Biography, vol. 31, no. 1 (2008): Autographics

Biography 31.1 cover imageCover art


Self-Regarding Art
Gillian Whitlock and Anna Poletti, v

This Introduction to the Biography Special Issue on “Autographics” maps a field of texts and critical practices which are emerging in the rapidly changing visual and textual cultures of autobiography. Beginning with a survey of current thinking about the comics, it argues for autographic criticism as a practice that engages with new modes and media, such as graffiti and online social networking, where autobiographical narrative proliferates through fusions of the visual and the textual.


Autography’s Biography, 1972–2007
Jared Gardner, 1

This essay studies the development of the autobiographic comic, beginning in 1972 with the pioneering work of Justin Green, Aline Kominsky, Harvey Pekar, and Art Spiegelman, and culminating in the contemporary work of graphic autobiographers such as Alison Bechdel, Phoebe Gloeckner, and Lynda Barry.

Autographic Disclosures and Genealogies of Desire in Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home
Julia Watson, 27

Fun Home is an autographic narrative about memoirs, memory, and acts of autobiographical storytelling that mingles irony and pathos in the coming-out/coming of age story of young Alison in an “artistic, autistic” family who run a funeral home. Its multimodal text interweaves allusions to Modernist literary texts and feminist manifestoes with drawn photographs and diverse cartooning styles. This essay explores Bechdel’s graphing of subjectivity at multiple interfaces, and examines her use of ambiguous “evidence” for a father-daughter coming-out story that is both indictment and posthumous homage.

Multimodal Constructions of Self: Autobiographical Comics and the Case of Joe Matt’s Peepshow
Dale Jacobs, 59

As we think about autobiography, it becomes necessary to broaden our ways of thinking about texts. In order to do so, we need to consider how creators of autobiographical comics use words and images to produce meanings at the intersection of multiple modal systems—meanings unavailable in either
pictures or words alone. Working through the theoretical and practical connections between multimodality and theories of autobiography, this article explores the ways in which questions of autobiography are addressed in the comics form through an examination of Joe Matt’s Peepshow, an autobiographical comic that has been published at varying intervals since 1992.

Auto/Assemblage: Reading the Zine
Anna Poletti, 85

This article investigates the zine as a compelling example of autographics, theorizing the dynamics of self-representation in these handmade texts. Reading the intersection of text, layout, and production as a complex site of self-representation, the materiality of the zine form is examined as a meta-critical
reflection on the form of the book and the potential of the photocopier as a means of production.

The Endurance of Ash: Melancholia and the Persistance of the Material in Charlotte Salomon’s Leben? oder Theater?
Carolyn F. Austin, 103

This essay examines Charlotte Salomon’s Leben? oder Theater?, a roman à clef made up of nearly eight hundred paintings with textual annotations. This complex interrelation of visual and verbal elements refuses to acknowledge the usual distinction between painting’s visuality and materiality and language’s purely symbolic signification. In fact, Salomon is preoccupied with the materiality of signification—with the shapes and colors with which signifiers are made. The essay draws on Judith Butler’s and Julia Kristeva’s psychoanalytic examinations of how melancholic art preserves the lost maternal/material Thing in the letter-shapes and sounds that make signification possible. Such a project would have appealed to Salomon, who inherited melancholic tendencies towards suicide from her maternal family. Salomon is particularly troubled by her mother’s and grandmother’s suicides, and depicts their mangled bodies after they have thrown themselves to their deaths. However, Salomon reclaims those bodies in her signature, an intertwined C and S, which mimics the outlines of her mother’s and grandmother’s bodies. Salomon’s signatory mark, which refers to the name of the father, also preserves the body of the mother, and asserts the necessary relation between material symbol and immaterial signification.

Intimate Pasts Resurrected and Released: Sex, Death, and Faith in the Art of José Legaspi
Michelle Antoinette, 133

José Legaspi is one of the few openly gay visual artists in the Philippines, a predominantly Catholic society that generally still has much difficulty accepting the idea and practice of homosexuality. Often autobiographical in nature, Legaspi’s contemporary art installations, sculptures, and drawings bring together image, text, and materiality to bear witness to dark personal life-narratives relating to his homosexuality and Catholicism in the Philippines. His “auto-graphic” reflections record explicit depictions of his own sexuality, sardonic critiques of religious repression, and anguished and often violent reflections on the life and death of those most dear and hateful to his heart.

Excerpts from recent reviews of biographies, autobiographies, and other works of interest