A ‘Stain on Silence’: The Registration of Trauma in the Comics Memoirs of Alison Bechdel and Art Spiegelman
The value of comics as a medium for serious literary expression, despite growing popularity and recognition, is still contested. Two of the most successful examples of the medium, Art Spiegelman’s Maus (1986 & 1992) and Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home (2006), use differing and similar strategies to narrate the transmission of trauma from parent to child. Maus records the testimony of Spiegelman’s survivor father’s experiences in hiding in Poland and in Auschwitz and Dachau, as well as the process of this testimony and the conflicted relationship between father and son. Fun Home’s traumatic history centres on Bechdel’s artistically ambitious father’s closeted affairs with teenage boys, and his overbearing influence on her own artistry and queer sexuality. This thesis tracks the narrative and graphic registration of trauma in these two memoirs, through their use of archival materials, consideration of the ethical problems of the representation of extremity and history, and treatment of narrative time.