Working it through: Trauma and autobiography in Phoebe Gloeckner’s A Child’s Life and The Diary of a Teenage Girl

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Abstract

This article explores the relationship between autobiography, trauma, and comics in the work of Phoebe Gloeckner, and demonstrates through close readings how the visual and fragmented comics form can be mobilized both for therapeutic purposes and as a means to assert agency for a victim of trauma. Comics autobiography, crucially, externalize the self as a drawn visual representation on the page that is self-evidently other to the contractual author. This splitting of the subject into a narrating author and a narrated visual representation on the comics page is congenial to the representation of traumatic memories, which theorists have long recognized to be manifesting themselves as the intrusion of visual snapshots into normal consciousness. The comics form, further, functions as a kind of visual scriptotherapy, which allows the author to dissociate the traumatic memory onto the page and create a narrative from a series of disjointed memories. Readings of selected passages from Gloeckner’s two books A Child’s Life and The Diary of a Teenage Girl illustrate how her use of the comics form take advantage of its inherent ability to present traumatic memory and construct a literal eyewitness in the reader. Finally, the article argues that the form’s ability to establish narrative from fragmented, repetitious, and disjointed images allows Gloeckner to organize painful memories into a coherent sense of self, and in this way work through her trauma.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-142
JournalSouth Central Review
Volume32
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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