Performing unreachable bodies : the politics of encounter in Alison Bechdel's Fun home
Readings of Fun Home thus far have tended to focus on the representation of Alison Bechdel’s traumatic life experiences and on the ways in which the memoir bears witness to that trauma. While Jennifer Lemberg explores the role of drawing in overcoming the difficulty or impossibility of naming the traumatic experiences Alison undergoes (135), Ann Cvetkovich draws attention to the cultural and political work the memoir performs by making space for everyday life histories of trauma and for accounts of forbidden, pathologized desires (111).
I would like to explore the ways in which Fun Home foregrounds those illicit desires, and performs that political work, not only through the telling of Alison’s story but, more specifically, by mobilizing the reader’s affective capabilities in the face of what may be read as surprising, emotionally charged objects and situations. I suggest that Bechdel’s memoir boldly sets the stage for an affective and cognitive encounter with out-of-bounds, unapproachable bodies and histories. Our assumptions about hetero and homonormativity, as well as our conception of home and the family as heterosexual, normative spaces, are interrogated in and through those encounters. I analyze the fundamental role of the graphic narrative form, and the employment of archival objects and elements of performance in particular, in setting the stage for the reader’s affective encounter with Alison’s family history.