French literary theorists Dominique Viart and Bruno Vercier identify the beginning of a new era for French literature in the 1980s, characterized by hypotheses, hesitations, and the general notion that truth and reality cannot be fully grasped by discourse. The 1980s can be considered as transitional for the comics medium as well. Art Spiegelman's Maus (first published in 1980, completed in 1991) demonstrated that comics are not only capable of representing difficult familial and historical pasts, but that visual narratives benefit from formal and aesthetic devices that are inherent to the ninth art's polysemiotic possibilities. In this dissertation, I study francophone comics in which a second- or third-generation individual seeks to understand a familial past that exceeds his or her personal experience and that has previously been silenced or repressed, either individually (by the primary witness) or collectively (by the political hegemony). In the research corpus, the narrator's search elicits modal and temporal intersectional spaces: representation and anti-representation in Chapter One, the past and the present in Chapter Two, the collective and the individual in Chapter Three, and the interplay between memory, history, and imagination in the concluding Chapter Four. In addition to an interdisciplinary theoretical framework, Viart's notion of insavoir [not-knowing] and Pierre Nora's concept of "sites of memory" act as overarching theoretical tools throughout the essay.
The thematic organization of intersectional spaces fosters the identification of recurrent devices as the individual discussions reinforce and nuance one another sequentially and retroactively. Aware of the inherent limitations of representation and the notion of cognitive insavoir, the authors of the research corpus attempt to communicate meaning instead of presupposing understanding or the ability to "know" a traumatic, violent, and repressed past (and the capability to represent such a history through text and image). Such recurrences are symptomatic of an emerging sub-category within the medium, wherein the figure of the intersection is pertinent and productive precisely because these works operate in multi-directional insavoir. Like novels in the literary era identified by Viart and Vericer, the resulting representations oppose binary thought, opting instead for narratives that are self-critical, uncomfortable, thought-provoking, and ultimately, perhaps, more true.
|Commitee:||Lindner, Tamara, McKinney, Mark, Ouedraogo, Amadou|
|School:||University of Louisiana at Lafayette|
|School Location:||United States -- Louisiana|
|Source:||DAI-A 76/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Keywords:||Comics, Francophone, French literature, Graphic novels|
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