7th Dec 2016 1:30pm
E513, Checkland Building, Falmer Campus
Paul Fisher Davies (Sussex University)
In MAK Halliday's systemic-functional description of language, human communication always serves three simultaneous purposes, or 'metafunctions': to construct texts cohesively, to represent human experience, and to enact social relationships between human beings, engaging them in conversation, commitments, exchanges of information, and so on. We use language to offer information, and to demand it; to offer our services or goods, or require those of others.
Kress and van Leeuwen, among others, have extended this three-part model intomultimodal communication -- that is, texts which, like comics, use images in order to manage some or all of these tasks. Their model of interpersonal aspects of the image, though, has limits: they focus on eye contact between represented figures and the audience as 'demand' images, and use vertical and horizontal angle on a scene to explicate the level of 'address' to an audience member with what is depicted. On this model, no action is demanded of the onlooker, just the sense of involvement.
In this paper I propose a new way of thinking about interpersonal engagement in the image, specifically focusing on comics texts. My focus will be on practical action by the reader that is brought about by the text, as a more pragmatic parallel to the material action in the world which is invoked by such communicative acts as questioning, commanding, and so on in language. I propose that comics texts engage us in a range of 'games' of interaction, involving us in text creation in ways familiar from interactive texts in childhood. I propose that we play 'spot-the-difference' with image sequences; 'spot-the-ball' with compositions; that we follow mazes and join the dots, and in this way we offer the text our own contributions, cooperating in the meaning-making act which constitutes the comics text.
This will be framed in the context of my PhD thesis which applies Halliday’s model to a range of resources for meaning-making in comics, and I will outline some of the other approaches I propose, placing this interpersonal engagement among them.