Date of Defense


Date of Graduation




First Advisor

Ryan Lewis

Second Advisor

Leon Sun

Third Advisor

Nicholas Kuder


My inspiration for my project, “A Day on the Back Forty”, came from my personal experiences with domestic violence and alcoholism and my interest in not only sharing and hopefully lifting the taboo of having these experiences cast a negative light on my life, but to expose these issues and hopefully bring awareness to those who are not close to domesticviolence or alcoholism and to also offer a connection to those who have experienced these issues. My thought process for this project was to be able to create a thought-provoking familiarity that could be experienced on both an intimate and public level, and for this I chose to use an accordion book format that could be both seen from afar and then encountered on a more personal level when deliberately being held and reading the book up close. I felt that using the format of a graphic novel was an appropriate approach for telling a personal narrative such as mine for many reasons that I will try to sum up here. From my experiences reading books such as Fun Home, Blankets, Maus, those of Sabrina Ward Harrison along with countless others, the addition of imagery to support or even replace language is a huge transcendence from merely reading and imagining a situation to beginning to pick up on a feeling or experience that language alone may have fallen short in doing so.

One of the main reasons that I have for telling my story in this format is that I believe that simply discussing or retelling my story does not truly reflect or convey the emotions and experiences I went through. “Novelists have frequently found that the impact of trauma can only adequately be represented by mimicking its forms and symptoms, so that temporality and chronology collapse, and narratives are characterized by repetition and indirection”, as explained by Anne Whitehead in Trauma Fiction.

As is their typical form, the graphic novel is a tool that is able to transcend time through the use of gutters, isolated pictures, and its ability to tell a fragmented story in a way that is often concurrent with the experience of fragmented memory during a time of trauma. As Scott McCloud explains in Understanding Comics: “Comics panels fracture both time and space, offering a jagged, staccato rhythm of unconnected moments”. In this way they often mimic the way a traumatic event seems to encode itself into our subconscious as “staccato” thoughts, feelings, and memories, such as described briefly by Judith Herman in her work Trauma and Recovery, ‘“traumatic memories lack verbal narrative and context; rather, they are encoded in the form of vivid sensations and images”. While purely written or literature can describe trauma, graphic novels can utilize images to emphasize the “frozen and wordless quality of traumatic memories…“‘. In this way, graphic novels are an excellent medium to portray an emotional experience through the informed use of color, repetition, graphic elements, panel size, and various visual clues. These images combined with words may prove to be a more powerful conduit for sharing personal narrative experiences than many others, and in my personal position, I believe it is definitely cohesive for mine.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Open Access