Comics and Catharsis: Exploring Narratives of Trauma and Memory in the Graphic Novel

Due Date: 01-01-2019

Contributions are invited for a collection of essays that explore the medium of comics in the twenty-first century as the site for narratives of individual and collective trauma and memory. This volume seeks to give visibility to comics—specifically, though not limited to, the graphic novel—from different cultural and linguistic contexts and explore how they employ the graphic and textual interplay of the medium to tell personal or shared stories of personal or shared suffering. By drawing (pun intended) on his father’s experience during the Holocaust, Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize–winning Maus (1980–91) is perhaps the best-known example of this narrative form giving voice to an individual’s traumatic experience that is also inextricably tied to a community’s collective trauma. It is an example of comics as a space to “work through” painful memories, to use Dominick LaCapra’s wording from History in Transit: Experience, Identity, Critical Theory. In the past twenty years, writers and illustrators from different parts of the world in different languages have used the same medium to explore their personal, familial, and collective ordeals, such as the boom of historical memory in Spanish comics with regard to the Spanish Civil War and Franco dictatorship, the science fiction works of Latin America that confront economic exploitation and imperialism, or the graphic stories of the indigenous peoples who suffered in Canada’s residential schools.

Possible topics include

  • humor and trauma
  • theory: the relation between image and text, trauma and memory
  • comics and war
  • comics and dictatorship
  • comics and marginalized peoples
  • comics and “places of memory” or comics as “places of memory,” to use Pierre Nora’s term from Realms of Memory: Rethinking the French Past

Proposals should be sent to Jordan Tronsgard ( by 1 January 2019. Please include your name, institutional affiliation, a short biography, an abstract of no more than 500 words, and a list of up to five keywords. Notification will be sent to submitters by 1 February 2019. Those selected will submit their completed essays of 5,000–8,000 words by June 2019.