Twitter is a popular social media site that allows users to send quick tweets of 140 characters about how they are feeling. Now, twitter is being used in many different ways. Its vast and frequently updating databases are put to use to study epidemiology, social trends, movements, etc. Twitter provided an avenue for people to easily obtain vary kinds of data. As more and more celebrities, politicians, CEOs jump on the this platform, Twitter becomes more and more relevant to the discussion of demateriality.

Some of the unique positions that Twitter has when it comes to dematerializing the material world comes from the idea of providing the world with a massive stream of short messages that, once put together, formulates a story. Since users are able to follow any of these stories that interest them, it seems that Twitter is not only a site that dematerializes instances of events, rather, Twitter has the ability to dematerialize its user’s whole world. Users now are able to find out what is happening around them, to the people they care about, to the event that they are about, without even having to leave their beds.

While Twitter certainly have an effect on how we are viewing the world and it’s materiality, I think it is in a unique position to affect much more than that. I wonder, then, what is the potential of this product? While it is very much an anti-thesis to an archive, could it have archival value?

While we’re discussing Fun Home, I feel like it’s also important to remember the medium: the graphic novel, which itself sprang from the comic book.

Comic books have long dealt with issues of identity and marginalization. Spider-Man, considered by many to be Marvel’s flagship superhero, specifically dealt with the issues of being a teenage outcast. The mutants of the X-Men began as an allegory for the civil rights movement, and now draw parallels to feminism and LGBT+ rights. And even now, comic books continue to portray relevant issues of identity.

In the most recent run of Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan, a Pakistani-American teenager in Jersey City, discovers she has shapeshifting powers. Having gained these powers, she feels compelled to use them. But beyond simple conflicts of good and evil, she finds herself torn in other ways. She is forced to hide her activities from her protective parents. She struggles to find space for her faith and her attempts to live a normal life as an American teenager.  She encapsulates the experience of the child of immigrants, while still delivering a classic comic book story.

I believe this goes to show the versatility of medium when it comes to storytelling, and also allows space for different interpretations of the usage of the medium. As Fun Home demonstrates, the graphic novel medium is not just for action heroes and adventure stories. It can tell real, relevant, human experiences in a more accessible way than a text only document.

Ms. Marvel Preview

 

In Fun House, Alison Bechdel deals with her and her father’s evolving gender identity and sexuality, as well as the consequences of being defined by simple binary definitions imposed by society. The graphic novel is autobiographical, but imagine for a moment the material out of context, simply as a graphic novel. At this more base material level, it is a parable of the pitfalls of sexuality, and we can see the power of such texts to inform society at large about these issues. Fantasy and science fiction writer Ursula K LeGuin, in an interview with Electric Literature about the way literature acts as a mirror on the back of our head, reflecting perspectives we may have not noticed.

http://io9.com/when-writers-remake-gender-they-create-a-better-mirror-1618400140

She primarily discusses the ability for literature, especially science fiction, to explore cognitive estrangement, separating reality and re combining it, especially in the context of gender.

But by making up worlds and peoples, I can recombine and play with what we have and are, can ask what if it were like thisinstead of like this—What if nobody had a fixed gender, as on the planet Gethen?

In the concrete way that Fun House indexes a real moment of shifting sexuality, there are many more ways that gender can be explored through the medium of print.

Fun House is an excellent graphic novel of Alison Rechdel’s life that portrays the emotions she felt in her earlier life dealing with her father’s death, her sexuality, and her responses with life’s’ obstacles. I believe this form of materiality  is most effective in a comic narrative , because it allows the author to draw expressively her emotions and how she wants the reader to view the entire picture. When doing some research about the novel , I found out they will be writing a production to premiere on Broadway in April 2015. Do you believe with the concepts of materiality we have been discussing in class about the physical touch and the emotions sustained in printed text, specifically those captured in Fun House can be re-captivated in a Broadway production?..

Link to Article, talking about the problems of expression from going to Stage to Page. I know this is the reverse of the problem I am asking about , but I feel the problems could be similar.

http://www.theguardian.com/stage/theatreblog/2011/dec/12/plays-graphic-novels-robert-lepage

The article talks about Robert Lepage who went from writing a screen play of his creation, The Blue Dragon, to completely transforming it into a graphic novel. The Author of the blog, Kelly Nestruck highlights a good point ” While I’m usually content to pick up a play’s text when I can’t see a production on stage, reading plays for pleasure can be a frustratingly incomplete experience. Plays aren’t, after all, written to be read. Do you believe you can capture all the imagery, Alison Rechdel displays in the comic accurately portrayed in a play? Do you believe that recreating the comic in a play loses the materiality of the content ? If so, how?

06. October 2014 · 4 comments · Categories: 2.1

The concept of death plays a pivotal role in Fun Home as Alison’s family business was running a funeral home. From the end of chapter one we hear about her father death and Alison’s odd feelings following his passing. Odd in the sense that she felt very little grief and cried only for two minutes. When she met her brother John after hearing the news they “greeted each other with ghastly, uncontrollable grins”(Bechdel 46). Part of Alison’s unorthodox reaction to her father’s death stemmed from the desensitization of death from constant exposure at a young age. Her grandma’s house was both a domicile and the area of operations for the funeral services. While the adults tried to keep the children away from most of the death, Alison and her siblings developed a fascination with the subject. The kids’ favorite story to hear from their grandmother was about their father as a child almost dying after being swallowed by mud and drying off in a cook-stove. This seemed very peculiar to me as my favorite stories as a child were about knights slaying dragons and how death is sad unless it happens to evil people or creatures. The Bechdel children however, were enthralled by the tale of how they almost ceased to be. Another run in with death Alison had was seeing a corpse being attended to by her father. My question to my classmates is, why did the Bechdel siblings grin upon meeting following their father’s death? Also why did Alison’s dad want an obelisk, a symbol of life, to be his headstone?

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=35082

I am a huge fan of memoirs, and I think the comic book style fits really well with the stories that these authors have to tell. For my HTS class last semester, I had to read Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. Her story was just as unique and enthralling as Alison Bechdel’s in Fun Home. The difference, though, is while Bechdel is an archivist of her own life and has plenty of physical memories to fall back on, Satrapi was living under an extremist government and was often not allowed to keep much. Her story comes from memory alone, whereas Bechdel has plenty of items to weave her story.

 

The beauty and intrigue in Persepolis is her absolute appreciation for the smaller things and the things that aren’t physical. In her story (and Bechdel’s as well), the way they describe things makes even non-physical things seem completely real, like you could touch them and hold them. This begs the question of materiality that we have discussed- can things that are not physical have materiality?

Satrapi certainly seems to think so. Even reading her comic gives the reader an “active role” in the story, which is material in itself.

While Fun Home is more text-heavy and Persepolis is more illustration-heavy, both convey a sense of materiality in their own way and personally make me appreciate each day’s materiality. We often don’t think about weeks, days, hours having materiality, but in my personal opinion, if something creates a memory, it has materiality. My memories of reading these two comics have materiality… I can remember them, and I can distinctly picture certain images in my brain, and thus they are material and they exist. I think this is a prevalent theme in both comics, because they both have personal stories to share that they have put down in something indisputably physical.

I was perturbed by the shifting mythical references. I was willing to accept the father being both Icarus and Dedalus, but when he became also the Minotaur, The metaphors just don’t hold up against even the most casual extrapolations. After reading Joyce’s Ulysses, which also references the same mythology and then some but still manages to carry the symbols in a mostly consistent manner, this made the reading an agitating experience despite the humor.

From what I can make of it so far, this must be Bechdel’s attempt to constantly remind us of the idea of a labyrinth. She goes back and wanders through her old memories over and over, trying to make sense of the events. Like Agrippa, Fun Home explores the way that memories change as new information is added or old perceptions fade; no matter how often we examine our recollections, we will probably never completely see the full reality.

The line I most enjoyed was : “The library was a fantasy, but a fully operational one.” In keeping with the themes of the class and some of my personal musings, the line asserts that there is a bidirectional interplay between the objective reality and the subjective experience. Our perceptions and thoughts are not just shadows in the Cave, but fully capable of producing objective results, like a plebeian having an actual library in his home.  It’s a very uplifting message, even though Bechdel doesn’t take pains to highlight that.

One of the main themes of this graphic novel is the idea of gender and sexuality. Alison and her father play contrasting roles in a gender binary system. Alison strays away from femininity and her father strays toward it. Alison refuses to wear her hair long and doesn’t like wearing the dresses her father forces on her and he spends his life engrossed in literature and creating a beautiful home, both of which are seen as traditionally feminine things. After Alison realizes her father is gay (or possibly bisexual), she begins to wonder if the pressures and oppression of living in the closet is what caused her dad to be closed off emotionally and eventually lead to his apparent suicide. While gender and sexual orientation are not intrinsically linked, Alison’s affinity toward the “masculine” (i.e. short hair, discomfort with traditionally feminine clothes, once wishing to be called Albert by her brothers) lead her to her realization that she is a lesbian. In not only the Bechdel household but also in society, discussions of anything outside of a traditional “male/female” binary system or the heteronormativity (the assumption and constant portrayal of heterosexuality as “normal” and everything else as “other” or “different”) are almost taboo and often such thoughts are dismissed as inappropriate. She often says that when she explored outside these boundaries, she felt liberated and “freedom from such convention was intoxicating” (pg. 73). While reading Fun Home, I wondered whether or not Alison and her father’s lives would have been different if discussion of gender and sexuality and exploration of oneself outside of a binary system were encouraged more. If her father hadn’t been so emotionally cut off or in the closet, whether that have been for the fact he was married to and had children with a woman or for some other reason, would Alison have had a better relationship with him? Would Alison’s family have been better off if he had left them instead of acting as a shell of a man?

Our perception of the world around us is dependent on our information about our surroundings and what we have learned in the past that we can now apply. In Bechdel’s Fun Home, I feel the author really drives this point home by reviewing the same material and events several times, each time delving deeper into the event to unfold more meaning as more information is revealed. We have been talking extensively about the idea of memory and this piece really illuminates the importance of context into our experiences and how this will change our memory of an event. Looking back to Agrippa, we discussed the importance of facts in formation of memory, like the concrete details in a photograph. However, after analyzing this piece, I feel that context may enrich our memories even more so than details as we see Allison and Bruce Bechdel’s relationship develop through the repetition of the same events.

Another aspect of Fun Home that I really enjoyed was the importance of literary allusions. The author integrated the themes of influential works like The Great Gatsby and authors such as Camus to help both the main character and the reader understand the father character Bruce Bechdel. I think this could really stress the importance of fiction in our perception as well. As Allison became better acquainted with books and the literary work of her father, she was able to better understand the underlying importance of different themes in her life.

I felt this piece was very interesting by touching on the formations of memories and relationships through several different lenses. First, Bechdel exemplified the fluid nature of factual memories depending on the information provided in the surroundings. Second, the incorporation of literary allusions gave me the impression that even understanding stemming from fiction will have a large impact on how we are able to perceive the world and others. In Fun Home, did you feel like the repetition of memory with added clarity gave a unique perspective to the memory formation we have been talking about? Does it stand in contrast to what we have been talking about or does it reinforce our discussion? Also, do you think the tie in of literature and the importance of books in understanding lives is universal or simply to those with literary inclinations?

How could Fun Home have been written differently?  What effect does the form have on the meaning of the novel’s content?  Fun Home‘s form punches through to its meaning, and its content is bolstered by a lively feel.

Bechdel did not choose to write a graphic novel by chance.  The story is driven by understanding characters, not just in how they speak but how they look and feel to the reader.  In fact, Bechdel even photographed herself dressed as every character to give her reference for her writing and drawing.  Bechdel wants to control almost every aspect of the emotions that sway the reader to better understand the underlying story and struggle.

The postmodernity of the novel does not stop at the words.  Bechdel makes clear that the characters have life and meaning outside of an entrapped story.  Her early life both reflects and impacts the culture that we live in today, and no classic novel could encapsulate all of her shock and humor story-telling value.

Could Fun Home have been written differently for more effect?  Clearly, typed text on paper can not encapsulate the meaning being presented to the reader.  However, a play may have also been a way to express the characters of the novel.  The downside would be loss of complete control over these characters, but, perhaps that would accentuate the real-world meaning of the novel.  (Fun Home actually has been adapted into stage musicals, which I can only imagine are all the more humorous.)

Form can be a powerful tool for the writer to describe content, and Bechdel made a risky choice that paid off.  Fun Home would not have nearly the comedic value or personal shock power if it had taken any other form in writing.