In the conceptual system of ethical literary criticism, “brain text” mainly accounts for literary production, reception, and circulation in connection with the moral dimension of literature. This paper attempts to broaden the application of brain text as well as ethical literary criticism through a detailed analysis of David Small’s graphic memoir Stitches. Comparing the life stories of David and his mother, we may find striking similarities: both fall victim to mental and physical violence inflicted by their family at a young age; however, their lives meet different ends. David eventually sets out on a promising journey towards becoming a writer and illustrator, far from his mother’s silent and painful death. Focusing on the opposing ethical choices made by Small and his mother despite their similar ethical environments, the paper1 contends that the detrimental familial and social environment not only has an adverse impact on the formation of one’s brain text (thus preventing one from making the right ethical choices), but also can impede the expression of one’s brain text. However, this does not mean that humans are completely powerless: the influence of the dominating social contexts can be effectively countered by constructing new brain text through the help of others and finding a new means of self-expression.


brain text, David Small, ethical environment, graphic memoir, moral dimensions of literature

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Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

The Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHED) declares Kritika Kultura as a CHED-recognized journal under the Journal Challenge Category of its Journal Incentive Program.

International Board of Editors

Jan Baetens
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
Professor of Cultural Studies
Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
Professor of American Studies and English
Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
Professor of English
University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
John Hawkes Professor of the Humanities and English
Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies
Professor of South Asian Studies, Ethnicity, Race and Migration Studies
Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
Professor Emeritus and Honorary Lifetime Fellow
University of Cape Town (South Africa)
Honorary Professor and Research Associate in German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
Distinguished Professor of English
University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
National Artist for Literature
Professor Emeritus
University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
Director of the Division of Humanities
Professor of Humanities
Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History
University of Washington (US)

Vaidehi Ramanathan
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
Professorial Lecturer
Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)