Correspondence, trace and the landscape of narrative: a visual, verbal and literary dialectic
This research examines what literary theory can bring to the practice of visual story telling. Through praxis it examines the underlying systems and techniques relative to works of fiction, investigating what impacts and advances narratology can bring to visual communication approaches and methods. I will argue that literary concepts and methods produce new thinking and perspectives on visual methodologies, establishing a dialectical relationship between the visual, verbal and literary.
The sources underpinning this research are threefold. Firstly, a visual/verbal practice, with a distinctive approach to story telling – producing fragmentary, enigmatic tales, exploring traces of the past, in which specific materials play a crucial role. The second source is the ‘Semple letter and draft’ – correspondences written in 1917 between a soldier and his sweetheart, sourced from the archives at the Imperial War Museum. Roland Barthes’ S/Z and Gerard Genette’s Narrative Discourse: an Essay in Method provide the theoretical framework, examining what narratology can bring to the reading and understanding of the source material; how it may extend comprehension and use of materials; to interrogate pre-existing methods and approaches to the visual/verbal and composition, thus how to maximise the narrative potential.
Narratology is cross-examined symbiotically through visual practice – discussed in separate, critical and reflexive accounts of such a transferral, noting differences, similarities, resulting tensions and resolution, highlighting the impacts literary themes have on visual forms of communication.
Inaugurated by Barthes’ concept of the ‘migration of meaning’, an intertextual examination of key practice materials produced new thinking and fresh insights on those materials, adding new potential through multiple, interwoven, physical and metaphysical thematic layers.
The final submission is both written and practical. The written element comprises relevant critical discussion of the transferal of literary themes, the impacts on practice, highlighting the relevance and contribution this research makes to an identified field, both visual and non-visual. It provides written and visual evidence that literary themes supplement and extend visual forms of communication by demonstrating advanced comprehension and methods through which to read sources/texts; narratology and intertextuality provide the potential to aquire heightened sensitivities to materials; it yields different conceptual approaches to development and visualisation of narrative; provokes new thinking in respect of words and language – re-examining visualisation of verbal elements, the visual/verbal relationship; and offers new perspectives and considerations to composition, and the story world.
Key words: visual narrative, memory, narratology, materials, letters, World War One