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Graphic Novel Merges Art and Psychology

A graphic novel called The Listening Cone, Jeane Cohen’s Division III project is a dark, cerebral exploration of five mental health patients’ internal journeys after dark.

For Cohen, talking about the project is problematic. “I have trouble talking about the work, because it’s supposed to be experienced visually,” she says.

The book has no words, leaving a certain amount of interpretation up to the reader. This ambiguity serves multiple purposes; because the subject matter deals with mental illness, Cohen was concerned about preconceived notions.

“I want to have as little stigma going in as possible, to not attach the word psychosis,” she says.

Ultimately, Cohen prefers to let readers cultivate their own relationship with the book. “It’s meant to be a personal experience as a book—you hold it, you interact with it,” she says.

The project is the culmination of Cohen’s Division II studies, which combined art and psychology. “I didn't take all the psychology classes Hampshire has to offer, but I did utilize the unusual psychology classes that Hampshire offers,” she says. “I also took advantage of the Five Colleges, just to get a (grasp) of absolutely everything I could in order to understand what the field looks like today.”

Cohen also volunteered at a local hospital, and “talked to as many people as I could about their experiences with mental health,” she says. These experiences, combined with her academic work, helped her shape the novel and its characters.

Her project faced an unexpected challenge in January, when the chair of her Div III faculty committee, art professor Robert Seydel, unexpectedly passed away. “His inspiration picked me up and carried me through the project,” Cohen says. “It’s really amazing to see how he keeps giving, how much he has to give. Many people would agree with me. He has been a wonderful, wonderful soul to have known; unfortunately, it ended short.”

Professor of Art History Sura Levine took over as Cohen’s chair, joining Assistant Professor of Russian Literature Polina Barskova and Visiting Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology Peter Gilford on her committee.

Now that she has graduated, Cohen is looking for a publisher for her novel, and will continue her creative endeavors. “I have no doubt that I will continue creating, being a creative person, and I have no doubt that I will continue looking into my ideas of psychology,” she says.

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