Handwriting and the Power of Looking in Fun Home

One piece of this text that stood out to me was the idea that handwritten comics are about as close to reading a personal diary entry as one can get. Fun Home’s general text did not seem to be handwritten, creating perhaps a more distant tone, however, Alison Bechdel sprinkled in some handwriting in various parts of the book, creating an equally striking impact. For example, Bechdel recreated her childhood handwriting when quite literally allowing the reader to peek inside her diary. The combination of sharing her diary entries as well as her personal handwriting (whether it actually looked like that or not) creates a deeply personal touch and reinforces the intimacy between the reader and author. In class, we talked about authenticity markers in Fun Home, and I think the handwriting is a perfect example of Bechdel’s tools to make the novel (or perhaps narrative as Chute would say) resonate with the reader as more authentic or true. It feels as though the reader is actually getting an inside glimpse of Bechdel’s personal collection of diary entries deepening the bond between the reader and author, which is quite unique to comics as a medium as Chute points out. In the novel, the reader can visually see the internal processing and anxieties Bechdel’s young mind went through as she obsessively wrote the words “I think” which later turned into symbols, which would eventually take up her whole diary entries. The fact that the reader is invited to see this process is special, and adds an extra layer of understanding to Bechdel’s character. Bechdel also included handwritten notes from her father. I would personally love to know whether this truly was his handwriting and if these were exact copies of his letters, but even if they weren’t, the handwriting still gives a sense of authenticity. The father’s handwriting is also distinctly challenging to read, which personally made me more invested in the novel. I would look closely at the book and squint while trying to decipher the letters, much like I often do with letters from my older relatives. This added an interesting interactive quality to the novel, which again is rare to other storytelling mediums.

I was also struck by the passage in Chute’s chapter where she talks about how women written autobiographical comics are a way for the audience and author to review events, causing the woman author to be both the object of looking and creator of looking and sight.  To me this is a fascinating dynamic, however it’s also very complex and hard for me to figure out what the implications of this combination are. I could not help but to think about John Berger’s Ways of Seeing and his chapter on women as subject to the male gaze. How is his theory affected by the fact that a lesbian woman is the illustrator of Fun Home? How does Bechdel’s use of nudity come into play? Bechdel also doesn’t dress or present herself up to the standard of gender norms, illustrating herself in a very gender ambiguous fashion, creating more complexities to the idea of the male gaze in relation to Fun Home.

1 thought on “Handwriting and the Power of Looking in Fun Home

  1. johnsowr

    You bring up some great points in your post! Your reflection on handwriting and how it is tied to the theoretical texts we have read was really interesting. I agree that the handwritten panels added a great deal of authenticity to Fun Home. It is also interesting to compare the handwriting to One! Hundred! Demons!. In Fun Home the normal writing such as captions and dialogue appears to be a typed font, or at least very close to it while Barry’s writing is her own handwriting which makes it more authentic.

    I think that the use of nudity in Fun Home adds the the level of exposure in the book and showing things that people do not usually want to talk about such as sexuality, suicide and nudity.


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