Graphic Documentaries: Drawing Reality in Hispanic Graphic Narrative
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Graphic Documentaries: Drawing Reality in Hispanic Graphic Narrative


"Graphic Documentaries: Drawing Reality in Hispanic Graphic Narrative" is a study of nonfiction graphic narrative that documents complex social challenges across the Hispanic world. It explores how comics artists contend with their social and political contexts and use the comics medium to document and narrate some of the most critical problems of the 20th and 21st centuries. My dissertation establishes a cross-cultural dialogue between graphic works from Spain, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Mexico. The graphic narrative corpus I study captures challenging human conditions: migration, unemployment, gender and race discrimination, political suppression, and childhood trauma, among others. Using critical readings of seven graphic novels published between 2014 - 2017, I examine the documentary techniques that artists use to research, record, and narrate actual events and lives within their own countries. Through the lenses of comics studies, historiography, literary analysis, media studies, and memory studies, I characterize the unique esthetic and structural features of comics as a documentary medium.The introduction and first chapter of the dissertation establish the historical development and theoretical conceptualization of graphic narrative as a documentary medium. I explore the hybrid nature of comics as literature and art in the service of documenting contemporary reality. The following three chapters explore subgenres of graphic documentaries: documenting comics journalism and ethnography, documenting family histories, and documentary autographies. Throughout the chapters, I provide critical readings of graphic narrative focusing on three fundamental notions: the construction of narrative subjectivity, the use of drawing as a process of bearing witness, and the re-framing of artifacts and media archives. My analysis relies on historical contextualization, and stylistics, and syntactical reading of comics. My dissertation demonstrates that graphic documentaries can bring about ethical visual representation of disenfranchised communities and allow individuals to claim social visibility. Using attention to material details and active observation, these works expand testimonial discourse to public spaces and material information. Hence, I contend that graphic documentaries are an apt medium for representing political and economic circumstances surrounding testimonial subjects. Finally, due to their hybrid multimodal nature, graphic documentaries call attention to the interpretation of historic archives, allowing comics authors to re-frame and recontextualize their meaning.

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