Drawing from Life: Memory and Subjectivity in Comic Art
With its rich and intertwined narratives of a family's history, a father's closeted sexuality, and an artist's coming of age and coming out, Alison Bechdel's 2006 graphic memoir Fun Home has quickly emerged as an essential text in the vanguard of contemporary graphic narrative. As scholars incorporate such comics into literary anthologies and course syllabi, this inclusion prompts as-yet-unrealized considerations of the ways in which comics do and do not alter the literary and art historical canons they have begun to enter. Bechdel's work thus proves to be a compelling test case for an integrative approach to the intersections of comics, art history, and literature. Fun Home also explicitly theorizes this process by drawing upon, citing from, and transforming genres as seemingly diverse as the coming-out memoir, the Künstlerroman, and the graphic novel. In doing so, however, Bechdel's myriad literary allusions perform a degree of the same self-censorship encountered in earlier twentieth-century queer forms of cultural and artistic expression, complicating the confessional frame within which her comics are conventionally appreciated. This singular conflation of the allusion and confession in Fun Home shields the memoir's revelations from forms of full disclosure while shaping Bechdel's role as craftsman of her own narrative. Fun Home thus negotiates its place in literary and art historical canons in a manner exemplified by queer artists and writers before Bechdel, representing an extension of those earlier strategies as much as a departure for lesbian graphic narrative.
Ball, David M. "Allusive Confessions: The Literary Lives of Alison Bechdel's Fun Home." In Drawing from Life: Memory and Subjectivity in Comic Art, edited by Jane Tolmie, 3-25. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2013.