I think that Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home most definitely qualifies as literature. From a basic perspective I don’t believe its Tragicomic standing removes its literary aspect, but actually enhances it. On one basic level, children’s lit is full of comics and pictures, but it remains literature. I think the only reason that anyone would be hesitant to award literary qualification is if they believe comics cannot aid in telling a story, and a true one at that. Fun Home tracks one woman’s exploration of her identity within the confines of her father’s death/suicide, in an insightful thought provoking manner. The visual aspect of the piece functions as a form of symbolic words, it sometimes conveys something that would be too difficult to explain. On the first page we see a young Bechdel interacting with her father, in what would take more than a page to explain we see and understand when our eyes meet page. Their relationship is one of reluctance, her father lays on the floor reading, and is hesitant to lift his daughter up above him and play. Bechdel’s face is obscured the whole time, which hints at come sort of coming complexity, while their physical parallel position hints at their later similarities in life.
I would go so far to say that Fun Home exists not just in the sphere of literature, but in a heightened state with the advancement of its visual aids. We are given two mediums to critically read, both complimenting one another in a fashion that only heightens our understanding of very personal, and at times very serious subject matter. Fun Home is inherently tied in its content to literary behemoths in its comparisons and connotations–we have everything from Christ like images of her father to comparisons between her father and Ulysses. It is in itself the archetypal search for identity in some aspects. A journey to finding out who she is, within a certain context of family and independent living.
When it comes to New Yorker cartoons or cartoons even in the New York Times, I think that they are, from my experience, more focused on commentary than telling a story. At the same time i’m hesitant, just from my limited exposure, to write them off as literature. I know the Archie comic has been analyzed and reviewed, and revived to death. My only hesitation is that these cartoons must use some sort of text or word in their existence to have a basis in the literary realm. Garfield, who many disregard as pretty awful is a narrative, does use text, and is therefore literature along my qualifications. When it comes to quality I think its a separate issue that happens after a placement of literature or non-literature. I’m hesitant to get into the definition of art, because that what these comics are without aid of word, because that would include literature, and then the implications of the mediums and the incorporation of words and other symbols, so ill refrain, and just require that the comic is included with some sort of word or symbol indicating something greater than what appears. It must aid the piece in understanding.