Plot, picture and practice: comics, picture books and illustrated literary fiction.
AffiliationUniversity of Chester
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AbstractReporting on a January 2012 joint session of the Modern Language Association of America’s Division on Children’s Literature and the Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives, co-convener Charles Hatfield stated, “Scholars of the picture book (Nodelman; Spaulding; Nikolajeva & Scott; op de Beeck) have noted the aesthetics and reading demands of comics. Conversely, comics theorists (McCloud; Varnum & Gibbons) have suggested formal likenesses between [them] —including shared aesthetic resources, the relevance of word/image theory to both, and the growing prominence of comics in children’s publishing and reading instruction.” Session contributor Perry Nodelman stated that the formal definitions of each register continually contradict and confound each other, whilst Phillip Nel theorised that differences between picture books and comics result from particular author poesis, generating clustering, but not absolute, habits of form. Developing this idea, Joseph Thomas noted that each registers’ governing conventions also dictate and direct the uses to which picture books and comics are put. Relationships between form and the conditions of production and use of books that utilise text and image also form the axis of a more recent paper by Joe Sutliff Sanders, who writes, “Despite the obvious differences between [picture books and comics], nearly all of the formal terms most commonly used to define one can also easily be applied to the other. Still, in one of the common observations about both forms—that words and images work together to create meaning—lies the first step in a path toward distinguishing the two.” (84) These formal terms include the identification and generalisation of different types of plot transition (page to page in picture books, panel to panel in comics), the distribution of plot events, the frequency of page turns, the distribution and types of information provided by text and images and the shapes, proportions and production materials of both registers, to note only a few. I should say immediately that this paper will consider only three types of book in which text and image are utilised to present the diegesis: comics for children and adult readers, picture books for children andIllustrated literary fiction for children and adult readers. Although some of the terms of my discussion plausibly find application in all text/image productions, for the purpose of this paper, I will set aside, for example, contemporary digital applications and 16th and 17th century emblem books to focus on the implications of making distinctions between these three.
CitationGrennan, S. (2014). Plot, picture and practice: Comics, picture books and illustrated literary fiction. Paper presented at Retrieving Illustration Conference, University of Agder, Norway.
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