Graphic Novel Discourse

Aside from using graphic novel discourse (GND) as a tool for understanding and co-creating meaning with participants, GND is a minimally chartered yet legitimate tool for researchers to share knowledge with peers (Galman, 2009). For researchers constructing and disseminating knowledge, the use of GND as a dialogic communication tool embraces the post-structuralistic philosophies of Foucault, Bourdieu, and other post-modernists in that GND allows for multiple understandings to be presented simultaneously. In Spiegelman’s Maus (1973), Spiegelman presents the Holocaust as it affects humanistic domains of relationships, economy, and education, by representing the ordinary events of family dinners, dating, working, and school. Not only are events presented contiguously in GND, ordinary events in multiple domains are presented juxtaposed; the reader is forced to perceive the significance of each event as it relates and influences other events.Maus_1_010

In the sample of Maus included here, Spiegelman draws a father having a conversation with his son. Although the father-son relationship is explored in the text, the visual aspect of GND simultaneously exposes readers to many binary oppositions. For example, Spiegelman challenges the viewer to balance imprisonment with freedom, by illustrating tattooed numbers on the father’s forearm as he grips an ordinary stationary bike. And, without words or overt judgement, Spiegelman forces the reader to contemplate how the two generations drastically differ in their values of life and health, by framing the young son smoking within the arms of his father, who is working to maintain health. Consider also the wealth of story and meaning Spiegelman implicitly shares through a simple drawing of a dress shoe on an exercise bike. Through these drawings, the reader understands more than the relationship as portrayed in the text alone; the reader understands that the structure and nature of the relationship between father and son cannot be understood without also understanding the context of being a Holocaust survivor trying to live an ordinary life. The reader is left to contemplate, why is health so important to this Holocaust survivor? Why is he exercising in dress shoes? How have his experiences influenced his views of financial stability?
20th Century cubism was an attempt to capture multiple three-dimensional perspectives within a single two-dimensional space. While each perspective was correct, or “true”, their juxtaposition on a canvas illuminated their differences. Cubists like Picasso had a talent for celebrating ordinary objects like a guitar or a woman’s face, by acknowledging and representing diverse facets of how a guitar or a woman can be understood differently, by different people, simultaneously. GND can be used in the same manner. Qualitative researchers are faced with a similar challenge of acknowledging and representing the diverse facets of a topic of study, capturing multiple ontologies and arranging them, creating new knowledge. If done well, the new multifaceted knowledge will, as Rhianna sings, shine bright like a diamond.

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