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A New Picture

History, memoir, and comics: graphic representations of 9/11

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Davida Pines, a Boston University College of General Studiesassociate professor of rhetoric, discusses ways in which comics thatrepresent serious historic events, such as the Holocaust, impactcurrent literary culture. She examines two graphic novels about the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks: Art Spiegelman’s In the Shadow of No Towers and Alissa Torres’ memoir American Widow.

Pines stumbled upon Spiegelman’s Maus, a two-volume comic book about the Holocaust, while she was in graduate school and has been fascinated by comics ever since.

“We’re used to thinking of comics as funny,” Pines says, citing New Yorkercartoons and the Sunday funnies. “What we’re not used to is thinking ofcomics in terms of grim historical events — for example, the Holocaust,9/11, the Iranian Revolution, and the war in Bosnia.Yet each of these events has been the subject of recent serious andcritically acclaimed works told through the medium of comics.”

She adds, “Charles McGrath, former editor of the New York Times Book Review, said it best. He wrote, ‘Comic books are what novels used to be: an accessible, vernacular form with mass appeal.’”

About the speaker:
A Boston University College of General Studies associate professor ofrhetoric, Davida Pines has degrees from Yale, New York University,Oxford, and Brandeis University. She is the author of The Marriage Paradox: Modernist Novels and the Cultural Imperative to Marry.

 

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