Lenses: Reading Palestine Then and Now
Durrette, Cristobella L.
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Comics journalism tells nonfiction stories through the framework of sequential art. Incorporating literary devices utilized in New Journalism, comics journalism blends visual and verbal elements that create an immersive reader experience. Journalist Joe Sacco’s Palestine integrates text and illustrations to provide a glimpse into the lives of people in the Occupied Palestinian Territories at the end of the first Intifada. Departing from the traditional idea of journalistic objectivity by including himself in the story, Sacco allows readers to inhabit his position and to engage in the world of the story. Drawing on the formal cartooning techniques practiced by Joe Sacco, I crafted the script for a graphic novella to analyze questions about reader engagement and the ethics of witnessing stories of suffering. I illustrated Part 1 of the graphic novella to visually demonstrate theoretical comics concepts. The graphic novella script explores comics theorist Scott McCloud’s concept of a shell character—a narrator or witness whose position that the reader can inhabit within the story—by depicting protagonist Jessica engaging with Palestine. The story traces Jessica’s trajectory as she witnesses and contends with the treatment of Muslims in post-9/11 America and in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Like Sacco, Jessica must negotiate between her growing awareness of political violence and her own ethical standing as a white, middle-class American citizen.