Notes on Monica Chiu’s “A Moment Outside of Time,” from her book Drawing New Color Lines

Below the cut, find my notes on Monica Chiu’s “A Moment Outside of Time,” which is a chapter on Tamaki and Tamaki’s Skim, and can be found in her collection Drawing New Color Lines. I’m putting my notes under the cut because they are boring as shit to anyone who isn’t me (obv), but you might be interested n my note-taking strategy. I picked up this strategy in a graduate class, and used it all of the way through my comps. It’s super simple: distill notes for each text down to a single page by focusing on keyword (brief definitions in plain language, with page numbers for reference where applicable), a summary of the text’s main argument (four sentences or less- an excellent skill to practice), and notes & questions (max four). Anyway: notes.

Monica Chui’s A Moment Outside of Time
Keywords:
*absence/presence: also noted as: visible/invisible, and silence/sound (unspoken/spoken). The registers that Skim moves between, and through which it does the complex work that it does, which, for Chui, is taking up themes of race and sexuality alongside teenaged melancholia. Chui points out that Skim doesn’t ever mention race or sexuality in words, but does reference both in images. Thus, race and sexuality exist in the text as both absence and presence in a complex way (absent from the strictest definition of narrative, present as an absence, present as images, absent as an object towards which Skim turns). Chui also hones in on the way that said representations, those that exist as absences or silences, which are demarcated as outside of time because they occur on splash pages that are recognized as outside of the carefully demarcated time of the form, cause the reader to pause, or stop. In this way, said representations almost foreground themselves, signaling their importance, while also remaining peripheral to the narrative.
*visuality/discursivity: Marianne Hirsch’s point that images and words, often read as working together to produce meaning in a particular way in the comics form, actually slip into one another rather seamlessly. Images can only be shared, discussed, taught, etc when translated into words, while words take up space on the page and operate as images. This is especially true in comics because of the practice of lettering, rather than typing– words move about the image, fall into fonts, etc (all additional, visual, layers of meaning), more freely in comics than elsewhere.
*queer/unspeakable: sexuality and race are both made unspeakable via the presence/absence thing described above. They are “imagistically present, but absent in prose” (29). In my reading of the text, this same idea is extended to Skim’s own ability to read and understand herself (which develops over the course of the text)– in my opening pages, I describe Skim’s inability to bring her own body into focus. I should also expand my reading to include her sexuality, though I’ll have to reach some to make that connection. Chiu will be useful here.
*fantastic: finally, Chiu reads splash pages in this text as possibly representing the fantastic, or the imagined. She notes that their content is certainly the content of Skim’s desire, or her fantasies, and suggests that they can be read as either fact or fiction. To this end, she notes that these pages can be removed from the text wholesale without impacting on the plot at all.

Summary:
Monica Chiu reads Tamaki and Tamaki’s Skim as a text that takes up race and sexuality alongside teenage angst, partially by failing or refusing to mention either in language. She points out that the text is also intertextual in much the same way, often visually signaling other aesthetic productions or traditions without further commentary. For Chiu, the text is most productive in its ability to force readers to stop and pay attention at key moments, which it does in its use of splash pages. The same splash pages represent those moments of queer desire that may or may not be real in the context of the text, and which can be removed without impacting the arc of the narrative.

Notes/Questions:
1.) Chiu foregrounds some of the same key moments that I focus on. This text may work as an introductory piece that I build on, similar to the way that I use Cvetkovich’s Drawing the Archive article as a way in to Alison Bechdel’s FunHome in my first chapter.

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Notes on Monica Chiu’s “A Moment Outside of Time,” from her book Drawing New Color Lines

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