I attended the graduate school conference for comics and learned about three very different comics, none of which fell into the usual superhero or comedy genres. Three students presented their papers and discussed and argued for ideas concerning the comics, usually involving a combination of theme with the comic’s manipulation of its form. The topic that resonated most with me involved a student presenting a very unique comic in India, one that contained no dialogue and only utilized images to convey its story. The student argued that the comic, titled Hush, not only surmounted comic tropes but also conveyed an Indian woman’s feeling of helplessness and futility in a world dominated by men.
The comic itself follows the story of an unnamed student who is repeatedly raped by her father. After years of abuse, she shoots him (or so what appears to be him) in a class room and eventually shoots herself, but only after hallucinating his appearance after killing him. The bulk of the student’s presentation centered upon the nuances within the text (for example, the use of shading and how it correlated with the protagonist’s mood) and how the author used unconventional methods to create a feeling of helplessness in a man’s world. Although the comic only detailed the woman’s struggle with her father and her descent into madness and misery, the student claimed that the comic could be interpreted as a microcosm for the frustration of women everywhere in India in the face of male dominance. I found this idea very compelling, especially since I know many books from the United States used similar (although not as drastic) plots and character arcs to build upon the idea of a frightening sense of male dominance. The student’s argument that rape is the best metaphor for the feelings of Indian woman in their society also strengthens his argument. Many literary scholars and critics point to the use of rape in literature as a device to communicate feelings of degradation, helplessness, and inferiority. A rape represents the sickest and most final display of power of a man over a woman, so it makes sense why an author would employ a rape as a metaphor for the woman experience in India.
The student organized his paper very well and managed a consistent flow throughout. After summarizing the basic premise of the comic, he showed the audience page by page the events that unfolded and offered analysis for each image and plot point. This helped greatly with buildings his arguments by informing the audience of the plot of the comic, with which he was then able to naturally analyze and argue to the reader without having the reader be potentially confused. The only issue I found with this method was its conduciveness to time, for each presenter was allowed only ten or so minutes to present their topic in full. Although a separate reader would have his or her own time to read and fully digest the paper, an audience member here is limited by the time constraints of the panel and thus could feel as though the paper’s presentation was rushed. However, I felt that the student aptly presented and explained his paper within the time constraints. I definitely learned a variety of ways one could present a paper from this panel, particularly the method of building upon an argument while simultaneously guiding the audience chronologically through a work. I could see how this method would fail to hold up with a longer work, though. Overall, I greatly valued going to the panel and learning how grad students present papers on works of literature.