ABSTRACT

Using the concept of “communities of practice,” this essay recounts the impact of foregrounding representations of community in teaching Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home. I argue that the work of collectively reading this text, which itself offers a nuanced perspective on being and belonging, fostered a classroom community self-conscious about its own expectations for membership. Our process reinforced the constant interpretive encounter in graphic narratives between writing and image, facilitating in our class a critique of dominant modes of discourse and fostering a reading practice that helped us probe the limits of communal identity. This was not a process of affiliation with Bechdel’s persona, but a dialectic within the classroom of recognition and difference that ultimately binds communities of practice together. Moving beyond a hermeneutics of suspicion to a communal reading, our engagement with the text enabled members of the class to have both literary critical insights and deeply personal discoveries about the communities to which we willingly belong or into which we are placed. Ultimately, this essay recommends the generic affordances of the graphic narrative for this work, suggesting how communities of literary practice need to focus on texts that open modes of affiliation and recognition for diverse student populations.

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