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Title: Between history and memory : ambivalent longing in the work of Seth
Author: Marrone, Daniel
Awarding Body: Birkbeck (University of London)
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2013
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The work of Canadian cartoonist Seth positions itself between history and memory, and in doing so gives rise to a range of ambivalent impulses, chief among them an ambivalent longing for the past. Seth suggests that “the whole process of cartooning is dealing with memory,” and by consistently drawing attention to the narrative representation of the past, his comics reveal the extent to which the making of history is an act of great artifice. In its exploration of what Walter Benjamin calls “the mysterious work of remembrance—which is really the capacity for endless interpolation into what has been,” Seth’s work exhibits a complicated nostalgia, well aware of its own reactionary, restorative and nationalistic inclinations and able to channel them toward productive ends. Seth’s ironic, humorous and metafictional approaches to memory, remembrance and longing for the past reveal that his attitude toward these closely related subjects is deeply ambivalent. He nimbly mobilises history, (auto)biography, anecdote, documentary and other parallel modes. This investigation seeks to understand the ways in which his appropriation of such historicising discourses substantiates the powerful evocations of longing, loss and memory that characterise his fiction. Memory is here conceived not just as an invisible, ubiquitous mental phenomenon that reflects our experience of time and relation to the past, but as a medium, an art – and one which is in many ways akin to Seth’s mode of expression. The fundamental operation of comics, as a visual medium, initiates and makes space for narrative interpolations in a way that is not only comparable to but in a certain sense mimics the historical interpolations of memory; in both cases, longing is spurred by incompleteness. Seth turns the medium of memory on itself, using it as an instrument to examine the processes of remembrance and making history.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available