“Not for the faint of heart”: Pregnancy and postpartum time in contemporary graphic memoirs
This event is part of the Oxford Comics Network Seminar Series.
Online - registration required
All bodies are governed by principles of temporality, yet regarding their roles as (potential) mothers, female bodies are kept under particularly strict observation (Smith 2018). I argue that comics’ power to offer “a more inclusive perspective of medicine” (Czerwiec et al. 2015: 2) can be made fruitful to interrogate the impact that implicit temporal regimes that govern pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period have on new mothers. Analyzing two autobiographical comics, Teresa Wong’s Dear Scarlet (2019) and Lucy Knisley’s Kid Gloves (2019), I examine how Knisley’s struggles with pre-eclampsia and Wong’s postnatal depression turn their time as new mothers into a period of “crip time” in which their chrono-normative time experience is altered (Samuels 2017). Both artists use different aesthetic means to illustrate experiences that differ from the positive image of an easy birth, swift recovery and blissful postnatal period perpetuated by contemporary discourses. I suggest that the medium of comics is particularly suited to illustrate these shifts in their subjective time experience and to interrogate issues of misogyny in healthcare. My paper explores how Knisley’s and Wong’s graphic narratives create alternative representations of the corporeal experience of pregnancy and the postpartum period, providing a social commentary on the discursive constraints of motherhood and an underrepresented time in women’s lives.
Dorothee Marx, M.A. is a PhD-candidate and lecturer in American Studies at Kiel University, where she also serves as a diversity and equality counselor. Her dissertation project examines the links between time, disability and chronic illness in comics and novels. She has published on American history in The Walking Dead, the depiction of post-partum time in comics, fertility tracking and self-quantification, the depiction of cystic fibrosis in comics and her own difficult positionality as a disabled researcher. She has also worked on questions of disability disclosure and accessibility in higher education and the intersectional representation of disability in comics. She is the first recipient of the Martin Schüwer Publication Award for Excellence in Comic Studies (2019) and was awarded the 2020 Sabin Award for Comics Scholarship by the International Graphic Novels and Comics Conference. She is a member of the editorial team at CLOSURE. The Kiel University e-Journal for Comic Studies.
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