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History through Graphic Memoirs

By: Uma Ganesan  

Graphic memoirs, a relatively new form of literature, lie at the intersection of graphic accounts such as comic books, graphic novels, graphic non-fiction, and the traditional autobiography. Like graphic accounts, graphic memoirs use words and pictures to tell a story. Like the traditional autobiography, they provide a personal account of one’s life experiences. By combining these elements of the graphic account and the traditional autobiography, graphic memoirs provide an intensely personal focus on key moments and experiences. What the graphic memoir lacks in terms of breadth of coverage as found in a traditional autobiography is amply made up for by depth of focus. Graphic memoirs such as It was the War of the Trenches, We Are On our Own, Barefoot Gen, Persepolis, Vietnamerica, March, and Safe Area Gorazde offer readers an immersive, intensive, and in-depth look into momentous twentieth century events such as World War I, the Holocaust, the bombing of Hiroshima, the Iranian Revolution, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Bosnian War. They thus appeal both to serious readers of history and memoir as well as to visual learners by ‘showing’ through pictures rather than merely ‘telling’ through words. Consequently, the graphic account attains the status of serious literature and history becomes accessible to a wider variety of people as the graphic memoir also demands lesser time commitment from readers than the traditional autobiography or memoir.

Reading, Education, Literature
Reading, Writing, Literacy, and Learning
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session



Dr. Uma Ganesan

Assistant Professor of History, Department of History and Political Science, Manchester University, Indiana, USA, United States
United States

As assistant professor of history at Manchester University, I teach courses in world history, Asian history, and women's and gender history. I use a variety of teaching strategies and teaching material to make history accessible and fun for my students. Using graphic memoirs to teach twentieth century world history is an example of this. As a teaching intensive institution, Manchester University encourages its faculty to deliver content in innovative ways to promote student learning. With a formal backgound as well as a personal interest in literaure, I bring traditional forms of literature such as novels, short stories, and memoirs as well as newer genres such as graphic memoirs into the ambit of history-learning as they provide students with different entry-points into the subject-matter of history.