21st Apr 2016 4:00pm-5:30pm
Falmer, Checkland Building E424
Apologies, this event has been postponed.
C21 Seminar: Irish Diaspora, Postmemory, and Intertextuality in the Graphic Novel Gone to Amerikay
Dr Dawn Miranda Sherratt-Bado (Maynooth University)
Trauma theorist Marianne Hirsch advocates the potential for the graphic novel genre to provide an ‘adequate representational structure’ for postmemorial artistic expression (Hirsch: 1997). It is a concept which ‘describes the relationship that the “generation after” bears to the personal, collective, and cultural trauma of those who came before – to experiences they “remember” only by means of the stories, images, and behaviors among which they grew up’. Her theorization of postmemory is grounded within the field of Holocaust Studies, and the event of the Holocaust remains a touchstone for work on postmemory within other contexts of mass historical trauma.
In this paper I seek to broaden Hirsch’s analytic by examining postmemory and graphic narrative within the context of the Great Irish Famine. Marguérite Corporaal argues that the spectre is ‘a major transcultural mnemonic image which carries and performs the memory of the Famine in Irish and Irish diaspora fiction’ (Plate and Smelik: 2013). Similarly, in his essay on the Famine, David Lloyd (1995) coins the term ‘the indigent sublime’ to define ‘the much-theorized unrepresentability of the traumatic event, being registered as a shock suffered by observers who do not themselves undergo the perils of starvation. Haunting is the afterlife of that shock’.
I will investigate representations of Famine postmemory among the Irish diaspora in the graphic novel Gone to Amerikay (2012), written by Derek McCulloch and illustrated by Colleen Doran. Specifically, I will discuss the novel’s spectralization of the Famine. It is a transgenerational tale of Irish immigration to America that is haunted by the ghost of a Famine migrant. I will also explore the novel’s intertextual elements, for it originated as a literary adaptation of the song ‘Thousands are Sailing’ (1988) by the London Irish band The Pogues. Other intertexts include an article from the London Illustrated News (1849), Brendan Behan’s play The Quare Fellow (1954), and Irish narratives from the aisling and nationalist traditions.