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Invoking the past in graphic biographies: The life, death and ghostly return of Alexandre Bóveda

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Ruth Hoberman suggests that ‘biography is the terrain on which each generation works out crucial questions about its relation to the past’, and perhaps the most crucial question of Spain’s recent history has been that of how to deal with the memory of the Spanish Civil War (1936–39) and General Franco’s dictatorship (1939–75). Drawing on existing scholarship that has described the repressed memories of Spain’s past as ghostly, this article will examine the conjuring power of memory to bring the ghosts of the traumatic past to the present in graphic biographies, taking as case study the Galician comic Bóveda (2012) by María Xesús Arias (writer) and Carlos Sardiña (artist), about the life of the politician Alexandre Bóveda (1903–36), executed by Francoist forces at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. The analysis will also address the specificities of the comics medium to ‘bring back’ the bodies of the victims of the war compared to filmic representations of historical figures in biopics and documentaries. Because of the emblematic role that he has played in the imaginary of Galician nationalism, Alexandre Bóveda has become a national symbol of the traumatic suffering inflicted on Galicia by Francoism. Pramod K. Nayar suggests that graphic biographies provide ‘a new mode’ to address social systems of oppression. Following this assertion, the analysis of Bóveda will not only reflect on the representation of the life of an individual but also on how by invoking his memory, the whole national project embodied by this politician is also reclaimed. In this light, the graphic biography challenges the fallacy of Galician peaceful submission to Francoism while also highlighting the strength of the project of Galician autonomy before the war.
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Keywords: Alexandre Bóveda; Galician history; Spanish Civil War; graphic biographies; hauntology; historical memory

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Bangor University

Publication date: July 1, 2019

More about this publication?
  • Studies in Comics aims to describe the nature of comics, to identify the medium as a distinct art form, and to address the medium's formal properties. The emerging field of comics studies is a model for interdisciplinary research and in this spirit this journal welcomes all approaches. This journal is international in scope and provides an inclusive space in which researchers from all backgrounds can present new thinking on comics to a global audience. The journal will promote the close analysis of the comics page/text using a variety of methodologies. Its specific goal, however, is to expand the relationship between comics and theory and to articulate a "theory of comics". The journal also includes reviews of new comics, criticism, and exhibitions, and a dedicated online space for cutting-edge and emergent creative work.

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