Research Snippet – Autobiographical Comics

Refaie, E. E. (2012). Autobiographical Comics: Life Writing in Pictures. University of Mississippi.

A collection of quotes and ideas that make it easier for me to quote em for the report.

“For [autobiographical authors](original term: these artists), the act of writing/drawing explicitly or implicitly constitutes as a form of therapy.They also often express a desire to provide help and comfort to readers who might be in a similar situation.” (pg. 43)

“A large number of autobiographical comics deal with physical illness or disability, another area in social life where powerful social discourses of “normality” and “abnormality” exist” (pg 84)

“Featherstone (1991) believes that western consumer culture has deliberately fostered an particular attitude towards the body that encourages individuals to monitor themselves constantly for bodily imperfections and to adopt responsibility for combatting any form of disease, deterioration or decay. ” (pg 84)

“life writing is like ordinary, everyday memory in that it involves similar processes of joining together voluntary and involuntary memories and fictional elements in order to form a more or less coherent narrative. Unlike more private acts of remembering however, autobiography is also a deliberate and self-conscious act of communication. … the resulting accounts of a person’s life are then actively recreated and sometimes challenged and contested in the minds of individual readers”(pg 100) 

Consultation summary 21 0ct

To look into:

Social perception

  1. How people see you
  2. what decision did you make because of this
  3. what do they make you feel

Personal Mindset

  1. okay it is that I’m not cured
  2. this is how i see life
  3. there needs to be a take away
  4. some sort of insight into your stance
  5. did it affect you? what did you for?

Analysing readings

  1. what learning did this person achieve reflection
  2. struggle to fit or not fit

Possible directions

  1. state of mind -> emotional states -> cut between reality and mental states
  2. not offering solutions -> but how i coped with it
  3. How I normalise myself

your patient story

HOW DO YOU FEEL? long term solutions?

  1. that narrative -> me coping with Trichotillomania
  2. how do you fight that urge -> how do you manage that
  3. how to you visual like the urge to pull?
  4. triggers -> how do I feel about them?
  5. Cutting one’s hair & concerns
  6. pondering about solutions
  7. how does it make you feel shows the tension of therapy and the feelings of the patient
  8. because of all this things this is why you never seek -> autobiographical
  9. webpage vs book -> easy accessibility -> what does it aims to achieve -> advocate -> create awareness -> character 

  10. character -> how the world look at you -> yourself ->irony and contradictions about living with Trich

FYP not about advocacy -> more about accounting experience

Artist References:

Edward Hopper

unsettling quietness and loneliness through layout and muted colours

Chang Jinchao

  1. Metaphorical  storytelling: putting on characters
  2. Metaphor -> how you see the world looks at you

Illness as metaphor – an analysis | Personal thoughts

“Illness is the night side of life, a more onerous citizenship. Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place.”

Sontag, S. (1978). Illness as metaphor

In her book, Illness as metaphor by Susan Sontag, Sontag compares between Tuberculosis and Cancer and how different people and societies perceive the two diseases.

While thinking about my topic, I was comparing the perceptions between mental and physical disease. I never really thought much about the perceptions between physical diseases and how within that category itself was a myriad of perceptions going between different illnesses. How an illness could be perceived as almost tragically beautiful while being a symbol of rot and decay.

But first, what is a metaphor?


1. a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest resemblance, as in “A mighty fortress is our God.”.

2. something used, or regarded as being used, to represent something else; emblem; symbol.


For both cancer and TB, they are illnesses that are still prevalent and dangerous today with how difficult it is to treat them especially in their terminal stages. I found it interesting how TB was perceived by societies back centuries ago was almost like how cancer is seen today. The prevalence of it, the inevitability of a slow death looming, and the lack of comfort knowing that there’s no absolute cure for it yet, are big things that societies have to deal with emotionally.

It made me wonder about the human obsession with metaphors: the romantisation and personification of illnesses. Is it the fear of the unknown? The need to control and understand something that is always way beyond us? To give disease another attribute, to compare it to something we already know, do we understand it better or do we further alienate it from what it really is?

Are the metaphors in some way a sort of comfort? It seems so when Sontag brought up examples the melancholy present in TB patients, was written and seen as a positive, beautiful trait. Were they written by patients of TB or the people around them, trying to find positivity in grief.

Are the metaphors part of superstition? Once again Sontag brought up how TB as a “wet-based” disease, could be cured by moving to dryer locations, (a typical scene in victorian-era novels).

Are the metaphors a critique on our society? How Cancer is seen as a product of our excess consumerist culture, through over-eating, over-exerting our bodies from work.

Sontag’s overall argument is this:

My point is that illness is not a metaphor, and that the most truthful way of regarding illness—and the health- iest way of being ill—is one most purified of, most resistant to, metaphoric thinking. “ – Susan Sontag

Many critics have called Sontag’s book as liberating and empowering, powerful for arguing against fear inducing metaphors that inhibits people to seek recovery.  By comparing TB and Cancer, two similarly perceived diseases, one of which is less of a threat today as the other, Sontag shows the absurdity of thoughts past and how thoughts of the present are and will be.

So what about mental health? I’ll be writing on that more on my analysis on A Philosopher’s Madness by Lishan Chan in my next post.


Total Biblography of books|articles|etc  read ( for my own reference):

Sontag, S. (1978). Illness as metaphor. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Flessner, C. A., Woods, D. W., Franklin, M. E., Cashin, S. E., & Keuthen, N. J. (2007). The Milwaukee Inventory for Subtypes of Trichotillomania-Adult Version (MIST-A): Development of an Instrument for the Assessment of “Focused” and “Automatic” Hair Pulling. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment J Psychopathol Behav Assess, 30(1), 20-30. doi:10.1007/s10862-007-9073-x

What is Trichotillomania? – The TLC Foundation for BFRBs. Retrieved September 01, 2016, from

Trichotillomania. Retrieved September 01, 2016, from