• The Hidden Architecture of Disability: Chris Ware's Building Stories

    Todd Comer (see profile)
    Comic books, strips, etc., Disabilities, Disability studies, Graphic novels
    Item Type:
    Book chapter
    Chris Ware, Building Stories, Comics, Disability
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    While the 14 objects in Chris Ware’s Building Stories ‘may,’ after a few readings, be placed in an linear order, there is no way of ensuring coherence in a first reading. The effect is dizzying, and the absent center compels the reader to immense feats of construction. At the minute level of one singular comic, what we get is a relatively coherent, character-driven biography of a woman. It is a story detailing loneliness, absence, ennui, failure, and fleeting moments of happiness. Most interesting, for a scholar of disability, is Ware’s portrayal of the unnamed protagonist and her amputation, a bodily difference that does not at first seem to make a difference, as the only published essay on disability in Ware’s comic suggests. However, I’d like to suggest that her physical impairment, despite its lack of commentary at the particular level, operates very much as an organizing center for the collection as a whole. Using disability in such a way is ethically suspect, because it follows a long history of objectifying representations that marginalize individuality, raising a singular marker to the level of a generalized abstraction. In terms of disability studies, she would be described as a “material metaphor” (Mitchell and Snyder) for the above abstractions. She, in the absence of her lower leg, embodies loneliness and incompletion, and, I argue, the hermeneutic vacuum that is the most significant result of the avant-garde form of Ware’s Building Stories.
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    Last Updated:
    7 years ago
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