Affect and Ethics in Roz Chast's "Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?"

Dartmouth Events

Affect and Ethics in Roz Chast's "Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?"

Dr. Phelan will present the Annual James Hoffman Memorial Lecture in Comparative Literature.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Haldeman 41 (Kreindler Conference Hall)
Intended Audience(s): Public
Categories: Lectures & Seminars

In her blurb for Roz Chast’s graphic memoir of the last years of her parents’ life, Alison Bechdel speaks for many readers when she claims that “the lines between laughter and hysteria, despair and rage, love and guilt are quavery indeed, and no one draws them more honestly, more . . . unscrimpingly than Roz Chast.” I shall seek to explain how Chast creates these effects by attending to two other lines that often intersect in her narrative: those between fiction and nonfiction.  More specifically, I shall analyze the ways Chast’s uses graphic fictionality—her visual depictions of nonactual events or states of being—in order to capture dimensions of her own and her parents’ actual experiences that nonfictional depictions could not.  Chast’s uses of fictionality, I shall contend, are especially important for the effects of her memoir related to “laughter” and to “love.”
James Phelan is Distinguished University Professor of English at the Ohio State University, where he teaches and writes about the English and American novel, nonfiction narrative, narrative theory, and narrative medicine.  His recent books include Reading the American Novel, 1920-2010 (2013), Experiencing Fiction  (2007), and Living to Tell about It (2005).  He is the only person in the history of the OSU English Department to be awarded the University's top prizes for both teaching and scholarship: the Distinguished Scholar Award and Alumni Distinguished Teaching Awarded.  Other awards include the Perkins Prize from the International Society for the Study of Narrative for Living to Tell about It and an honorary doctorate from Aarhus University, Denmark (2013). Since 1992, he has been the editor of Narrative, the journal of the International Society for the Study of Narrative and since 1993 co-editor of the Ohio State University Press series on the Theory and Interpretation of Narrative.  His current project has the working title: Somebody Telling Somebody Else: A New Rhetorical Paradigm for Narrative Studies.

For more information, contact:
Comparative Literature Program

Events are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted.