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Bleeding through, drawing out: The circumscribing of Jewish women’s bodies in Leela Corman’s Unterzakhn

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Leela Corman’s 2012 graphic novel Unterzakhn is a historical work that depicts the difficult lives of the Feinberg family, Jewish immigrants living in the tenements of New York at the turn on the twentieth century. Focusing on the lives of the Feinberg women, Corman positions their particular bodily vulnerabilities as central for understanding Jewish female embodiment more generally, especially in the context of immigration and integration. In this article, I examine two different but interrelated ways that Corman utilizes the comics form to explore vulnerability in terms of bodily identity formation: in her various methods of ‘visualizing silence’, she shows how bodily and familial trauma become imprinted and muted in the body; and through her careful deployment of drawing Jewish stereotypes, she illustrates the effects of the ‘marked’ body within the majority culture. In Unterzakhn, these artistic strategies display the highly complex internal and external dynamics of bodily life.
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Keywords: Jewish immigration; Unterzakhn; comics and graphic novels; trauma

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Oslo

Publication date: December 1, 2015

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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