Author(s): Hillary L. Chute
Some of the most acclaimed books of the twenty-first century are autobiographical comics by women. Aline Kominsky-Crumb is a pioneer of the autobiographical form, showing women's everyday lives, especially through the lens of the body. Phoebe Gloeckner places teenage sexuality at the center of her work, while Lynda Barry uses collage and the empty spaces between frames to capture the process of memory. Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis experiments with visual witness to frame her personal and historical narrative, and Alison Bechdel's Fun Home meticulously incorporates family documents by hand to re-present the author's past. These five cartoonists move the art of autobiography and graphic storytelling in new directions, particularly through the depiction of sex, gender, and lived experience. Hillary L. Chute explores their verbal and visual techniques, which have transformed autobiographical narrative and contemporary comics. Through the interplay of words and images, and the counterpoint of presence and absence, they express difficult, even traumatic stories while engaging with the workings of memory. Intertwining aesthetics and politics, these women both rewrite and redesign the parameters of acceptable discourse.
An exciting and theoretically sophisticated gender and genre study, the kind of book that interpellates its reader, defines its territory, and stakes its claims immediately. -- Bella Brodzki, Sarah Lawrence College Elegantly written and profusely documented, Chute's breakthrough Graphic Women is a remarkable and original book that relentlessly pursues verbal/visual details of graphic narrative. Through constant invention/intervention of powerful interpretive strategies, the volume reveals how gender, trauma, and autobiography are uniquely embodied in the fundamental material dimensions of the comic book form. It will become a new starting point for future comics studies. -- Donald Ault, founder and editor of ImageTexT: Interdisciplinary Comics Studies, University of Florida The strange alchemy of comics is inspiring new ways of thinking about gender, trauma, and life narrative. Graphic Women captures the state of the art in this rapidly growing field. -- Gillian Whitlock, author of Soft Weapons: Autobiography in Transit In the pages of her Graphic Women, Hillary L. Chute shows, in engaging, unflinching prose, the accomplishment of five key figures from a generation of women graphic novelists who have used this medium to record history, testify about the cross-currents of life and memory, and draw and write against silence about abuse, dislocation, and sexuality. We have today no more important or gifted writer on the graphic novel than Chute: read the book and you will be plunged headlong into the riveting world of comics today. -- Peter Galison, Harvard University If you are not yet convinced that comics is the avant-garde genre par excellence and that it has provided feminist writers with a prime medium for telling life narratives, then read this book. Read it also to learn a critical vocabulary with which to appreciate and discuss the layered sophistication of this hybrid form and to discover a powerful and diverse tradition of 'graphic women' whose haunting works are beautifully elucidated in this powerful book. -- Marianne Hirsch, Columbia University
Scholarly and fascinating. -- Colette Bancroft St. Petersburg Times 1/23/11 The graphic novel industry isn't a boys club. Time Out Chicago 5/4/11 Graphic Women is a text that will appeal to anyone with an interest in contemporary women's literature and trauma studies, as well as those with a budding or established interest in the rich world of comics studies. -- Tahneer Oksman Contemporary Women's Writing November 2011 An absorbing book written with dedication, impressive documentation, and a very sharp eye for detail. -- Mihaela Precup Biography Vol 34, No 3 ...an essential book for those who are interested in autobiography, visual studies and comics in general as it initiates a beginning in the study of women's graphic memoirs. -- Olga Michael Scadinavian Journal of Comic Art Vol 1, No 1
Hillary L. Chute is Neubauer Family Assistant Professor in the English Department at the University of Chicago. Previously a Junior Fellow in literature in the Society of Fellows at Harvard University, her work has appeared in PMLA, Modern Fiction Studies, Twentieth-Century Literature, and Women's Studies Quarterly, among others. She is associate editor of Art Spiegelman's MetaMaus and has written about comics and culture for venues including the Village Voice and the Believer.
PrefaceAcknowledgmentsIntroduction: Women Comics1. Scratching the Surface: "Ugly" Excess in Aline Kominsky-Crumb2. "For All the Girls When They Have Grown": Phoebe Gloeckner's Ambivalent Images3. Materializing Memory: Lynda Barry's One Hundred Demons4. Graphic Narrative as Witness: Marjane Satrapi and the Texture of Retracing5. Animating an Archive: Repetition and Regeneration in Alison Bechdel's Fun HomeNotesWorks CitedIndex