Graphic novelist Kim Edgar, the Jenni House resident artist for July, will be using their residency to research tropes about disability and illness and then using that information to help shape a new graphic novel they’re working on. (Submitted)

Graphic novelist using Jenni House residency to research tropes about disability, illness

Kim Edgar is hoping to use their research to help shape a new graphic novel they’re working on

A Dawson City-based graphic novelist is using their Jenni House Artist Residency to dive into tropes about disability and illness in literature in order to avoid or subvert them in their own upcoming work.

Kim Edgar began their residency, remotely from their home in Dawson, on July 1.

The Jenni House residency typically sees an artist work out of the namesake building in downtown Whitehorse, but due to COVID-19, artists have been staying in their respective communities and running public outreach events online.

Edgar said staying at home for a residency was a new experience; all their previous artist residencies involved travelling somewhere else to work.

“The benefit of that is that you’re sort of in a separate space, so that you are focused on doing the thing that you’re meant to be doing, you know?” they said in an interview July 7.

“And there is something about that spatial separation and the fact that I’m usually, like, alone, that really does change my relationship to the work that I’m doing and so at home, I don’t have that, it’s true, but I have instead implemented, like, a strict sort of schedule I’m trying to follow.”

Edgar has picked out six books they’re hoping to finish reading by the end of the month, including Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors by Susan Sontag, who was undergoing treatment for cancer when she wrote the book; Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte; and Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space by Amanda Leduc.

They’ve been trying to dedicate four-hour chunks each day to reading and researching, using “little egg timers and stuff” to help keep them on track although they said they stop once they feel like they “can’t absorb more information.”

Edgar said tropes surrounding disability and illness are nothing new for them; they have their own “host of illnesses” that they’ve been “negotiating,” some of which have only appeared in the past five years.

“I’ve been doing comics quite a lot and so my more recent comics have been about … me having an undiagnosed illness or an illness that’s not yet diagnosed or unexplained symptoms,” they said, explaining that creating comics and writing stories has served as a way to understand and process being chronically ill and disabled.

It wasn’t until February, though, that Egar said they started to take an interest in academic representations and analyses of disability and illness when their partner, who studied English, suggested they read The Educated Imagination by Northrop Frye.

“I never went to university so … the academic ideas behind things, especially behind things like literature and storytelling that maybe most people (that) have a generalized university background have, I’ve never really encountered until I started reading about it myself,” they explained.

“And what I really liked about The Educated Imagination was, it talks about, like, literature as a whole, as something constantly compounding upon each other and the idea that previous tropes and stories always will influence the stories we’re telling now.

“And so I thought if I’m writing about illness, I’d like to know a little bit more about how much illness was presented in literature in history so that I can hopefully take that in and avoid problematic tropes that have been done before that are cliché, but also maybe like, have a better idea of kind of how illness occupies our consciousness as a culture, and then maybe have a better idea of how to like subvert that or change that.”

Edgar said they’re hoping to use the research to produce a story outline and a loose script for a graphic novel they’re working on featuring two characters with disabilities. The story is still “very much in development,” they said, but wanted the structure to be like a “river journey,” another trope found in a lot of stories.

“I’m thinking of like, Heart of Darkness, or the movie I really love called Embrace of the Serpent, but they all tend to have (this structure of) you’re traveling up or down river and make all of these stops on the way, and there’s this idea that the further along the river you go, the more you’re like, descending into something,” Edgar said.

“I think about that a lot with the Yukon River, so I do want to include something with the Yukon River and being on the river I think in the story.”

As for the characters, Edgar said they’re still working on how they’ll be presented, noting that there’s a broad number of disabilities including ones that aren’t visible.

“I want to have two protagonists … with two different disabilities that are not like, working with each other, but not working against each other, just sort of foiling each other perhaps,” they said.

“…I have a lot of snippets and notes and things I’d like to include, but also the structure is changing based on the books that I’m reading so I think I’ll have a better idea of the story structure by the end of (the residency).”

Edgar is posting updates about their residency on Instagram at @deadbirdparty

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

Arts

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

In a Feb. 17 statement, the City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology used for emergency response. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Three words could make all the difference in an emergency

City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology

Jesse Whelen, Blood Ties Four Directions harm reduction councillor, demonstrates how the organization tests for fentanyl in drugs in Whitehorse on May 12, 2020. The Yukon Coroner’s Service has confirmed three drug overdose deaths and one probable overdose death since mid-January. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three overdose deaths caused by “varying levels of cocaine and fentanyl,” coroner says

Heather Jones says overdoses continue to take lives at an “alarming rate”

Wyatt's World for Feb. 24, 2021.
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 24, 2021.

Approximately 30 Yukoners protest for justice outside the Whitehorse courthouse on Feb. 22, while a preliminary assault hearing takes place inside. The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society, based in Watson Lake, put out a call to action over the weekend. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Courthouse rally denounces violence against Indigenous women

The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society put out a call to action

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

The Yukon government and the Yukon First Nations Chamber of Commerce have signed a letter of understanding under the territory’s new procurement policy. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
First Nation business registry planned under new procurement system

Letter of understanding signals plans to develop registry, boost procurement opportunities

US Consul General Brent Hardt during a wreath-laying ceremony at Peace Arch State Park in September 2020. Hardt said the two federal governments have been working closely on the issue of appropriate border measures during the pandemic. (John Kageorge photo)
New U.S. consul general says countries working closely on COVID-19 border

“I mean, the goal, obviously, is for both countries to get ahead of this pandemic.”

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Start of spring sitting announced

The Yukon legislature is set to resume for the spring sitting on… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Most Read