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The Comics of Alison BechdelFrom the Outside In$
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Janine Utell

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781496825773

Published to University Press of Mississippi: September 2020

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781496825773.001.0001

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Generational Trauma and the Crisis of Après-Coup In Alison Bechdel’s Graphic Memoirs

Generational Trauma and the Crisis of Après-Coup In Alison Bechdel’s Graphic Memoirs

(p.119) Generational Trauma and the Crisis of Après-Coup In Alison Bechdel’s Graphic Memoirs
The Comics of Alison Bechdel

Natalja Chestopalova

University Press of Mississippi

This essay suggests that Bechdel’s two autographic memoirs are indicative of the potential that exists in graphic narrative to provoke new dialogues with regard to how we approach, how we interpret, and how we interact with generational and familial trauma that stems from dysfunctional relationships with parental figures. Specifically, it examines how Bechdel’s Are You My Mother? builds upon the juxtapositions of the father-daughter bond in Fun Home by shifting the focus towards Bechdel’s traumatic relationship with her mother. This chapter argues that by explicitly weaving the narrative around a backdrop of psychology and psychoanalysis (D. W. Winnicott, Freud, Jung, and Lacan), Bechdel intentionally situates the “reader in the position of the analyst” (as quoted in The Paris Review). Drawing on Bechdel’s theory-rich content, this essay examines the figure of the mother as a shifting entity that mutates and molds itself onto substitute transitional objects and experiences, including Bechdel’s therapists and romantic attachments. Alternating among transcribed audio dialogues, diary entries, counseling sessions, dreams, letters, photographs, and memories, Are You My Mother? is an illustration of the Freudian concept of “afterwardness,” or, as Lacan coined it, après-coup—a retroactive understanding and re-visitation of earlier trauma.

Keywords:   Jacques Lacan, D. W. Winnicott, Are You My Mother?, Alison Bechdel, trauma

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