Domestic Novel tradition
For your primary post, respond to one of the following questions: #3 on Gender Roles, #7 on Postmodern Features, #11 on settings, #12 on American aspects of the narrative, or #19 on relation to the Domestic Novel tradition. Don’t choose a question you have already worked on for an earlier discussion.
Construct your response as an argument.
3. Behind all the revelations about the father is a cultural “map” of gender roles that is gradually undermined and de-constructed (that is, it is revealed to be not at all “how things are” but a social arrangement or set of norms that are socially constructed and contingent on both conscious compliance and certain values and circumstances). What are some of the components of these normative gender expectations that get problematized, challenged, subverted, or destabilized in this story? If Bechdel were writing an essay instead of a graphic novel, what kinds of arguments would her text be making about these norms? Provide specific textual evidence to illustrate your observations. [You could turn this into a research question if you have had a class in Gender Roles and can draw on scholarly sources in the field of gender roles.]
7. Read the materials in the folder on Postmodernism in Files. Based on your knowledge of postmodernism, you should have a developing sense of some of the features of postmodern writing (features we expect to see in the genre overall, though not all in every text, of course). Zero in on one or two of the following features of postmodern writing and show how they are expressed in Fun Home (with specific examples and illustrations) and then explain what is conveyed through these applications of the postmodern imagination; you are explaining the impact of Bechdel’s use of a postmodern lens: [R]
• combination of literary and popular culture, mixing of the “high” and the “low”
• exploration of the slipperiness of truth; adopting the techniques of fiction to address the elusiveness of fact; preoccupation with “representation” and degrees of authenticity
• shifting of the narrative lens, moving “the marginal” to “the center”
• combination of genres (not just the major ones, but drawing on stigmatized and unexpected ones too) and collision of narrative paradigms; mining of old traditions for new possibilities; creation of new hybrid forms that make today’s complex stories possible
• lack of closure, withholding of certainty
• subversion of our expectations as readers
• questioning of the “official” story; exploration of multiple conflicting versions
• self-conscious or self-referential inventiveness (exposing the writer’s techniques and writing process), playfulness, removal of the pretense of authority; metafictional dimensions (writing about writing, stories about story-telling, texts about texts, etc.)
11. Settings can be so loaded. They’re never merely backdrops to the action, but narratives in themselves. Write a mini-essay on what the family home reveals about the father—his highly developed persona, his psyche, his secrets, his inner life. Drill down into the decorative details of the house—in fact, look at them with a magnifying glass. Make the most of the loaded details Bechdel provides, including such things as the house’s architecture, furnishings, rooms, and its “perfection.” Explain how she develops the whole idea of home décor as a way of explaining something about the father and the family dynamic.
12. In what way is the story of the father a very American story, and how does the author underscore that point? Answer by comparing this story to other classic American stories you are familiar with. Go beyond mere plot comparisons. Develop your answer by embedding your claims in some observations about American values, American story-telling preferences, or American dreams. For example, how American is it to believe you can manufacture your own identity? (Don’t miss the references to The Great Gatsby, Henry James, Fitzgerald, Horatio Alger, and Nixon, among others.) In what ways does Bruce Bechdel reflect specific literary and historical antecedents from quintessentially American cultural narratives? Use specific passages to support your points. [R]
19. How does Bechdel’s novel subvert the more familiar conventions of the domestic novel? In what ways does it pay homage to the domestic novel tradition, while taking it in new directions? Look at specific violations of the more time-honored conventions of the genre. What is Bechdel trying to suggest about them? About writers and readers? About characters caught in domestic fictions? (!
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