David Brauner writes:
Over the years I have given many conference papers on many different subjects in many different locations to many different audiences. However, the paper I gave on 12th November at the ‘Graphic Details: Communities of Experience’ symposium held at JW3, the new Jewish cultural centre in London, was a first in a number of respects. Although I published an essay on a number of Jewish women graphic novelists in a collection published earlier this year, entitled Graphic Details: Essays on Confessional Comics by Jewish Women, edited by Sarah Lightman, one of the co-organisers of this conference, and I gave a brief, informal talk at the opening of the exhibition that inspired the symposium and the essay collection, ‘Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women’ (currently showing until 13th December at the Space Station Sixty Five gallery in Kennington), I had never given a formal paper before on what is still a relatively new interest of mine.
What made this prospect particularly intimidating was that two of the artists and writers whose work I discuss in the paper were present at the conference, sitting in the front row of the audience when I delivered my paper. Furthermore, the material I discuss is rather sensitive and potentially controversial, as the title of the paper – ‘The Turd That Won’t Flush: The Comedy of Jewish Self-Hatred in the Work of Corinne Pearlman, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Miss Lasko-Gross and Ariel Schrag’ – indicates. My nerves were not helped by the fact that by the time I finally got up to speak it was nearly 6pm and we had heard from more than twenty speakers – including many of the artists whose work is featured in the ‘Graphic Details’ exhibition – since the start of the symposium at 9.30am.
In the event, the audience – made up of academics, members of the general public and a number of graphic novelists and cartoonists – demonstrated admirable powers of concentration and undiminished enthusiasm, giving my paper and the panel of which I was a part their full attention and warm applause. Overall, the symposium was an extraordinary experience: it was a privilege to be able to hear some of the artists who had inspired me to write about this growing field talk about their work with such insight, wit and humility. I left JW3 exhausted but exhilarated and with the strong feeling that my first comics conference won’t be my last.