Jeanne Marie Kusina

The University of Toledo

Facing the Other in Aline Kominsky-Crumbs Needs More Love

This paper brings the graphic work of Aline Kominsky-Crumb into consideration with the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas. For Levinas, ethics originates in the face-to-face encounter with the Other. The face of the Other makes an ethical demand that calls for affirmation; that is, an affirmation of existence and freedom that is resistant to both erasure and a reduction to the same. The characters one faces in Kominsky-Crumb’s work are known for their power to disrupt many of the typical tropes involved in the construction of women in mainstream comics. Yet at times, she has also run afoul of feminists and been heavily scrutinized for participating in painfully self-deprecating, seemingly offensive ethnic humor. In her graphic memoir Need More Love (2007), Kominsky-Crumb’s autobiographical voice is distinctly Jewish and female. Moreover, Need More Love presents this gendered identity in way that is neither entirely unproblematic nor easily dismissed. It is not always comfortable, and indeed was not intended to be so, but it does put forth one woman’s life experiences in a way that creates a unique entranceway into the discussion of intersectional oppression. In showing herself, she is also showing the Other. Hence, by appealing to Levinas, I put forth a reconsideration of Kominsky-Crumb’s work that questions the ethical demand it places upon the reader. I argue that Kominsky-Crumb’s comic renderings of self and otherness challenges the reader to cultivate a deeper understanding of the machinations of internalized oppression in the construction of personal identity.