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A bundle of confessions in Jewish women’s comics: Reconstructing Eastern European Jewish American life in Liana Finck’s A Bintel Brief

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My article examines how Liana Finck’s 2014 graphic narrative A Bintel Brief contributes to historical studies and artistic representations of the early twentieth-century encounter between Eastern European and American values by her engagement with some letters of Jewish immigrants to the United States addressed to The Forward and her pondering on their relevance in the present. I am particularly interested in how the combination of words and images for the eleven letters included in the narrative adds new possible angles to interpret the Bintel Brief column that has been the focus of a considerable number of scholarly studies. I contend that Finck’s graphic narrative uses history as a form of confession about the dynamics between past and present lifestyles of Jewish Americans differently from the majority of Jewish women authors of comics primarily concerned with the representation of their own personal experiences. Finck brings history and her persona together by including in the narrative a fictionalized version of herself who imaginatively meets The Forward’s legendary editor Abraham Cahan in the present, giving rise to an intriguing dynamics I will examine in this article. She thereby seems to pan out a possible sub-category with its own specifics within Kaminer and Lightman’s broader umbrella-term of Jewish women’s confessional comics.
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Keywords: Jewish American identities; Jewish women’s comics; Lower East Side; early twentieth century; history as confession; letters; transmission

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Bucharest

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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