‘It’s Not Brave, It’s Easy’: Visualising Trauma in the Webcomics of Mary Leunig

  • Shannon Sandford (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


Mary Leunig is the younger sister of Australia’s most recognisable, and perhaps controversial, newspaper cartoonists, Michael Leunig. In December 2019, she accused him of sexual abuse. A self-described recluse and 'raging feminist', Mary’s own artistic career has spanned 40 years, during which she has cultivated a reputation for subversion: depicting the ugliest truths of humanity and challenging patriarchal norms in the Australian domestic sphere. Her most recent work is a series of single-image cartoons posted to her public Facebook page that expose a history of sexual harassment and childhood abuse by her famous older brother, from whom she is now estranged. Amidst a cultural reckoning of #MeToo that established new priorities for traumatic storytelling, these webcomics are difficult and compelling, confronting readers with an unflinching visual display of experiences once invisible, unspeakable and unknowable. Within the fluctuating spaces of the Internet, they also signal a broader autobiographical turn towards increasingly public and interconnected modes of intimate self-display.

At the intersections of public and private, visual and digital, published and posted, Mary Leunig’s webcomics signify what Gillian Whitlock calls a “thick mode” of self-representation; in them, we recognise the potential for new thinking around the personal and political stakes of trauma narrative, its form and its audience. Her work also prompts some critical questions around the postmodern urge to ‘tell’ trauma online: namely, what kinds of reading practices and publics emerge from social and digital media? How do these texts call us to ethically witness, to attend, and sometimes, to respond to stories of trauma?
Period30 Jun 2020
Event titleAssociation for the Study of Australian Literature (ASAL) 2020 Virtual
Event typeConference
LocationTownsville, AustraliaShow on map
Degree of RecognitionNational