Ethics in the Gutter: Empathy and Historical Fiction in Comics
explores an often-overlooked genre of graphic narratives: those that fictionalize historical realities. While autographics, particularly those that place the memoirist in the context of larger cultural conversations, have been the objects of sustained study, fictional graphic narratives that-as Linda Hutcheon has put it-both "enshrine and question" history are also an important area of study. By bringing narratology and psychological theory to bear on a range of graphic narratives, Kate Polak seeks to question how the form utilizes point of view and the gutter as ethical tools that shape the reader's empathetic reactions to the content.
This book's most important questions surround how we receive and interpret representations of history, considering the ways in which what we think we know about historical atrocities can be at odds with the convoluted circumstances surrounding violence. Beginning with a new look at Watchmen
, and including examinations of such popular series as Scalped
as well as Bayou
, the book questions how graphic narratives create an alternative route by which to understand large-scale violence. Ethics in the Gutter
explores how graphic narrative representations of violence can teach readers about the possibilities and limitations of empathy and ethics.