Narration and Media Modes

Auteur / Author: 
Lars ELLESTRÖM (School of Language and Literature, Linnaeus University, Suède)
Mardi 23 Août 2011 - 15:15
34-1. Les frontières du livre


To say that comic strips, children’s books or advertising are “combinations” of text and image gives a vague idea of their medial characteristics, but it is not enough to form a basis for the understanding of, for instance, the way they narrate. Indeed, the very notions of “text” and “image” are far too ambiguous and overlapping to serve as distinct theoretical tools without being thoroughly specified. In this paper, I would like to develop a theoretical model that was presented in my article “The Modalities of Media: A Model for Understanding Intermedial Relations”, published in 2010. The central argument of the article is that all media must be understood as constituted by four modalities : the material, the sensorial, the spatiotemporal and the semiotic modalities. Individual media and media types, however, differ when it comes to the modes of the modalities. A still image, for instance, is spatial whereas a movie is both spatial and temporal. A piece of music and a recited poem are aural whereas a printed novel and a comic strip are visual.    

My point will be that narration in all kinds of media cannot be properly analyzed and compared unless you account for all the modal characteristics of the media in question. I will investigate a few contemporary comic strips as examples of narration and demonstrate the modal differences that make them narrate in both similar and dissimilar ways compared to other media. The argumentation will be based on a presumption that narration is deeply dependent on the interpretive process of imagination: a narrative is a meaningful whole that is created in the mind of the perceiver, based on the specific modal characteristics of the medium.