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Graphic Representations of the Unspeakable: Comics, Historical Mega-Trauma, and the Prevention of Closure

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Title: Graphic Representations of the Unspeakable: Comics, Historical Mega-Trauma, and the Prevention of Closure
Authors: Kurashige, Nicole
Advisor: Howes, Craig
Issue Date: 26 Sep 2014
Publisher: University of Hawaii at Manoa
Abstract: The 1970s provided a revolutionary break in the literary canon of life writing and trauma narratives when Jewish-American cartoonist Art Spiegelman and Japanese manga-ka Keiji Nakazawa began publishing their comics on the Holocaust and Hiroshima in serial format. Spiegelman’s Maus and Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen became the first successful comics representations of secondary and primary witnessing in relation to the trauma caused by the cataclysmic events of World War II. Through the medium of comics, Spiegelman and Nakazawa created not only written, but also visual testimonies that openly grappled with issues ranging from mourning the deaths of their mothers to comprehending the enormity of the catastrophes that continue to haunt their very existence. Although both Spiegelman and Nakazawa initially hoped to achieve a sense of aesthetic and psychological closure for the lifelong trauma they endured, their works ultimately never reach a neatly “closed” end, and instead become examples of Theodor Adorno’s concept of continually “working through the past.” Through a close reading of key panels from the first four volumes of Barefoot Gen and both volumes of Maus, I argue that “comics closure,” as defined by comics theorist Scott McCloud, best conveys the pervasive and open-ended nature of traumatic experience, and that comics is one of the most effective and appropriate media for perpetuating the history of the Holocaust and atomic bombings of Japan for future generations.
Pages/Duration: vii, 97 pages
URI/DOI: http://hdl.handle.net/10125/33685
Rights: All UHM Honors Projects are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission from the copyright owner.
Appears in Collections:Honors Projects for English



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