Visible fragments: Instances of social haunting in graphic novels

2016-10-12T10:04:37Z (GMT) by Sarah McNicol

This paper draws on Avery’s Gordon’s use of the term “social haunting” to describe the sense that all is not as it seems and something is happening which cannot be detected by our empirical senses. It explores how features of comics such as the interaction between image and text; the notion of ‘gaps’ between the frames; and methods of representing time can help us to better understand the phenomenon of social haunting. It does this through the analysis of a number of comics that can be said to reflect, in various ways, "the harm inflicted or the loss sustained by a social violence done in the past or in the present” (Gordon, 1997, xvi).

Many of the ideas underpinning the concept of social haunting bear remarkable similarity to discussions to be found in comics studies literature. For example, just as Chute argues that through a dual coding system, “comics accommodates the interaction between the seeable and the sayable” (2010, 217), might they also allow for interaction between the empirical and what can be sensed in other ways? Another significant aspect of comics is the notion of ‘gaps’ between the frames which the reader must complete in order to make sense of the narrative fragments in much the same way that becoming aware of normally invisible social ghosts can help us to make sense of the more visible, but fragmented, present. The way in which comics deal with time is also an important consideration in understanding social haunting. Lacking the rigid dimension of time in their reading in comparison to a medium such as film, comics have their own, arguably more complex, methods to deal with the representation of past, present and future and the passing of time.