Help! There’s a Picture in My Novel!

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  • Title: Help! There’s a Picture in My Novel!: “An Investigation into the Imaginative Possibilities of Pictures in Literary Texts”
  • Author(s): Joris Vermassen
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: The Image
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of the Image
  • Keywords: Contemporary Novel, Graphic Novel, Contemporary Art, Text and Image, Imagination, Wolfgang Iser, W.G. Sebald, Jonathan Safran Foer
  • Volume: 2
  • Issue: 3
  • Year: 2012
  • ISSN: 2154-8560 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2154-8579 (Online)
  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.18848/2154-8560/CGP/v02i03/44049
  • Citation: Vermassen, Joris. 2012. "Help! There’s a Picture in My Novel!: “An Investigation into the Imaginative Possibilities of Pictures in Literary Texts”." The International Journal of the Image 2 (3): 195-204. doi:10.18848/2154-8560/CGP/v02i03/44049.
  • Extent: 10 pages

Abstract

As a comic artist, I love reading, but like Alice in Wonderland I wonder why there are little or no pictures in contemporary novels. At the same time, I feel restricted by the sequential system of the graphic novel, which is more related to film. These questions started off my research project, in which I’m trying to fill the gap between literature and the visual arts. Gustave Flaubert once considered illustrations as a threat to the imagination, and many writers still think so. I will show that pictures don’t have to be a threat; on the contrary, they can stimulate the imagination of the reader. Following the ideas of Wolfgang Iser in “The Act of Reading”, I am arguing that the text-image can create the necessary blanks for our imagination. Therefore, I am taking a closer look at the work of some writers (e.g., W.G. Sebald, Jonathan Safran Foer…) who are using a substantial amount of images in their novels—not ‘the whole picture’ but merely fragments: people, places and realia. In that way, their pictures are more related to contemporary art than to comics. But sometimes, the interaction between text and images is more related to the sequential art of comics and movies. In the artistic-experimental part of my project, I am adopting the ideas of Iser and the techniques of Sebald and Foer to create an artwork with the literary qualities of the novel and the visual qualities of contemporary art.