Monday, September 13, 2010

Fun Home, a brief introduction

All of you should have a copy of the selections from Alison Bechdel's graphic memoir, Fun Home (2006).

I've chosen some passages that connect the literary and narrative elements of the memoir.  Structurally, the book is recursive, so hopefully these passages will give you a sense of the whole.  The core of the book focuses on Bechdel and her father, and the revelation after her father's death that he had had a series of male lovers.

Bechdel's previous major work was the long-running comic strip, Dykes to Watch Out For (1983-2008), which [from wikipedia] "chronicles the lives, loves, and politics of a fairly diverse group of characters (most of them lesbians) living in a medium-sized city in the United States, featuring both humorous soap opera storylines and biting topical commentary."  A selection of these previous strips is available here:  You might want to read a few to get a sense of Bechdel's aesthetics.

Fun Home is very much a book about aesthetics and presentation.  For some details on Bechdel's artistic process for the book, see and  We will talk about the intersection the memoir's aesthetics and its content, which in many ways replicates Bechdel's father's sense of personal aesthetics (and has some similarities to Asterios Polyp).

Finally, Fun Home had a fairly substantive critical reception, and is fairing well in academic journals as well (I wrote half of a dissertation chapter about it).  Here are two notable reviews: (regular NYTimes review) (NYTimes Book Review)

In class on Friday, I want to start with the open question of why the memoir is framed in overt literary and aesthetic terms.  How does this framing intersect with the content of the memoir itself and the question of artifice that novels like Asterios Polyp and Double of Nothing raise?

Bechdel also wrote a brief piece about how she revealed the book project to her mother, which might be of interest:

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