Mobility of voice and view in comics: propositions for a new taxonomy

Authors: Round, J.

Conference: Paraliterary Narratives: Reassessing the 'Graphic Novel'

Dates: 6-7 June 2008


This paper uses contemporary comics (The Sandman (Neil Gaiman/various), Preacher (Garth Ennis/Steve Dillon)) to explore the ways in which mobility of narrative voice and visual perspective in comics alerts us to new classificatory possibilities within the realm of literature and other media. It begins by establishing the tenets of comics’ narratology and the role of the reader (as contributory author in the gutters between panels). It defines the comic book panel as a signifier (a narrative morpheme that uses space to represent time) whose existence creates the hyperreal. Using various examples, this paper postulates that both the hybridity of the comic-book panel, and the freedom it allows between author and reader, enable it to combine hetero- and homodiegetic narrative. It explores possible approaches for classifying panel type drawn from literary and visual criticism, respectively. It initially calls for a revaluation of literary terminology and proposes a taxonomy that combines Gerard Genette’s hetero- and homodiegetic framework with the grammatological terms of first-, second- and third-person narration. It uses various examples to establish the workings of this new model. It then addresses the changing uses of visual perspective in a similar manner, for example to allow analysis of silent panels. Without textual recourse to mode of address it instead uses frameworks drawn from art and film criticism. It argues that such panels could be classified either in terms of the relationship between the panel and the hyperrealist comic-book world, or with reference to its relationship to a specific character’s perspective.

Source: Manual

Preferred by: Julia Round