Monday, October 20, 2014

Crumb and Children

            R. Crumb has several options when making the Book of Genesis Illustrated. Although the text had already been established, Crumb had to not only decide which translation or compilation of translations to utilize, but also how to illustrate this translation. Despite not being completely obviously, this also includes how to break up the text. Throughout the Book of Genesis Illustrated, Crumb decides to depict child birth and lineage in multiple ways. A few of these ways are as illustrations of the birth, the mother, or the mother’s owner, holding the baby in various ways and depicting the children in a series of panels. Each of these methods has their own meaning towards to the story.
            Towards the beginning of Chapter 25, Esau and Jacob are displayed by images of their birth. In the image you can see Esau’s heel being grasped by Jacob as they are coming out of Rebekah. This depiction is chosen by Crumb since it is a literal depiction of the birth. Although Crumb could have chosen to concatenate the text of that panel with the one following it and used just the following panel, Crumb chose that this was an important moment to emphasize. Since the next several chapters are based on the birthright, Crumb chose to emphasize their birth and which of the twins came out first. Despite this situation being a somewhat obvious choice, it is the only instance of this illustration choice in the many birth in the book. Although this could suggest a deeper meaning, it is likely that Crumb just decided to detail this important event as literally as possible.
            Another situation where the depiction of child birth would make sense is with the many children of Jacob. Despite the births being important to the story, Crumb decided to just have the mother holding the children instead. This is likely due to the fact that in this scene the children are not the center of attention, but who mothered them is. Rachel and Leah are competing to give Jacob the most children. They are competing so much that they even have their handmaids sleep with Jacob to increase the amount of children on their side. Unlike with Esau and Jacob’s birth, the birth of the child is not as important as who gave birth to the child. Crumb could have chosen to depict child birth after child birth after child birth, but that would take away from the story instead of enhancing it.
            Although Crumb gives just as much attention to lineage as he does to child birth, he depicts them in a much different way. Towards the begging of Chapter 25, Crumb depicts the lineage of Ishmael. Despite almost all of these names, if not all, are never mentioned again for the rest of the book, Crumb gives a face to each of the names and split the list into a frame for each son. One of the reasons the Crumb could have chosen to depict lineage in this way is to emphasize the amount of people mentioned that have zero impact on the story itself. Although this is not necessarily a literal approach, it does not necessarily alter the meaning of physical text either. The reader can simply choose to read over the names without thinking much of the way it is illustrated. Likewise, the reader can notice that this is a reoccurring pattern and realize how odd it is to list names of people who have absolutely no impact on the story itself. It is no secret that Crumb believes that the Book of Genesis is weird enough that it does not need to be altered much, but this could be one of those cases where he feels he needs to emphasize the absurdity.

            In the Book of Genesis Illustrated, Robert Crumb chose to depict child birth and lineage in multiple ways. In the case of the physical child labor illustrations, the physical birth was important to the rest of the story. In the cases of the mother holding the baby, the focus was on who gave birth, not the birth itself and was depicted as such. Finally for lineage, Crumb decided to emphasize the amount of people mentioned in the Book of Genesis that had no role in the story at all. Despite the fact that he did not feel the need to alter the book since it was weird enough, he probably felt that some emphasis was needed for the reader to notice this particular absurdity. Crumb had many choices when illustrating the Book of Genesis, but the choices that he made were to focus what he felt was important.


  1. You chose a really interesting topic for this essay and I think you analyzed it well. However, in the beginning, I did find myself getting a bit lost in what exactly you were trying to prove. I thought that your end paragraph however, did a really good job summing everything up and explaining what you were trying to argue. I think that you could consider moving this conclusion paragraph to the top of the paper as a sort of introduction paragraph. If you do this, readers will go into your essay with a better understanding of what you will be addressing.
    I found myself getting a little lost during the section where you talked about the way Crumb portrays lineage. You can probably clear this up, but I am also wondering if maybe you could simply take it out. This would allow you to focus on the images of birth and I think you already have a great deal to talk about in that regard.

  2. I like the topic, but I’d like to see a clear thesis in the introduction. The 2nd paragraph seems a little obvious, like you say, but the third paragraph does raise an important point. Your focus is quite sound, but I want to better understand where you’re going with it. I’m not sure what you’re up to with the lineages in particular, and I’m not convinced that it was wise to discuss this *and* the births - a more detailed focus on one or the other would have been better. Myself, I think he puts a lot of attention on lineages visually, given how confusing and irrelevant they seem to modern readers. If you’re going to write about this odd topic, you should do it with a purpose in mind. It might be that he’s giving another window into absurdity - I’ll concede that - but you don’t even explain why you see it that way.

    At the end, we remain where we were at the beginning. The topic is reasonable, but you stick too closely to simply reciting obvious facts, without any sustained effort at interpretation. When you do begin to move toward interpretation, I like it - but you need to do that from the very beginning and sustain it.

    The conclusion demonstrates the essay's problems - it goes in many different directions, with no single thread of argument to bring it all together.