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Customer Review

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't over-simplify or over-complexify women's writing, feminism, experimental literature, or comics!, January 4, 2012
This review is from: Graphic Women: Life Narrative and Contemporary Comics (Gender and Culture Series) (Paperback)
Graphic Women is ingeniously curatorial, focusing on the art of five autobiographical cartoonists: Aline Komisky-Crumb, Phoebe Gloekner, Lynda Barry, Marjane Satrapi, and Allison Bechdel. These artists' works all focus on experiences of violent, often sexual and usually gender-based trauma. Through their comics, Chute investigates the relationships between contemporary cross-genre aesthetics, memory, trauma, and the pleasures and dangers of being a woman artist. Their stories all reenact violent memories, but the characters are by no means reduced to messy-confessional meat puppets animated by hulking wound-puppeteers. In fact, the very fact that the book exists shows that the protagonist lived to tell the tale - and to render it with her own hands. The fact of author embodiment is always implicit in autobiographical graphic narratives, and all aspects of the visual style of these comics remind the reader that the work is crafted by the hand of the story's visually present protagonist. The work has been drawn for an audience, not for the artist herself. The artist may, in fact, depict herself speaking directly to the reader. This trick, combined with the fact that readers determine pacing and closure (because of the gutter and the closure required from text/image juxtaposition), is possible only in comics.

Chute describes comics artists' formal and thematic interactions as theoretically sophisticated, experimental, and accessible; an exhilarating achievement:

"[C]omics is a powerful form precisely because it is also invested in accessibility, in print. Comics works can deliberately disrupt the surface texture of their own pages--often invoking aesthetic practices of the historical avant-garde--yet they model a post-avant-garde praxis in the very fact of their popular availability, in the "mass appeal" of the medium . . . It is because comics is both a sophisticated and experimental form, and because it has a popular history, that the current work in the field feels so hopeful and invigorating. (11)"

The fact that Chute mentions "accessibility" and "experimental form," in the same breath and not as mutually exclusive concepts is a huge reason Graphic Women is such an innovative, important contribution to the growing field of comics studies.
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Location: San Diego, CA United States

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