The narrating-I and the experiencing-I in autobiographical comics: Aline Kominsky Crumb’s Need More Love



Year of publication 2019
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description This paper starts from my working typology of relationships between the narrator/teller position and the protagonist/experiencer position in autobiographical narratives, ranging from largely consonant self-narration where the narrator adopts the protagonist’s perspective, producing a realistic effect and inviting the reader to immerse in the depicted experience, to dissonant self-narration where the narrator distances herself from the protagonist, which is often linked with meta-autobiographical self-reflection and appreciation of hindsight. While in consonant self-narration the narrator tends to view the past self as a subject, in dissonant self-narration the difference between the two positions is highlighted and the narrator regards the protagonist as an object. In autobiographical comics this self-reflexive objectification may materialize in the author’s avatar. However, the formal elements of comics, offering both verbal and visual devices of focalisation, also enable more complex techniques of communicating distance and closeness between the narrating-I and the experiencing-I. I use Aline Kominsky Crumb’s Need More Love to present some of the possible means by which the narrating-I modifies the experiencing-I’s perception, expressing both distance (often linked with self-irony) and continuity between the present and past self. Within the individual comic stories included in this memoir, such techniques include the narrator’s voice in caption boxes, thought bubbles attributed to the autobiographical protagonist as well as to other characters in the story, whole frames dedicated to the present self, hyperbolic drawings, and local fictionality within global non-fiction (cf. Nielsen-Phelan-Walsh 2015).
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