On Saturday I leave for a week in Paris, mostly to attend the Sixth International Graphic Novel and Comics Conference / Ninth International Bande Dessinée Society Conference being held at the University of London Institute in Paris, but I’m sure there will be some sightseeing as well. Don’t be surprised if my Instagram blows up.
My talk is called ‘Mapping the Journey: The Cartography of Autobiography’. I’ll be giving it on Tuesday morning, at 9:30am in the Auto/Biography panel. If you’re attending the conference, I hope to see you there!
In everyday life, we use maps to help us interact with terrain both familiar and alien. Yet navigation is merely the most literal utilization of cartography, especially within graphic narratives. In autographics, maps are often incorporated, but their use can be as different as the stories they illustrate.
Some, like in Allison Bechdel’s Fun Home, externally verify the objectivity of the memoir by allowing the reader to compare drawn maps to the real location. Others focus on subjective experience of place, and may serve as a mnemonic aid for the author, allowing them to tie their memories to concrete locations. Sometimes familiar referents such as streets and businesses are replaced in order to highlight how the author’s reality differs from the reader’s, such as in Zeina Abirached’s A Game for Swallows, where a map illustrates the route her parents take to her grandparent’s house through the streets of war torn Lebanon, charting objects that can be used for shelter from snipers.
This talk will critically examine mapping modalities used by various autobiographical authors, focusing on the link between representation and experience of place for both the author and reader.