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Historical Trauma and Disability in Czech Comics
WhenFriday, Jan. 24, 2020, 12 – 1 p.m.
Campus locationStudent Union Building (HUB)
Campus room327
Event typesAcademics, Lectures/Seminars
Event sponsorsDisability Studies Program
D Center…

Disability Studies Brown Bag seminar

Title: "Historical Trauma and Disability in Baban and Mašek’s Fred Brunold’s Monster-Cabaret Presents"

Speaker: José Alaniz

We have requested CART captioning and ASL interpretation for the event. The D Center is mobility-aid accessible and a low-scent space.

Ranked by readers and critics among the leading creative teams in contemporary Czech comics, Džian Baban and Vojtěch Mašek since 2004 have produced award-winning experimental and transmedial works engaging often painful episodes of the country’s history. Baban and Mašek scored an impressive coup with their comics trilogy Fred Brunold’s Monster-Cabaret Presents (Monstrkabaret Freda Brunolda uvádí, 2004-2008), which deals with the Czech anti-hero Damien Chobot (“trunk”) who during the communist regime undergoes a strange operation. As part of a bizarre “proboscisization” project, Chobot’s father, the mad scientist Doctor La Femme, surgically attaches an elephant’s trunk to his face. The rest of the trilogy Chobot wanders as a deformed outcast through a darkly absurdist landscape evocative of nightmarish episodes in 20th-century Czech history, a mood enhanced by the stark black and white artwork, which utilizes period photographs in a collage technique.

The proposed paper engages Baban and Mašek’s visual-verbal representation of disability in their trilogy, interrogating their use of the monstrous body as a site of Czech historical trauma which leaves lasting “scars,” as Baban and Mašek suggest with Damien Chobot, their Czech everyman. How does Fred Brunold’s Monster-Cabaret Presents both humanize and mock the disabled trauma survivor? What effect does the trilogy’s status as comics (an art form until recently associated with children’s stories in the Czech lands) have on its reception?  In the course of my discussion, I also tap insights from Monster Studies, as well as Disability Studies scholarship on the freak show, for a consideration of how monstrosity intersects with disability in the context of Czech national trauma and its legacy.

José Alaniz, professor in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures and the Department of Comparative Literature (adjunct) at the University of Washington - Seattle, authored Komiks: Comic Art in Russia in 2010 and Death, Disability and the Superhero: The Silver Age and Beyond in 2014 (both published by the University Press of Mississippi). He chaired the Executive Committee of the International Comic Arts Forum (ICAF) from 2011 to 2017. His research interests include Cinema Studies, Death and Dying, Disability Studies, Critical Animal Studies and Comics Studies. Current book projects include Resurrection: Comics in Post-Soviet Russia and a study of history in Czech graphic narrative.…
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