Meaning-Making in Graphic Novels: 
Imagining Through Visual and Verbal Channels

Auteur / Author: 
Maaheen AHMED (Jacobs University, Allemagne)
Vendredi 26 Août 2011 - 14:00


The past few decades have witnessed an upsurge of comics that no longer fit the label, for which even the term alternative comics seemed insufficient. Instead graphic novel is the popular domination that often persists without translation in other languages (as in the case of German). Even in the Francophone sphere with its rich, distinct bande dessinée culture, the “roman graphique” is grudgingly graining prominence. Yet a cursory glance through a graphic novel often does not reveal its distinction from a comic since both rely on sequential narration through words and images. Nonetheless by using new means of creating stories and consequently different ways of reading them, the graphic novel is in the process of creating a niche for itself as a new medium. Both the reader’s and the writer’s imagination is not only channeled but also enriched through the interaction of the verbal and visual channels. Consequently by positing the graphic novel as an open text, in Umberto Eco’s usage, using multiple channels or modes — e.g. words and images — this paper will highlight the workings of the graphic novel by concentrating on how it has borrowed narrational tools from diverse media for creating its multi-layered narratives and how this offers several levels of meaning and allows several possibilities within the story for the reader’s imagination to construe. This in turn will enable understanding how stories relying on both words and images function and how their narrative burden is divided to generate a greater degree of closure and reader participation. In order to highlight the differences in the narrational tools of graphic novels and other media narrating through words and images, detailed semiotic analyses of works like Grant Morrison and Dave McKean’s Arkham Asylum and the Yslaire’s Cloud 99 books will be presented and contrasted to comics and manga series as well as illustrated novels and picture books.