Queer Trauma, Paternal Loss, and Graphic Healing in Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

Michael, Olga orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-0523-9929 (2020) Queer Trauma, Paternal Loss, and Graphic Healing in Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. In: Arts of Healing: Cultural Narratives of Trauma. Critical Perspectives on Theory, Culture and Politics . Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-1-78661-097-3

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In this essay, I investigate the representation of inter-generationally transmitted queer trauma and paternal loss in Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, arguing for the potential offered by the comics medium for the display of what I perceive as Bechdel’s attempt of healing.1 Identifying a form of trauma that is subtle, embedded in structures of the everyday, and transmitted by Bruce Bechdel, to his daughter, Alison, I investigate the ways in which Fun Home also depicts the process of working through it via Bechdel’s intertextual references to Oscar Wilde’s aestheticism. I propose that these references produce ‘queer temporalities’ that allow the reconfiguration of space from the domain of the Gothic and the monstrous into a positive, artistic articulation of Bruce’s closeted homosexuality. In revisiting her childhood and adolescent years, Bechdel reinterprets her family home as well as her distant, closeted father in an effort to come to terms with his loss. This reinterpretation is facilitated through her references to Wilde’s life and art, traces from which she projects onto Bruce by portraying him as a fin-de-siècle Wildean aesthete. Through this portrayal, Bechdel offers her father, the life of the artist he had declined in favour of passing as a heterosexual father, reconciling with him via her adult wise take on him, and on his love for beauty, art(ifice) and literature.2

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