Here's the abstract of our paper, titled THE ETHICS OF GRAPHIC MEMOIR AND AUTOBIOGRAPHY:
'This paper will discuss two works that depict the effects of trauma and mental breakdown, considering the ethical implications of translating real events into a fictional format and of representing the life story of someone else. Combining the self-reflexive accounts of the writer with a critical analysis grounded in the medical humanities, this paper aims to yield insight into the ethical questions associated with representations of trauma and mental illness. Further, it will explore the use of the graphic novel to tackle sensitive mental health issues as well as the medium's relation to other genres.
The first text, The Tale Of Brin & Bent And Minno Marylebone, encodes personal trauma
within a metaphorical form, seeking to convey first-hand psychological experience through fictional narrative. This intercourse between fact and fiction raises ethical considerations in its own right, particularly as the narrative utilises the fictional account of an abused child to explore an adult experience of helplessness, which prompted the printer to require the insertion of an authorial note disclosing the book's autobiographical dimension.
The second work, HOAX, tells the story of the author's brother, Rob, who suffered from schizophrenia, and killed himself in 2008 at the age of 31. The first portion of the story is told through musical theatre, while the second part takes the form of a graphic novel based around poems that brother and sister wrote during his illness. In addition to yielding insight into the movement between genres and across different audiences, this project facilitates an exploration of the relationship between memoir and biography. Specifically, it brings into focus interrelated questions related to voice and authenticity. The project functions as both memoir and memorial, while at the same time transposing Rob's experiences and words into new -- and public -- contexts.'
As the HOAX graphic novel grows ever-more developed, and its mental-health nature ever-more clear, my thoughts turn towards what my responsibilities will be when we actually put the book 'out there' into the public domain. A fascinating meeting of Graphic Medicine minds, the conference was really very useful in this respect, giving me a lot to think about.