Sarah Lightman

  • PhD candidate



Research Summary

Dressing Eve
and other Reparative Acts in Women's Traumatic Autobiographical Comics


How do contemporary women comic artists reference biblical literature and iconography in their autobiographies, what is the intention of these references and how do they work within the context of traumatic narratives? I argue there is a feminist reparative aspect in these women’s stories as they write and draw themselves into biblical texts and images, transforming texts and images that have previously ignored female experience. I also argue there is also the promise of redemption in religious imagery, that can support the artist in their moment of crisis. “If you do believe in the Biblical Story, you do, in a sense, believe in a grand narrative of history, so that in everything even the most disastrous catastrophes, will ultimately make sense to you- maybe not now, but at some point of illumination in the future. This now longer seems to be feasible to many…” (LaCapra 1998)

My methodology has included interviews with artists, careful analysis of original artwork and also the curation of an art show “Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women”. “Graphic Details” is a critically acclaimed show of 18 internationally-renowned artists that opened at The Cartoon Art Museum San Francisco (2010), and toured to The Koffler Centre of The Arts, Toronto (2011) Yeshiva University Museum, New York (2011/12), JCC Washington DC (2012), Oregon Jewish Museum, (2012) Jewish Museum of Florida (2013) Space Station Sixty-Five, London (2014) and The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, Ohio State University (2015).

I analyse images of mental illness in Bobby Baker's Diary Drawings with reference to medieval Christian iconography. Miriam Katin's Holocaust memoir, "We Are On Our Own" is an example of the return of childhood war and sexual trauma accessed through the borrowed structure and narrative of biblical texts. Sharon Rudahl 's "The Star Sapphire", is a coming of age narrative that re-appropriates Biblical iconography to speak where female biblical characters have been silenced.

I also present my own work as an artist, including my drawings and films, and my autobiographical graphic novel The Book of Sarah to be published by Myriad Editions in 2017. In my artwork I rewrite the Bible to make me and my life, as an ordinary woman, take centre stage, in protest to my Biblical namesake, the Matriarch Sarah, who was marginalised. I conclude my doctorate with a discussion of “Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women”, “Graphic Details” has reconfigured the male focus of exhibitions of Jews and Comics, and brings Jewish women  and women creators in general into the spotlight. This is another way to move from the the silencing of women’s voices and enable the celebration of their work.


My first book, the edited collection, Graphic Details Jewish Women's Confessional Comics in Essays and Interviews (McFarland 2014) was awarded the  2015 Will Eisner Award for Best Scholarly/Academic Work and The 2015 Susan Koppelman Prize for Best Edited Collection in Feminist Studies, and was an Honorable Mention in the 2016 Jordan Schnitzer Book Awards.



Central/ St Martins (Art Foundation) (1994)
Slade School of Art, UCL (BA) (1995-1999)
Slade School of Art, UCL (MFA) (1999-2001)
University of Glasgow, PhD Autobiography in Comics (2009 - ongoing)


Graphic Details: Jewish Women's Confessional Comics in Essays and Interviews. McFarland. (2014)






Book Chapters

"Disappointed Believers? :The Jewish Question Mark in Will Eisner's 'A Contract with God'". The Edinburgh Companion to Modern Anglophone Jewish Fiction. eds.  David Brauner and Axel Stähler. Edinburgh University Press. (2015)


"Metamorphosing Difficulties: The Portrayal of Trauma in Autobiographical Comics". The Unspeakable: Narratives of Trauma. eds. Magda Stroinska, Vikki Cecchetto, Kate Szymanski. Peter Lang.(2014)

“Life Drawing: Comics, Autobiography and Jewish Women”. The Routledge Handbook to Contemporary Jewish Cultures. eds. Laurence Roth and Nadia Valman. Routledge. (2014)

“Cartoon Tears in Diane Noomin’s Baby Talk: A Tale of Four Miscarriages”. Trauma Narratives and Herstory. eds. Sylvia Pellice and Sonya Andermahr. Palgrave Macmillan. (2013)

 “Charlotte Salomon, Binky Brown, Ariel Schrag and Gabrielle Bell”. 1001 Comics to Read Before You Die. ed. Paul Gravett.  Quarto. (2011)


Journals (Guest Editor)

Contemporary Comics and Jewish Women. Studies in Comics 6.2 (2015)  with Dr Heike Bauer and Prof. Andrea Greenbaum.

Centre Stage on the Page: Women In, On and Making Comics.  Studies in Comics 7.2 (2016) with Dr Catriona MacLeod.



"Introduction" Contemporary Comics and Jewish Women. Studies in Comics 6.2 (2015)  with Dr Heike Bauer and Prof. Andrea Greenbaum.

"Celebrating the Confessional" Jewish Quarterly Volume 61, Issue 3-4. (2014)

"ICON - Charlotte Salomon " Riposte- A Smart Magazine for Women (November 2014)

“Food Lines: How Ilana Zeffren’s Talking Cats Teach Us About Living Memory”, A Bit off The Top. (2013)

“Is it a bird is it a plane? - No it’s a real life superheroine,” The Jewish Chronicle. (2011)

“Gabrielle Bell on Clogging and why comics make everything smooth and refined.” Studies in Comics Vol.1 No.2. (2011)

“Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women.” Curator’s Introduction to the Exhibition Catalogue, The Jewish Daily Forward, New York. (November 2010)

“Diary Drawing Exhibition Catalogue,” Critical Engagements 3.1. A Journal of Criticism and Theory. (2009)


Book Reviews and Exhibition Reviews

"Graphic Women: Life Narrative and Contemporary Comics by Hillary Chute". Studies in Comics Vol. 3 No. 1 (2012)

“There Goes My Hero”. International Journal of Comic Art (IJOCA) Vol. 11 No. 4 (August 2010)

International Auto/Biography Association Booklet (IABA), to accompany Diary Drawing exhibit, University of Sussex. (2010)

“Diary Drawings by Bobby Baker”. Studies in Comics Vol. 1 No. 1. (2010)

"Falling Apart in Chris Ware's Building Stories". The Cincinnati Review 10.1 (2013)

True Stories by Phillip Marsden,” International Journal of Comic Art,Vo1. 11 No.2 Fall. (2009)


University of Glasgow Awards

  • Principal's Early Career Mobility Scheme - Columbia University, NYC (2016)
  • "Graphic Details: Communities of Experience" JW3, Jewish Community for London,  Stirling Maxwell Centre (2014)
  • “Talking about Jewish Women and Comics”, Yeshiva University Museum, New York , Research Grant (2012)
  • “Women in Comics II,” Leeds Art Gallery, Collaborative Research Grant with Catriona MacLeod, University of Glasgow (2010)
  • “Women in Comics”, University of Cambridge, Collaborative Research Grant with Catriona MacLeod University of Glasgow (2009)

External Grants

  • European Association for Jewish Culture (May 2013)
  • IABA, Sussex University, funding for booklet (July 2010)
  • NEMLA, Montreal, funding for display for “Graphic Details” (March 2010)


"Bobby Baker, The Virgin Mary and Sarahs: Comics and Motherhood",Stages and Pages, Graphic Medicine Conference, Dundee

"The Graphic Details of The Star Sapphire: An Exploration of the themes of Graphic Details Confessional Comics by Jewish Women through the panels of Sharon Rudahl's four-page comic"
Drawing The Line: Womens Comics Art Conference, Ben Gurion University, Israel

'Do You Miss Your Country?', In Conversation with Polish visual artist Monika Szydłowska, Free Word Centre, London

"Arnie's Air Conditioner and other fond memories: Aline Crumb in conversation with Sarah Lightman", In Conversation with legendary American underground comics artist Aline Crumb.House of Illustration, London

"|Kapow! Women of The World Graphic Novel Social" featuring Una (Becoming Unbecoming), Rachael Ball (The Inflatable Woman) and Catherine Anyango (Heart of Darkness and 2x2).Southbank Centre (Chair) (2016)

"Too Much information? Graphic Novels by Jewish Women" Edinburgh Jewish Literary Society (2015)

Curator's Tour and Panel Chair (with Trina Robbins, Miriam Katin and Sarah Glidden) for "Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women" Exhibition, The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, Ohio State University

"The Art of The Graphic Novel", Jewish Book Week with Rutu Modan and  Yirmi Pinkus chaired by Dr Ariel Kahn, Kings Place, London (2015)

5 x15 "Stories from The Heart" New North London Synagogue (2014)

Slade Comics Study Day 14 November, UCL, Gower St, London WC1E 6BT (2014)

"Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women - Communities of Experience" A One Day Symposium (co-chair with Dr Heike Bauer) JW3, The Jewish Community Centre for London (2014)

Graphic Details Artists Guided Tour Space Station 65, Kennington (2014)

"Disappointed Believers" Temple Beth-El, Augusta, USA (2014)

"Metamorphosing Difficulties- Women's Traumatic Lives Transformed into Graphic Novels" Exploring Women's Testimony - Conference, University of Maine, Augusta, USA (2014)

"Food, Family and Feelings in The Book of Sarah and Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women" 37th Annual Literary Festival, Old Dominion University (2014)

"Graphic Details- Women of the (White) Walls" Gordon Gallery, Old Dominion University, Virginia, USA (2014)

"The Book of Sarah, Making Visual Autobiography", Graduate Lecture, Birkbeck College, London (2013)

Jewish Women and Comics, The Feminist Library, London (2013)

"The Book of Sarah", Jews and Modern Visual Culture Conference, Jewish Museum Manchester (2013)

"Metamorphosing Difficulties in Autobiographical Comics", University of Glasgow (2013)

"The Book of Sarah", Laydeez do Comics, Leeds (2013)

"The Book of Sarah - My Life in Objects (2)", Laydeez do Comics, The Phoenix Theatre, Brighton (2013)

"Metamorphosing Difficulties: The Autobiographical Comics of Sarah Leavitt, Nicola Streeten and Maureen Burdock", Brighton and Sussex Medical School (2013)

"The Book of Sarah - My Life in Objects (1)", Laydeez do Comics, CCA, Glasgow (2013)

"'Women of the White Walls' Feminism, Curation and Textual Exegesis", University of Glasgow (2013)

"Graphic Confessions by Jewish Women", Women of The World Festival, South Bank Centre, London (2013)

"Graphic Memoir", Upper Wimpole Street Literary Salon, London (2013)

"Graphic Confessions: Comics and Visual Memoirs by Jewish Women", Limmud Conference, University of Warwick (2012)

"Women and the Graphic Novel", Whitechapel Art Gallery (2012)

Laydeez do Comics, Cafe Kino, Bristol (2012)

“Of Women and Comics” Interrogating Trauma in the Humanities, University of Lincoln (2012)

Laydeez do Comics, Cafe Kino, Bristol (2012)

Laydeez do Comics, The Arts And Letters Club, Toronto(2012)

"Why Are Older Women Creating Graphic Memoirs", Comics and Medicine: Navigating The Margins, University of Toronto (2012)

"Visual Methods- Drawing Out Spaces for Life Stories," The British Psychological Society Conference, London (2012)

"Life Drawing- the Visual Autobiography of Jewish Women Artists," Dickinson College, USA (2012)

"Cartoon Tears and Drawing Trauma in Diane Noomin's Baby Talk: A Tale of Four Miscarriages," Hershey Medical School, Pennsylvania State University, USA (2012)

"Life Drawing", Centre for Emblem Society, University of Glasgow (2011)

"Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women" Curator's Tour, Koffler Centre for The Arts, Canada. (2011)

"Harming and Healing in Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women", McMaster University, Toronto (2011)

"Harming and Healing in Autobiographical Comics", Bournemouth University (2011)

"A Selection from Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women", North Eastern Modern Languages Association, Montreal (2010)

"Harming and Healing in the work of Bobby Baker," Graphic Medicine Conference, Institute of English Studies, University of London (2010)

"A Graphic Life: An Artist's Perspective," Life Writing and Intimate Publics, University of Sussex (2010)

"Harvey Pekar, Ordinary Life is Pretty Complex Stuff", Birkbeck College, University of London

"Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women" California College of the Arts, San Francisco (2010)

"Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women", Panel Discussion, Cartoon Art Museum, San Francisco (2010)

"Persepolis" University of Hertfordshire (2010)

"Laydeez Do Comics on Tour", Thought Bubble, Leeds Art Gallery (2010)

"Women in Comics" Panel Discussion, Thought Bubble Comics Convention, Leeds (2010)

"Theory and Practice" Panel Discussion, Theory and Practice Conference Leeds Art Gallery (2010)

"Drawing Out Trauma" Trauma and Herstory, Northampton University (2010)

"Why am I curating Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women?"- Transitions Conference, Birkbeck College, University of London. (2010)

"Women in Comics" Panel Discussion, Thought Bubble Comics Convention, Leeds (2010)

"Autobiographical Comics" Panel Discussion, Thought Bubble Comics Convention, Leeds (2010)

Guest Lecturer and Convener of Comics Study Day, The Slade School of Art (2014)

"Comic Art Workshops", Old Dominion University, USA (2014)

"Objects and Talking Animals in Ilana Zeffren's Comics", JW3, The Jewish Community Centre for London (2013)

"Jewish Graphic Novelists", JW3  (2013)

"Jews and Visual Memoirs", (4 Part Course) JW3  (2013)

Guest Lecturer: University of Glasgow (2011)

Guest Lecturer: University of Roehampton (2011 and 2012)


I am very committed to bringing my research to a wider audience and “Graphic Details” has also given me many opportunities to give public talks about my research in the form of guided tours and workshops as well as numerous university lectures, newspaper articles and interviews. I co-chaired two symposiums inspired by the exhibition, “Talking about Jewish Women and Comics” in New York (February 2012) and "Graphic Details: Communities of Experience" in London (November 2014) both supported by the University of Glasgow.

I was invited to speak at Women of The World Festival at The South Bank Centre, London, in March 2013.

I am also an award-winning artist and have exhibited widely in the UK and abroad. I have been creating my own visual diary for over 15 years, The Book of Sarah, to be opublished in 2017 by Myriad Editions. I have made a series of animation films based on my drawings which can be seen on my website. I write about my own artwork in my doctorate and I explore how my own art practice informs how I approach and appreciate the work of other artists I write about.

My work has been reviewed in numerous newspapers, journals and websites including Art Review, The Jewish Quarterly,  The Jewish Chronicle, Lilith, The Jerwood Visual Arts Blog, Southwark Weekender, International Journal of Comic Art. For more press items see my website

I am Director and Founder, with Nicola Streeten, of Laydeez do Comics. This is the UK’s  foremost comics forum, women led monthly and open to all, that  focuses on autobiography and the drama of the everyday. There are now branches in London, Leeds, Glasgow, Bristol, Dublin, Birmingham, San Francisco and Chicago.

I am also Chair of the Women in Comics Conferences (October 2009 and November 2010).