In Spain, 68.4% of the population over 14 years old reads a book. Most of these people read for pleasure in their free time, choosing the genres that interest them the most according to their personal tastes and preferences.
One of the preferred genres of the Spanish, which is becoming more popular, are comics and graphic novels. According to the GfK report El mercado del libro en España (The Spanish Book Market), sales of comics and graphic novels increased by 10% between 2021 and 2022, accounting for 8% of all book sales.
One of the key features of comics and graphic novels is the use of visual effects to capture the reader’s attention, give the characters their own voice and share the experiences of the protagonists. This is why this format is often used to construct memory discourse. Works such as Persepolis and Maus are examples of a subgenre of the recovery of historical memory that also exists in Spain.
For her doctoral thesis, Carmela Artime Omil, a researcher at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC), examines the contribution of comics to the construction of historical memory and the way their format and characteristics enable them to be a bridge in Spain between those who lived during the war and after the war and the generations that came later.
Food for thought
Graphic novels tell stories through a combination of visual and written language. All kinds of artistic and literary resources are used in this genre, including illustrations, documents, photographs, and stories with multiple protagonists or a first-person narrator. As a result, many works of this genre successfully connect the readers with their characters, which makes them a very effective way to create a memory discourse aimed at condemning the facts.
“The graphic side of the comic is very useful when it comes to making readers face certain images and events from the past,” said Artime, who wrote and defended his thesis ‘Memory construction in the contemporary graphic novels (2005-2015): the Spanish Civil War and its consequences’ under the doctoral program of the Information and Knowledge Society. “Some graphic novels use visual effects to get the reader’s attention, even if they want to get a reaction,” he said.
A good example of this is The Art of Flying, which brings emaciated bodies to the fore as a symbol of the suffering of exile and a condemnation of the way people in this situation are abandoned by those French authorities. Another example is Cuerda de presas, which, to explain how the body of women becomes a battlefield and a system of punishment, shows how women are tortured in their genitals and raped in their prisons.
In addition, the language of comics leads to a meditative approach to reading where readers are encouraged to focus on graphic elements to fully understand the story.
“The ability to go back and examine something with a stimulus that doesn’t involve words is an advantage of the comic language,” said Artime, whose research work was supervised by Teresa Iribarren, a researcher at IdentiCat ( Language, Culture and Identity in the Global Age) group of the UOC’s Faculty of Arts and Humanities. “Readers can spend as much time as they need on this reflection, because they can move quickly down the page or stop to look at an illustration and examine it more closely,” he said.
Another advantage of using graphic novels in historical narrative is that they can combine the two different aspects of fact and fiction. Many works contain real-life documents (such as letters or family photos), make reference to historical events or discuss the author’s research process. All this helps to bring the personal experience of the protagonists to the present.
Narrative of the Spanish Civil War
One of the main conclusions of Artime’s thesis is that today’s Spanish graphic novels are very political and clearly intended to criticize real situations. “What you see in these novels is the need to tell history again, to reflect, celebrate and expose the lives of people who lived during the war and after the war. events and demand answers.”
“Many of these novels pay respect to personal stories and allow them to be told by their protagonists. In this way, comics tell their stories by placing the voices and bodies of the characters at the center, in a context where the recovery of the bodies of the people who disappeared during the events is an important part of the discussion about memory,” said Artime.
Graphic novels thus seek to give their protagonists a tangible form, something known as “embodiment”. According to Artime, the most obvious way to do this is to assimilate the experiences of the participants. “This is what the narrator of The Art of Flying does by embracing the character of his father and merging the two voices into one. In addition, the use and reproduction of personal items, such as letters, photographs, private notes and diaries, also help to recover the memory of past experiences and bring them back to the present day,” said the UOC researcher by description.
Artime’s thesis also concludes that there is a change in the discourse of memory in contemporary novels. Personal pain clearly permeates the works written by the generation of the children of the protagonists. But today’s works, written by their grandchildren’s generation, are marked by the authors’ own political discourse and projected into history.
A format for spreading, educating and raising awareness
Graphic novels and comics have become an important tool of dissemination and education in recent years. The apparent simplicity of their format encourages the public to read them and helps explain complex stories and concepts.
“Comics are being used more and more in classrooms in all fields of knowledge, but I think their use could be much more,” Artime said. “It helps students develop their creativity and reading comprehension, as well as their love of reading. In addition, the large number of comic titles and the wide range of topics they cover make this genre one a great tool for classroom use and for encouraging reflection in any field”.
There is a long list of novels that reflect memory and historical memory. Artime highlights Art Spiegelman’s Maus, Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis and the works of Guy Deslisle and Joe Sacco as some of the most important and world-renowned. “In addition to these most famous works, I usually recommend The Boxer by Reinhard Kleist and Fatherland by Nina Bunjevac,” said the UOC researcher.
As for graphic novels in Spanish about the Spanish Civil War, he recommends Cuerda de presas, The Art of Flying, Los surcos del azar and the works of Pablo Uriel. “But the most exemplary figure in the field of historical memory comics is Carlos Giménez, the author of Paracuellos and 36-39 Malos tiempos. Many of the images present in modern graphic novels are about the Spanish Civil War seems inspired by the drawings of Giménez, who used comic strips to criticize events and express his opinions,” said Artime.
The next step for the UOC researcher is to publish his thesis as an essay to reach an academic audience. By doing so, he hopes to help include the case of Spain in the international study of historical memory and the construction of identity.
Provided by the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC)
Citation: Graphic novels help create the discourse of historical memory (2023, July 13) retrieved 13 July 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-07-graphic-novels-discourse-historical-memory. html
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