Mundane Intimacies and Everyday Violence in Contemporary Canada Comics
Mikalson, Kaarina Louise
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This dissertation argues that contemporary Canadian comics construct a sustained and critical gaze of the mundane and the everyday. Canadian artists are using the form of comics to reveal the structures of oppression and violence that are so familiar as to become mundane. My introduction lays out the theoretical framework of the everyday and argues that it is well-suited to the study of Canadian comics. The first chapter examines Kate Beaton’s webcomics, which reveal the environmental, cultural, and economic damage of Canada’s petroculture. I use Rob Nixon’s concept of slow violence to argue that Beaton’s mundane gaze brings nuance to her personal experiences with Canada’s Tar Sands. In my second chapter, I read Emily Carroll’s horror comics, Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki’s graphic novel Skim, and the graphic novel Will I See? as examples of a new gothic girlhood graphic. Read together, these texts reveal that there is nothing mundane about girlhood. Everyday, girls are vulnerable to the intersecting violences of racism, colonialism, heteronormativity, and patriarchy. My third chapter takes up comics’ potential as a spatial form through two comics about access to space, Ting Chak’s graphic essay Undocumented: The Architecture of Migrant Detention and Eric Kostiuk Williams’s graphic novel Condo Heartbreak Disco. Both comics use the spatial dynamics of comics to trace oppression and resistance across what David Harvey conceptualizes as broad spatiotemporal scales. My fourth chapter argues that artist-activist Gord Hill produces comics that are pedagogical in content and form. I build on Dale Jacobson’s concept of multimodal literacy to argue for Hill’s attention to the imagery, rhetoric, and style of fascism and colonialism. Hill’s comics argue that one must be able to read these oppressive movements if one is to undo them. I conclude by recognizing that the everyday is far from boring, and that mundanity can serve as a cover for persistent violence and abuse of power. Comics serve as a powerful form, as they work to reveal these structures of oppression, invite solidarity, and imagine paths of resistance.