Art, Literature, A Rock, and a Hard Place.

Without hesitation, Fun Home is clearly literature, and a brilliant example of it. Alison Bechdel does a phenomenal job developing her characters and their relationships with each other through the use of words, leaving the setting to be described through the use of visuals. Although a visual depiction is present, her writing is a necessary and effective tool in telling her story. Various definitions of the word “Literature” that I found online defined them differently. While one definition described it as “written works,” another said that literature is simply “books and writings.” Alison includes visuals in her memoir, but only as supplementary tools to help her achieve the best representation of her memory. An example of this would be her house. She could have used words to describe all of the rooms throughout the house, carefully describing each item in the house that was interesting, but instead chose to show drawings of the house and her presence in the house. Doing so allows her to let readers interpret the house and how she reacts to different parts of it by simply analyzing each picture, and how the narration above or within it correlates with the scene on that page.

A graphic memoir such as Fun Home has just as much of a right to be classified as literature as Lying by Lauren SlaterPrior to writing their books, Bechdel and Slater both chose different styles in which they would write their memoir. Since memoirs may be difficult for certain people due to their pasts, retelling the story is something that may not always be easy. In Bechdel’s case, she chose to write graphic memoir in which visuals supplement her narration. This is most likely because Bechdel found that the best way to share her story with the world was to use pictures to show her truest emotions and experience growing up.

Lastly, the importance of literature and the reason we study it so intensively, is the fact that there is something being produced whenever you read it. I’m taking about the production of thought. A large part of literature, along with literacy, is being able to comprehend words, along with reacting to them. The process or writing and reading is an endless circle of creation. Every time a writer writes something, someone else will read it and formulate their own thoughts on it. This chain is proof that something like Fun Home can be considered literature, along with any other piece of writing, even the Calvin & Hobbes comic strips you’ve read in the morning.

In my opinion, I think that words draw a dividing line between art and literature. Art can be a shoe, it can be a movie, it could be the way a tree blows in the wind. It can be the music in your ears when you walk to class, or it could be the sound of the keypads each time you press them when you’re in a silent room. I think you get the point. Art is subjective to each person, and no person can tell you what is art, and what is not. Literature is very similar in this creative aspect. The only difference that exists is that at least some form of writing needs to be included in a work for it to be considered literature. The basis of arguing what is art and what is literature is different, since all things can be considered art, while some things cannot be considered literature, based on a lack of words.

Visualize yourself walking back from class on a sidewalk, and you see a round rock on lying on the ground. it’s somewhat dirty, with a few cracks in it. You could look at it as art, and analyze the way it makes you feel, and even describe what certain features of the rock might represent in your life. Doing this justifies it as art. But since the rock has no words written on it, and there is no evidence of any diction, the rock cannot be considered literature. Creative Nonfiction combines both the basic understandings of art and literature, and combines them. Since art has no restrictions, artists can be free to do whatever it is they want. Creative Nonfiction writers work similarly, setting their own rules for how they tell their stories. Both artists, as well as creative nonfiction writers share similar criticism in their finished projects, because perception of it is subjective to the viewer/reader. So regardless if Lauren Slater’s metaphors caused a controversy over truth, or Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel is not seen by some as literature, it is evident that both are literary works in which the authors use creative and unconventional ways to recollect their memory, and  to prove that the boundaries for a discipline should not be more important than the content it contains.


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