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Pulda, Molly: "Portrait of a Secret. J. R. Ackerley and Alison Bechdel." In: The Future of Text and Image. Collected Essays on Literary and Visual Conjunctures. Hrsg. v. Ofra Amihay und Lauren Walsh. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publ. 2012, S. 15–38.
|Resource type: Book Article
BibTeX citation key: Pulda2012
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Keywords: "Fun Home", Autobiographie, Bechdel. Alison, Gender, Intermedialität, Literatur, USA
Creators: Amihay, Pulda, Walsh
Publisher: Cambridge Scholars Publ. (Newcastle upon Tyne)
Collection: The Future of Text and Image. Collected Essays on Literary and Visual Conjunctures
We often turn to family photographs after losing a parent, seeking in old portraits an essence of heredity, a reminder of the memories and characteristics that live on in the parent’s absence. J. R. Ackerley and Alison Bechdel, both guardians of their dead fathers’ depictions, attempt to claim their fathers’ sexuality in their auto/biographical works. In his 1968 memoir My Father and Myself, Ackerley strains to glimpse a core of homosexuality in his father’s youthful photographs. In her 2006 graphic memoir Fun Home, Bechdel, who had been close to her father until his death (possibly by suicide), searches for a shared erotic truth within his concealed sexuality.
This paper explores the visual and psychological projections of two homosexual authors who attempt to recast absent fathers in their own image. Through a double portrait of the father and the child, each author creates a wishful linkage of sexual heredity. Ackerley and Bechdel seek a solution to the silence of death by distilling their fathers’ secrets in “secretions” – bodily fluids and photographic developing fluid – a solution of sexual identity developed in visual and corporeal terms. Whether the father’s portrait makes the reader sit up with visual recognition of the author’s sexual lineage is an enduring question of auto/biographical representation in text and image. Can the reader “see” a secret in a portrait? Can the reader see what the author sees? Can the author reclaim the absent father, textually, visually, or sexually?
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