Eszter Szép

Eötvös Loránd University

The Female Body as Site of Memory

My paper takes as starting point James E. Young’s statement that “Jewish memory in a postmodern age has begun to look less like collective memory and more like collected memory” (“The Arts of Jewish Memory in a Postmodern Age,” 214) and examines the ways in which the female body functions as a site for this “collected memory” in Miriam Katin’s Letting it Go (2013). In Katin’s autobiographical graphic narrative memories mingle and compete with fantasies, projections mingle and compete with projects – and they all inscribe themselves into the female body, into its gestures, movements as well as its representations. In this reading Katin’s graphic memoir is not only about overcoming one’s prejudices while travelling to places (sites) of trauma, it is also about offering one’s body as a site for conflicting memories and ideas to battle.

On the one hand, my paper aims at exploring the ways in which Katin visually connects thought processes to bodily processes. E.g. the book offers the experience of giving birth as the/a primary source of narrative and trauma, while the historical scale of the trauma is apparent throughout the book. In this section a special emphasis will be given to Katin’s beautiful depiction of spiritual and bodily abjection and purification.

On the other hand, I connect bodily processes and the representation of the female body to the comics form, to the stylistic as well as spatial characteristics of Katin’s graphic narratives. Here a brief comparison of Letting it Go and We Are on Our Own (2006) is to reveal ways in which the differences in drawing style and attitudes to the comics page contribute to a different, more ironic and also more playful understanding of body, trauma and memory.

ESZTER SZÉP is a PhD student at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest. She earned her M.A.s at the same institution in English Language and Literature (2008) and in Hungarian Language and Literature (2010). Her research focuses on the representation of violence, traumatic events and the role of touch in 21st century graphic narratives. Eszter is an active member of the really small yet devoted Hungarian comics community, and with her reviews, interviews and lectures she tries to raise the acceptance of comics in Hungary.