The Couch under the Dome: Spatial Metaphors and the Mother-Daughter Relationship in Bechdel’s 'Are You My Mother?'

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Speaker: Frida Heitland

Abstract: How can comics authors grant access to highly personal experiences? Alison Bechdel’s second life narrative, Are You My Mother? (2012), explores her mother-daughter relationship both through interaction with the mother as well as extensive conversations between Bechdel and her psychotherapists. The majority of scholarly analyses of AYMM therefore revolve around psychotherapy and related disciplines; the work itself is often interpreted as a psychoanalytic act. Building on these insights, I examine the semantic potential of space and embodiment, and how it allows Bechdel to illustrate the personal and traumatic experience of growing up with neglectful parents, her mother specifically. I highlight Bechdel’s use of corporeal placement and perspectival shifts to express affective states and intersubjective relationships, drawing on construal level theory and place identity to establish the relevance of space in cognitive processes.

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