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Documentary Graphic Novels and Social Realism


Jeff Adams

This book analyses graphic novels which document social crises. It demonstrates that artists’ documentary use of this medium is a form of social realism, inextricably bound up with politics and ideology. Theoretical and visual approaches are employed throughout, introducing the principal themes of the graphic novels under scrutiny: political realism, visual documentary, traumatic childhood, ethnic discrimination, state oppression, and military occupation. The key works examined are Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen, Joe Sacco’s Palestine, Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, W.G. Sebald’s Emigrants and Art Spiegelman’s Maus.
Innovative techniques, radical methods of depiction, sequence and text organisation are analysed throughout to explain how the authors use visual realism to represent these social crises. The book is well illustrated as a visual support for its exploration of this emerging and vital documentary medium.
Contents: Social Realism, Historical and Political Contexts: State censorship and prevailing ideologies – Documentary: The relationship of images to memory - The graphic novel medium’s effectiveness as a vehicle for the reconstruction of accounts of war and social trauma – Childhoods Depicted in War and Crises: Childhood under conditions of social upheaval - Oppressive social circumstances - Religious fundamentalism - Gendered state oppression – Documenting Oppression: An account of life under military occupation – Visualising Discrimination and Persecution: Political and military oppression - The forced labour camps of the Holocaust - The photographic documenting of exile and discrimination.