Haunting the Borderlands: Graphic Novel Representations of German Expulsions
Dr. Martha Kuhlman, a professor of Literary and Cultural Studies, examines Eastern European graphic novels in her research. Dr. Kuhlman is a frequent traveler to Europe, specifically to the Czech Republic. She recently completed a study, “Haunting the Borderlands: Graphic Novel Representations of German Expulsion.” Upon arrival, Dr. Kuhlman explored various academic and intellectual bookstores to look at new graphic novels. The first book she became interested in was called Alois Nebel, a historical fiction graphic novel examining the troubling past of Central Europe. After presenting a paper on the novel and writing an article, she reached out Jaromir 99, the illustrator of Alois Nebel and Bomber. Jaromir 99 was inspired by Art Spiegelman’s Maus. The novels address the controversial issue of German expulsion. She thought it was more difficult to understand but the theme of borderline culture was really interesting to her. It was so prominent and she corresponded with the illustrator over email.
After carefully reading the novel, Dr. Kuhlman developed and asked specific questions. The artist, Jaromir 99, had grown up in the area he represents in the novel (self portrait pictured left). The novel corresponds to his own experience and his parents generation recollection of the aftermath of WWII. The Czech Republic is rich in history. The architecture of the country is German, while there are Czechs, Germans and German Czechs living in the country. The whole trauma of WWII is discussed in Czech culture through novels and art.
This past summer, Dr. Kuhlman received a research grant to return to the Czech Republic and Germany. She specifically looked at the commemorations of the 1989 Fall of the Wall. She found there are a number of graphic novels coming out of Germany highlighting the transition. She collected a number of magazines and newspaper articles that were written 25 years after 1989. These magazines and articles reflected on the meaning of the Fall of the Wall and the economic and cultural transition that followed. She interviewed the filmmakers that made a documentary commemorating the revolution, receiving insight on their personal reflection of the demonstration. There is a gap in understanding between older and younger generations. While the older generation remembers and struggled through the revolution, the younger generation is unaware of the struggles people went through to overthrow communism. The novels Dr. Kuhlman studied provides insight for readers and the younger generation, allowing them to recognize that there are still problems, even after the revolution.
Images of the 1989 Fall of the Berlin Wall