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Coral Anaid Díaz Cano
University of La Laguna
Vol. 11 (2022), Articles, pages 9-30
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In the graphic narrative Dumb: Living Without a Voice (2018), Canadian cartoonist Georgia Webber explores her acquired physical disability after a severe vocal injury leaves her voiceless. As a talkative, social young woman working as a café server, Georgia’s life is interrupted when she is forced to adapt herself to a different way of navigating the world. Previous scholarly work has analyzed Dumb to articulate a connection between comics theory and disability rhetoric (Dolmage and Jacobs 2016) and explored its fruitful linkage between voice/voicelessness and identity (Venkatesan and Dastidar 2020). Building on the path opened by these scholars, the aim of this paper is to critically examine the representation of disability and its engagement with the concept of crip time in Dumb by drawing on the interdisciplinary fields of disability studies, crip theory, and comics theory. The first section of this paper will build on Alison Kafer’s formulation of the strange temporalities of disability (2013) to investigate the ways in which Webber constructs non-conventional layouts where she incorporates different formal elements to present Georgia’s lived experience of disability as a disruption of conventional temporalities. Special attention will be paid to the endless, frustrating routine of paperwork to apply for disability welfare that the protagonist faces when her condition renders her unable to work. In the second section, I will draw on the work of Ellen Samuels (2017) to examine how Webber negotiates her shifting identity by graphically splitting her embodied self on the page, composing a parallel timeline where she visualizes her pre-disabled and disabled selves. The power of the pictorial is also extended to Webber’s clever usage of color: while her cartoonish drawings appear in black and white, she employs red to draw Georgia’s inner voice and her pain. Finally, my last section will employ the conception of crip time developed by Petra Kuppers (2014) to explore Georgia’s reconnection with herself through her breathing exercises and her orientation towards artistic creativity. Overall, I will argue that Dumb does not present a narrative of recovery, as Georgia does not heal from her injury but engages instead with her disabled existence by turning inwards and depicting her voice (lessness).

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