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Perspectives on Graphic Life Narratives

Calendar Thursday, 19 May 2022
Calendar 17:30-18:30

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Merged portraits of Dr Lisa El Refaie & Amrutha Mohan

A webinar as part of the History and Heritage research theme at the School of Modern Languages with guest speakers Dr Lisa El Refaie: Reader, School of English, Communication and Philosophy (Cardiff University) and Amrutha Mohan, PhD Candidate, University of Kerala, India (Virtual Visiting Scholar at Cardiff University).

The session will focus on questions of childhood, childlessness and representation in graphic life narratives. Dr El Rafaie will explore the (verbo)visual metaphors for (in)fertility in women’s autobiographical comics, whilst Amrutha will look into the ways in which the child is imagined and constructed in graphic life narratives.

Dr Lisa El Refaie: ‘Metaphors of (in)fertility in women’s autobiographical comics’

In Western consumer societies, women are supposedly free to make their own choices, yet involuntarily childless women are still often regarded as tragic objects of pity, and the voluntarily childfree are condemned and marginalized. These attitudes are reflected in the most common metaphors used in relation to (in)fertility, which portray it as a journey, a battle, a race against time, a lottery, and an investment. In my talk, I will examine (verbo)visual metaphors for (in)fertility in women’s autobiographical comics, arguing that they may either reinforce or challenge dominant pronatalist ideologies.

Elisabeth (Lisa) El Refaie is Reader in Visual Communication at the School of English, Communication and Philosophy, Cardiff University. Her work focuses on visual and multimodal forms of narrative and rhetoric. She is the author of Autobiographical Comics: Life Writing in Pictures (2012) and Visual Metaphor and Embodiment in Graphic Illness Narratives (2019). In recent years, she has developed and run workshops that encourage people to share their views and emotions on sensitive health topics by creating their own visual metaphors.

Amrutha Mohan: ‘Imag(in)ed Childhood: Representation of The Child in Graphic Narratives’


The textual, social and cultural construction of childhood and the recurring presence of the child narrator in life narratives and other literary genres has always been a matter of academic debates. The graphic medium offers a unique discursive framework by which the inner and outer world of the child focalizer/narrator is visualized. The child appears as a metaphor of the past and also acts as the connecting link between the past and the future. In most of the graphic memoirs that deal with crisis/conflicts, the child is not only an innocent victim- but also a witness, a keen observer and a template in which traumatic experiences are inscribed. They also reflect the complexities and biases of the adult world and often offers a critique of the same. By retrospectively narrating about the plurality of childhood experiences, the adult narrator persistently engages with memory work. Hence, more than representing the subjective memories and experiences of the author, the figure of the child in the graphic life narratives posits pertinent questions regarding the ways of remembering and articulating the past. The research therefore tries to explore the ways in which the figure of child is imagined and represented in select graphic life narratives.

Amrutha Mohan is a PhD candidate at S.N. College, University of Kerala, (Kerala) India. She is currently a Virtual Visiting Scholar at the School of Modern Languages, Cardiff University. Her doctoral project looks into the representation of memory and trauma in Asian comics. She has completed her BA and MA in English Language and Literature from the University of Kerala and has also passed the UGC National Eligibility Test for Lectureship. Her broader research interests include spatiality studies, comics studies, memory, trauma and affect, life writings etc.

Event format & recording
The event will take place online as a Zoom webinar and will be recorded for publication after the event.

Simultaneous Translation
The event will be delivered in the medium of English. You are welcome to ask questions in the medium of Welsh during the Q&A session. If you intend to do this, please contact by Wednesday 20 April to request simultaneous translation. Please note that 10% or more of those planning to attend will need to request this provision in order for it to be sourced and will be subject to resource availability.

We apologise that the entire registration page is not available in the medium of Welsh.  Unfortunately, the platform we use does not offer this service.

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