Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

Department

English

First Advisor

Marcia Douglas

Second Advisor

William Kuskin

Third Advisor

Jeffrey DeShell

Fourth Advisor

Ruthellen Kocher

Abstract

Leona James wants to remember her life before she dies, and after others have written about her. Now in her nineties, her personal life is a negative space set around amassed praise and awards that emerge from a scientific discovery she made in her twenties. Old age compels Leona to (re)trace her life with a process called PreEmpt (Premortis Extractable Mnemonic Product & Technologies). Their motto is: “How do you want to be remembered?” This narrative woofs and warps past and future leaving the “present” ambiguous as Leona tempers demons. Her first person narration breaks down into a shared space exploited by her two daughters, her grandson, her interviewer and the genetic fly who made her famous. They each blame her for being a “bad mother”. Leona’s figure traverses real and dream landscapes. Whether she is present or absent, the elements, written or drawn, are her domain.

This work is meant to be a mnemonic scrapbook, an artifact where images and text are interdependent. I refer to this work and process as Automnemographia. I define automnemographia as a constructive process in which a subject’s story is a personal message to herself, but requires a graphical representation of that story’s memory in order to chronicle and affirm that experience. Tracing timelines around the contours of one’s non-fiction results in self-invention.

Code switching, image styles and margins disrupt the chronology of her life in 1980s Guyana, 1990s New York, and the progression of cultural estrangement for this Caribbean woman/mother/wife/ scientist. To construct this automnemographia suited to my conceptual concerns, I work across styles to create a loose collage combining text, printmaking processes like linoleum cuts, photos, and sketching. This hybrid work lives in the intersection of poetry, prose and comics, specifically, the graphic novel, where memory’s reiteration, erasure and modification over the course of time point back to origin. This is entirely the case in a chapter where I recreate a panel-by-panel version of The Incredible Hulk, Issue #1. This 24- page comic demonstrates a kind of self-invention through latent traits: anger. Like the Hulk, Leona is both maker and subject of her world.