Graphic Women: Comics, Autobiography, and Mapping Memory
April 14 - April 15, 2011
Lynda Barry and Alison Bechdel have created two of the most significant autobiographies of the 21st-century—in comics form. Graphic Women will focus on how two of the most important living cartoonists have presented aspects of their lives in both words and images, for comics autobiographies have changed the field of contemporary narrative. How are lives mapped out in words and images? How does drawing, in addition to writing, capture memory? How do images express the past? Bechdel has said, “I always felt like there was something inherently autobiographical about cartooning,” while Barry has remarked, “I always think of images as lowering the drawbridge where stuff can cross over—memory.” What does this innovative form of comics bring to the presentation of private and public histories?
Graphic Women: Life Narrative and Contemporary Comics
A lecture by Hillary Chute, Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of English, University of Chicago on comics and memoir including analysis of Lynda Barry’s and Alison Bechdel’s work.
Mapping Memory: Readings by Lynda Barry and Alison Bechdel
Readings by Lynda Barry and Alison Bechdel, followed by conversation moderated by Hillary Chute.
Lynda has worked as a painter, cartoonist, writer, illustrator, playwright, editor, commentator and teacher and found they are very much alike. She is the inimitable creator behind Ernie Pook's Comeek, featuring the incomparable Marlys and Freddy, as well as the books One! Hundred! Demons!, The! Greatest! of! Marlys!, Cruddy: An Illustrated Novel, Naked Ladies! Naked Ladies! Naked Ladies!, The Good Times are Killing Me, which was adapted as an off-Broadway musical and won the Washington State Governor's Award. Her bestselling and acclaimed book, What It Is, won the Eisner Award for Best Reality Based Graphic Novel and R.R. Donnelly Award for highest literary achievement by a Wisconsin author. Its sequel, Picture This: The Near-Sighted Monkey Book was published last fall.
Since its inception in 1983, Alison Bechdel’s comic strip Dykes To Watch Out For has become a countercultural institution. The strip is syndicated in dozens of newspapers, translated into several languages and collected in a series of award-winning books. Comics Journal says, “Bechdel’s art distills the pleasures of Friends and The Nation; we recognize our world in it, with its sorrows and ironies.” In 2006, Houghton Mifflin published her graphic memoir, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. The bestselling coming-of-age tale has been called a “mesmerizing feat of familial resurrection” and a “rare, prime example of why graphic novels have taken over the conversation about American literature.” Time magazine named Fun Home number one of its "10 Best Books of the Year." Fun Home was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award in the memoir/autobiography category. It also won the 2007 Eisner Award for Best Reality-Based Work.
Hillary Chute is the Neubaeuer Family Assistant Professor of English at the University of Chicago and at the forefront of scholarship on graphic narrative and its relationship to more traditionally text-based literature. She is particularly interested in the connections between word and image, fiction and nonfiction that can be found in contemporary comics, a field with roots in the 1970s but also connected to deeper histories of drawn reportage and visual witnessing. Her book Graphic Women: Life Narrative and Contemporary Comics examines the graphic narrative work of five authors, including Alison Bechdel and Marjane Satrapi, arguing that the medium of comics has opened up new spaces for nonfiction narrative—particularly for expressing certain kinds of stories typically relegated to the realm of the private. Chute is associate editor of Art Spiegelman's MetaMaus and has written about comics and culture for venues including The Village Voice and the Believer.