I have been doing a lot of thinking on how comics, especially autobiographical comics theorize the body. Some of it makes me think of how I relate to my own body, my mind, my work, and how these things can and should work together. As far as my own body - well that has been challenging. I recently lost some weight and have had to adjust to being smaller. A lot of my clothes are too big. I'm pretty broke so that is a little frustrating, especially when I have to teach. It has left me a little stressed out.
I really enjoy teaching. This semester has been a challenge though. I like my class but I feel like I haven't really clicked in yet. This class is on average very quiet too.
The Fragmentary Comic Body
In my dissertation, I have been playing around with this idea of a fragmentary comic body. Lacan has this idea of the fragmentary body. It's closely related to his ideas on the mirror stage, where a person is able to see a unified body in the mirror and recognize its totality. A ton of people have written about this. Basically, an external image of the body produces a psychic response that gives rise to the mental representation of the self. A baby looks into a mirror and grasps the connection between the image and its own existence. Lacan also believed that people were haunted by the contrary image of the fragmented body. This haunting manifests as as concerns about losing pieces or parts of the body. This could result in dreaming about missing teeth or mutilated body parts.
So, what does this have to do with autobiographical comics? Well, the body in comics is conceptualized in several ways. I think that the process of creating multiple self-portraits lends itself to conceptualizing the self as having many possible identities. In Autobiographical Comics: Life Writing in Pictures (2012), Elisabeth El Refaie writes about what she refers to as pictorial embodiment, or the "process of engaging with one’s own identity through multiple self-portraits’’ (51). Plus, many of the repeated bodies are not shown whole due to the framing of the panels. The representation is cut off, missing, or fragmented. I don't think it goes as far as presenting a schizophrenic identity or of someone who has a dissociative identity disorder. Though now I am curious to do some digging and see if a cartoonist has tried this.
Related to the fragmentary comic body is my interest in representations of speech in comics and how that relates to theories of embodiment. Last week I attended a talk given by Dr. Shermaine Jones titled, “'I Can't Breathe': 'Affective Asphyxia' in Claudia Rankine's Citizen: An American Lyric.” Dr. Jones describes affective asphyxia as describing "the ways that Black emotional expression is heavily policed, producing a sense of emotional suffocation whether self imposed or externally inflicted." The discussion on the sigh, breathing, and how it relates to embodiment made me think about how speech bubbles can function in comics. I am not sure what I am doing with that exactly but I am sure I can find something that speaks to how speech and language take physical form in comics.