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

  • Andrea King Huron University College
  • Kristiana Karathanassis Huron University College


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.

Author Biographies

Andrea King, Huron University College

Andrea King is an Assistant Professor of French at Huron University College in London, Ontario, where she teaches language, literature and comics. She has a particular interest in mentoring undergraduate researchers and is a founding Associate of Huron’s Centre for Undergraduate Research Learning (CURL).  She has published articles on Canadian and Québec women's fiction in journals such as Canadian Literature, Les Cahiers Anne Hébert, and Atlantis: Critical Studies in Gender, Culture & Social Justice.

Kristiana Karathanassis, Huron University College

Kristiana Karathanassis is a graduating Associate of Huron University College’s Centre for Undergraduate Research Learning (CURL). Her work has appeared in Liberated Arts: A Journal for Undergraduate Research at Huron, and in the 2017 Undergraduate Awards series of Scholarship@Western. She is a recipient of the SSHRC Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship-Master’s (CGS M) and will pursue a Master’s degree next year in English at The University of Western Ontario.