by Chute, also speak to dominant tropes associated with trauma and the theory thereof? Or, on a less serious note, are they relying on a comic interface between text and image that could be said to reconfigure scenes of domesticity and/or more conservative notions of gender, sexuality, and female subjectivity? How might graphic texts by these Modernist women offer up an earlier form of what Chute refers to as “feminist graphic knowledge”? How do these texts define and articulate such knowledge and in what contexts? How do graphic texts by these women offer a new spin on the personal is political? What kind of visual intervention in their own historical, political, and cultural moments do these women’s graphic narratives offer? And finally, borrowing on Rita Felski’s notion of a “neo-phenomenology” as laid out in the Introduction to her book Uses of Literature (2008), how does the interface between text and image in Modernism's graphic women’s texts offer a “thick description of experiential states” that induce moments of recognition in us as readers but also shock, enchant, and engage our sensibilities to the extent we are taken to what Felski, in more recent work, refers to as “the limits of critique”?

Please send a 250 to 300 word proposal with short bio to Kimberly Engdahl Coates (kimbec@bgsu.edu) by April 3, 2018.




Conference Location: Columbus, United States
Conference Starts: November 08, 2018
Conference Ends: November 11, 2018

CFP Submission Deadline: April 03, 2018

For more information, contact: Kimberly Engdahl Coates

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