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Beautiful Theology

Signifying truth in more than words alone

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Fun Home Advance Discussion

Very much to say about Fun Home, particularly right after having read Understanding Comics. With more time, I’d parse Fun Home for McCloud’s categories with regard to the pyramid of abstraction, the kinds of transitions, the six “steps” of conceptualization and execution — but maybe some of that will come out in class discussion and web comments.

Some points that strike me as particularly pertinent to our course: First, although Bechdel’s narratorial voice dominates the book, I have a difficult time imagining the work as unadorned prose. The comics format intensifies the memoir in a way that pure prose would have a hard time equalling. Bechdel doesn’t have to remind us how rarely her father smiled; we see his stony expression in frame after frame. Likewise the frames powerfully show us resonances between Alison and her father, and the extended quotations — reproducing by hand the appearance of the printed pages — signifies very differently than just quotation marks on a page, or a block quotation. Bechdel uses comics optimally to heightter her literary and graphical gestures; I admire it more, the more I examine it.

Second: Any comments on Bechdel’s use of color?

Third: (Special for our purposes): In a narrative dominated by questions of life and death, of integrity and deception, in which “church” plays a recurring role, what do we as theologians have to say about the extent to which church functions solely as a backdrop? I’m not asking anyone to fantasize about “what I would have said to Bruce” or “young Alison” — but Fun Home shows us what we look like to a particularly apt, alert observer. And we’re invisible.

Fourth: Fun Home challenges us to confront the whole matter of identity and truth-telling, not just with reference to Bruce’s life and death, but with the ways Bechdel illustrates the memoir. She adopts a highly realistic style, incorporates maps and typeset pages, frequently labels incidental objects so as to emphasize their “real” significance, all with the effect of cueing us to read the comic as a very direct representation of what happened. But she also warns us that even when writing in her journal she resorts to ellipsis and even misrepresentation; why would she not deceive her readers? How does a communicator evince trust from an audience, and what happens when trust-building becomes a technique?

Fifth: I would have to check carefully before I made a strong claim about this, but I don’t remember seeing Alison Bechdel as an example in any of Scott McCloud's three books.

More if I think of it.


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