The Male Body fights back: the intermedial relations between body, autobiographical graphic novel and film in American Splendor

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


    This presentation takes as its staring point two kinds of intermedial genres: the autobiographical graphic novel, with a male protagonist, and films based on comic books. The graphic novel has been studied, in different perspectives, for example in Baetens (2001); film adaptations based on comicshave been scrutinized by (e. g.) Christiansen (2000), Hofstede (1991), and Hughes (2003). This presentation focuses on the American author Harvey Pekar’s autobiographical comics (illustrated, among others, by Robert Crumb) and the film, directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, based on Pekars’s work, American Splendor (2003). The autobiographical comics or graphic novels are often associated with a typically gendered (male) kind of introspection, reflectivity, and self-analysis. In most cases the autobiographical content focuses on the misgivings, the social phobias, and the exaggerated dullness of the life of the protagonist. The lacks in social skills are in most cases manifested by an unusual interest in the limitations of the own, male body, and sometimes by very self-conscious and deliberate antiaesthetics. The lifestyle and physical looks of the protagonist, as it is depicted in image, and told in words, are thus connected to anti-sociality, neuroticism, and to different kinds of physical deformity (illusionary, of course), a slight overweight and illness. An analogy is hereby made between the social and psychological factors and the male dysfunctional body, an analogy that is underlined by the intermedial qualities of the genres. This analogy is even further amplified in the film adaptation by the studied use of mise-en-scène, the use of the actors’ persona, special effects and, in this case, the fact that the autobiographical subject (Harvey Pekar) makes an appearance in the movie “as himself”. Even though the male body is shown as recalcitrant, passive and cancerous, it is simultaneously used as a sign of resistance against the norms and standards of society, a kind of “anti-ecological physical entity”, as I will have it. Indepth studies of the representations of the male body, that my presentation in part is based on, is found in Ervø och Johansson (2003, two volumes).

    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 2005
    EventNorSIS Conference Växjö 2005 -
    Duration: 1980-Jan-01 → …


    ConferenceNorSIS Conference Växjö 2005
    Period80-01-01 → …

    Swedish Standard Keywords

    • General Literary studies (60203)


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