The Affective Topographies of Geneviève Castrée’s Graphic Life Narrative
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This paper studies two autographics by the late Québecoise cartoonist Geneviève Castrée (Susceptible and “Blankets Are Always Sleeping”) and their mobilization online by a bereaved comics community. I begin with her autographic Susceptible (2012), a memoir of coming-of-age in a dysfunctional family in 1980s Quebec. Through an avatar, Goglu, Castrée recalls memories from her early childhood to late adolescence that dwell on emotional abuse in the Montreal home of her francophone mother and stepfather, and her attempts to re-unite with her anglophone father in British Columbia. I examine what Kathy Mezei calls the “domestic effects” of women’s autobiographical practices, the significance of interior spaces to the shaping of memory and the construction of an emergent self. Castrée draws Goglu in domestic spaces that are at once punitive and protective to convey the disjunction between a desire for home and its often brutal reality. My reading of Susceptible take Smith and Watson’s image of “the rumpled bed” of contemporary female autobiography literally to explore how beds and blankets are braided throughout Castrée’s work as material, metaphoric, and metonymic sites of memory. I argue that Castrée depicts her childhood bed as an ambivalent topos of security and anxiety. The bed becomes the privileged signifier of the domestic effects that form Goglu’s subjective memories, which are filtered through cultural memories particular to the political locations of her 1980s post-Quiet Revolution, pro-separatist Québécoise childhood. Goglu’s emergence as a speaking subject is shaped by the national traumas of the 1989 Montreal Massacre and the movement for Quebec sovereignty as well as the historical effects of outmigration, the Catholic Church, and the regulation of women’s bodies on modern Québécoise identity. The paper concludes by extending this analysis to Castrée’s 2015 series of self-portraits, “Blankets Are Always Sleeping”, in order to reflect on how images of the sleeping cartoonist were mobilized on social media after her untimely death in June 2016. I conclude that the phenomenon of online collective mourning expanded the visual braiding of beds throughout her autobiographical comics to the collective biographical work of memorialization in ways that sometimes sentimentalize and depoliticize her complex relationship to the domestic effects of beds.