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Touching Pasts In The Shadow of No Towers: 9/11 and Art Spiegelman's Comix of Memory

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Abstract:

In this essay, I analyze the intersection of various national and collective traumas in In The Shadow of No Towers, as the author, Art Spiegelman, brings them together to serve his own political motivations. I suggest that Spiegelman not only utilizes the avant-garde medium of comix to recreate his experience of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City, but he also points us to the impossibility of there ever being an avant-garde History. As he works through his own trauma of 9/11, Spiegelman remembers other catastrophic experiences (such as the Holocaust and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II) to highlight the cyclical nature of state violence. In the process, Spiegelman shows how personal traumatic memory can expose state narratives of historical progress as ideological productions. I argue that Spigelman's work reveals an avant-garde consciousness in the sense that it utilizes comix to challenge the politics of the Bush-Cheney administration; however, I also point out that Spiegelman performs his own kind of violence by decontextualizing other collective experiences of traumas to fulfill his artistic-political aims.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2010

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