Demons: Family Snapshots

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My knowledge of South America was based on evening […]. Posted on July 15, by Stephanie Landsem in Travel. No facebook posts, no tweets, no blog entries. Posted on July 2, by Stephanie Landsem in History. Masks of the Greenhouses Garden by Auguste Rodin. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased […]. Posted on June 18, by Stephanie Landsem in History.

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What is demonic possession? It is tempting to try to explain away what the Bible refers to as demonic possession. Some say that demonic possession in the Bible is nothing more than an undiagnosed physical or mental illness such as epilepsy or schizophrenia. Yet, in the New Testament, demonic possession is clearly differentiated from sickness […]. Send me an. Order "The Well". Breaking away from these and other traditional formal features of comics clears the way for Barry to tackle head on the honest telling of her everyday trauma, while also capturing its disorderly, inconclusive quality.

The graphic memoir proves a critical interface between experience and the interpretation of self. Personal photographs, too, record dailiness, but as shown above theirs is a dailiness most often inscribed within socio-historical conventions, regulatory narratives, and expectations of what a life and the subject living that life should look like.

Whether narrated, packaged, or adjusted, private, everyday experience runs through all three methods of life-writing. Perhaps more than any other narrative strategy used, the altering of personal photographs through scrapbooking techniques highlights the struggles a subject who experienced everyday trauma undergoes to work through and against existing knowledges of self, and to begin to reach a more integral understanding of self. In it, Barry collects everyday, familiar materials and weaves them into a fragmented, incomplete, and unsettling honest personal narrative of a past life and its impact on the past and present self.

These colourful, complex pages set the stage for the story that follows Fig. Packed with visual and verbal cues and pairings that gain in meaning within the context of the story, these two-page introductory collages are meant to be poured over again and again.

Far from being a random or compulsive assembly of shapes, materials collected and found, colours, words, and visual media, their palimpsestic patterns are a textured portrayal of the everyday trauma reflected in the story that follows, and that the subject tries to come to terms with throughout the book. Repeated features of her collage pages include spirals, wiggle eyes, gold and silver foil, feathers, flowers, pieces of lace, transparent tape, and, of course, a demon or two. Besides basic materials and shapes, images of self are also repeated.

All of them? The ones we never really thought of as anything special? Repetition in these and other instances has a binding effect, weaving a specific sort of trauma—everyday trauma—through the stories. Repetition is a highly self-reflexive narrative technique that complicates the original representation with variation, adjustment, expansion, in short, with interpretation.

It not only points towards a need to add layers of meaning to the initial representation, but also to a dissatisfaction with or an incompleteness of that which is on the page.

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Repetition, with slight alterations, of several of the cartoon drawings as well as personal photographic portraits, suggests how the original image is full of uncertainty or lapses of knowledge. Existing alongside previous and subsequent iterations, these repeated scrapbooked images create a complex layering of what was seen, what needs to be seen, and what can never be seen.


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The repetition of the same representation of self challenges the idea of a unified self by staging the need to continue adding new details and new interpretations, however tentative, to existing renditions of self. Overtly, even roughly mediated, these new, altered representations of self signal the need to adjust the images or, put differently, they signal an original lack in the personal photographic portrait.

The scrapbooked details—additions and subtractions, written words and colourful material frames—that adjust the personal photographs thus come to suggest that the original image, the one that supposedly captured the real, does not suffice to record her self. They thus need to be changed.

Full text issues

Scrapbooked personal photographs are truncated narratives, narratives comprised of incomplete fragments, which afford creators and readers alike the opportunity to visit and revisit experiences, emotions, and knowledges of self. I have argued that identities which have suffered from everyday trauma have turned to life-writing and personal photography to instate personal identities and representations of self that stand apart from normative definitions of self and restrictive models of self-representation.

Lynda Barry has not only exposed personal photography and autobiography as necessarily regulating and obfuscating identity. This is particularly true for subjects of trauma who, feeling a split between inner and outer self, are careful readers of their own photographs, using them as part of the process to present histories of self that run counter to the dominant views of what can be shown.

In it, Lynda repeatedly addresses her inability to see self, to understand self through personal photographs. Scrapbooking offers fertile ground to explore how those understandings of self are present alongside and against existing representations of self, such as the personal photographs most of us cherish as recordings of our past self. The fragmented quality of the scrapbooked photograph critically engages with the personal photograph as a traditional, authoritative form of self-representation.

2. The Hospital Demon

Indeed, creative mediation is so forcefully pushed to the foreground through scrapbooking that the authority of personal photographs gives way to the affirming properties of creative intervention. For Barry, eschewing traditional realism and challenging secure knowledge through scrapbooking is a means to bring to light moments of knowing self, or of knowing that self cannot be fully known because not fully representable. The manipulation of personal photographs through scrapbooking techniques in the graphic memoir universe informs how the represented self—especially the visually represented self—is understood, created, and made meaningful by itself and through the representations of self it depends on for that understanding.

That the photographic image is mechanically made and thus tightly associated to the real makes it a particularly powerful visual representation for those who, like Barry, present realities that do not coincide with the way reality felt to them. Scrapbooking allows them to infringe on the authority of the personal photographic image by adjusting it and adding poignant layers of meaning to it.

Scrapbooking is a personal and malleable form of representation often used, especially by female graphic memoirists, to communicate alternative histories to those recorded in personal photographs. In her explorations of self through personal photography, Barry has adopted scrapbooking techniques and forms that better speak to a divided, multiple, perhaps unknowable and unrepresentable, but unique self.

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It is a form of life-writing that reflects and thus exposes the fractured self through its fractured narrative. In this and other graphic memoirs that relate everyday trauma, scrapbooked personal photographs function to reveal subjectivity in its full processural dynamics; they accentuate its instability, its unknowingness, its temporality, its fictiveness.


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Scrapbooked photographs evoke layered selves, selves who constantly struggle to understand self through acts of visual representation. Scrapbooking thus offers Barry and other graphic memoirists Anne Marie Fleming, Gusti, Aline Kominsky-Crumb not a means to excavate a self through memory and its forms of representation, but rather to build up, compile layers of images of self to reach a more authentic, because less coherent and definite understanding of self. Boman, Charlotte.

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Jackson: U of Mississippi P, Fleming, Anne Marie. Garat, Anne-Marie. Photos de familles. Gilmore, Leigh. Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly Groensteen, Thierry.

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