Event Title

F*** Your Discomfort

Location

SU 124

Start Date

19-4-2019 11:40 AM

Department

Nontraditional Degree Programs

Session

Session 4

Description

In our society, there are certain words and images that are considered obscene. When we encounter material that we think of as obscene in unexpected places, especially those that we expect to be safe, we often experience feelings of violation and offense that cause us to direct our ire towards the messenger who has offended our sensibilities. Author and artist Phoebe Gloeckner’s A Child’s Life and Other Stories is a semi-autobiographical graphic narrative which depict child abuse and sexual assault in sometimes graphic detail, including a great deal of obscene language and images that could reasonably be described as pornographic. It is designed to look like a child’s coloring book on the outside. The juxtaposition between the pure and the profane creates a sense of discomfort in the reader that has made Gloeckner’s work controversial. Underground comix artist R. Crumb’s own discomfort is laid bare in his handwritten introduction to her book. Crumb’s introduction is the first hint at what is really going on inside of this book masquerading as a child’s coloring book. Crumb appears both self-absorbed and perverted in his discussion of Gloeckner’s work, and it becomes difficult to understand why such an off-putting, uncomfortable, and self-referencing piece was included by the author in the final version of the book. By close-reading Crumb’s contribution, this paper will argue that this introduction isn’t as incongruous as it first appears. Instead, Crumb’s work serves as a sort of map, helping readers navigate a richly detailed world filled with layers of symbolic cultural references and graphic depictions of taboo content. Crumb, moved to self-reflection by Gloeckner’s work, becomes a sort of alternative-press Virgil, guiding subsequent readers through the twisted purgatory of young Phoebe’s life. The vignettes that follow Crumb’s introduction depict both the sort of initial traumatic events that have life-changing effects on children as well as the sorts of traumas that seem to plague the already traumatized. This paper explores why Gloeckner includes Crumb’s thoughts about himself in a collection of stories that seemingly depict the formation of her own identity, and will suggest a reading of Gloeckner through the lens of Crumb’s introduction which can serve as a helpful hermeneutic device for demonstrating what meaningful self-reflection in the era of #MeToo might look like.

Comments

Ryan Poll is the faculty sponsor for this project.

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Apr 19th, 11:40 AM

F*** Your Discomfort

SU 124

In our society, there are certain words and images that are considered obscene. When we encounter material that we think of as obscene in unexpected places, especially those that we expect to be safe, we often experience feelings of violation and offense that cause us to direct our ire towards the messenger who has offended our sensibilities. Author and artist Phoebe Gloeckner’s A Child’s Life and Other Stories is a semi-autobiographical graphic narrative which depict child abuse and sexual assault in sometimes graphic detail, including a great deal of obscene language and images that could reasonably be described as pornographic. It is designed to look like a child’s coloring book on the outside. The juxtaposition between the pure and the profane creates a sense of discomfort in the reader that has made Gloeckner’s work controversial. Underground comix artist R. Crumb’s own discomfort is laid bare in his handwritten introduction to her book. Crumb’s introduction is the first hint at what is really going on inside of this book masquerading as a child’s coloring book. Crumb appears both self-absorbed and perverted in his discussion of Gloeckner’s work, and it becomes difficult to understand why such an off-putting, uncomfortable, and self-referencing piece was included by the author in the final version of the book. By close-reading Crumb’s contribution, this paper will argue that this introduction isn’t as incongruous as it first appears. Instead, Crumb’s work serves as a sort of map, helping readers navigate a richly detailed world filled with layers of symbolic cultural references and graphic depictions of taboo content. Crumb, moved to self-reflection by Gloeckner’s work, becomes a sort of alternative-press Virgil, guiding subsequent readers through the twisted purgatory of young Phoebe’s life. The vignettes that follow Crumb’s introduction depict both the sort of initial traumatic events that have life-changing effects on children as well as the sorts of traumas that seem to plague the already traumatized. This paper explores why Gloeckner includes Crumb’s thoughts about himself in a collection of stories that seemingly depict the formation of her own identity, and will suggest a reading of Gloeckner through the lens of Crumb’s introduction which can serve as a helpful hermeneutic device for demonstrating what meaningful self-reflection in the era of #MeToo might look like.