Language and Loss in Michel Rabagliati’s Paul à Québec and Sarah Leavitt’s Tangles


A decline in verbal and written language ability is an early symptom and an inevitable outcome of Alzheimer’s disease, as well as an eventual result of other degenerative illnesses like cancer. In this article, we analyze two graphic novels—Michel Rabagliati’s Paul à Québec (2009) and Sarah Leavitt’s Tangles: A Story about Alzheimer’s, My Mother and Me (2010)—that challenge the notion that the loss of linguistic capacity due to illness corresponds to a loss of identity. Foregrounding the ways in which language is deployed or withheld at the structural and thematic level of these autobiographical comics, we argue that the hybrid medium is useful for ordering and coping with the isolating experience of illness for sufferers and caregivers at moments when language alone is insufficient, and allows them to express themselves and connect with others beyond words when language fails completely.

This article “Language and Loss in Michel Rabagliati’s Paul à Québec and Sarah Leavitt’s Tangles” originally appeared in Rescaling CanLit: Global Readings Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 238 (2019): 84-100.

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