The 247th meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium will be held on Tuesday,  May 7, 2019 at 7pm at Parsons School of Design, University Center, 63 Fifth Avenue, room UL 105 (lower level). Free and open to the public.

Ariela Freedman on Comics and Pain
Frequently, the “funny” in the funnies has to do with the infliction and representation of physical and psychic pain. Comics begin here: the broken heart, the disappointment, the pratfall, the beating, the brick to the head, the caricatured grimace, the wail. This slapstick violence forms part of what Nabokov calls “our history of pain” in  his Lectures on Don Quixote — “the banged heads and kicked groins and punched noses that are such delectable features of our movies and comics.” Pain in comics first appears in a comedic and fantasy mode; it also develops into the violence of superhero comics, the grotesque explicitness of horror comics, and in the last thirty years, the empathic attempt to bear testimony to pain and illness. The historically dense and sophisticated vocabulary for pain language the medium develops is synaesthetic and defined as much through its absences and exclusions as through what it represents. To tell the story of the representation of pain in comics is to chart the unfolding of an extraordinary and potent medium. How have comics moved from cultural scapegoats, accused of inuring children to the infliction of pain, to works lauded for their empathic and testimonial potential?

Tahneer Oksman: Drawing on Grief
Why are so many contemporary graphic narratives focused on experiences of grief? What can comics teach us about loss and its aftermaths? In my talk, I will discuss a number of contemporary graphic memoirs of grief—works by, for example, Anders Nilsen, Roz Chast, Dominique Goblet, Leela Corman, and Maira Kalman. I will explore whether such representations, particularly when examined alongside each other, can help us rethink our current models of grieving as a process. How can we understand grieving as a common experience even as we accept the radically individual ways that people process and respond to loss? In what ways does the isolating experience of grieving offer means of connection, for better and for worse?

Ariela Freedman is an Associate Professor at the Liberal Arts College, Concordia University, Montreal. She is the author of Death, Men and Modernism (Routledge, 2003) and has published broadly on modernism, James Joyce, the First World War, contemporary literature, and comics and graphic novels. She presented on the work of
Charlotte Salomon at the New York Comics & Picture Symposium in 2014, and her work on Salomon has also appeared in Criticism, The Journal of Modern Literature, and the Eisner award winning anthology Graphic Details: Jewish Women’s Confessional Comics in Essays and Interviews (McFarland 2014). She currently holds a grant  from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council on the subject of comics and pain. Ariela Freedman is also the author of the novel Arabic for Beginners (LLP 2017) and the forthcoming A Joy to be Hidden (LLP 2019).

Tahneer Oksman is an Assistant Professor of Academic Writing at Marymount Manhattan College. She is the author of “How Come Boys Get to Keep Their Noses?”: Women and Jewish American Identity in Contemporary Graphic Memoirs (Columbia University Press, 2016), and the co-editor, with Seamus O’Malley, of the anthology The Comics of Julie Doucet and Gabrielle Bell: A Place Inside Yourself (University Press of Mississippi, 2019). Her cultural criticism has been published in a number of venues, including The Comics Journal, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Guardian, and Women’s Review of Books, where she is graphic novels editor and writes a regular review column.

images below: George Herriman and John Porcellino

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