22 Aug 2016

Groensteen (2.4) The System of Comics, ‘To the Research of the Gutter’, summary


by Corry Shores

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[The following is summary. Boldface and bracketed commentary are my own. Proofreading is incomplete, so please excuse my distracting typos.]



Summary of

Thierry Groensteen

The System of Comics

Chapter 2:
Restrained Arthrology: The Sequence

2.4
To the Research of the Gutter



Brief summary:
The gutter is not an absence that the reader needs to fill-in by imagining what transpires temporally speaking or intervenes spatially speaking between comics panels. The gap of the gutter (or of the single line functioning like a gutter) is something absolute and self-sufficient in its emptiness. However, it serves as a flexible joint which may make logical narrative coherence connections with any of the other panels. And as the reader proceeds through the comics work and further considers what is being portrayed, those connections are continually under revision and modification.



Summary

[Groensteen begins by quoting from an article by Claude-Françoise Brunon on the comics gutter, it seems, which makes the point that “the essence of the story frequently passes ‘outside of the image ... between images’”. Groensteen then quotes from Benoît Peeters where the intericonic gutter contains at least as much meaning as in the images themselves. Groensteen also references McCloud’s chapter 3 on closure in Understanding Comics.]
“It requires less to make one see than to say, less to describe than to tell,” remarked Claude-Françoise Brunon.12 And to highlight, following others, the essence of the story frequently passes “outside of the image . . . between images.” Certain authors even strive to produce work in a way so that the reader’s look, “deprived by principle episodes,” will be “carried out from one absence to the next,” even if “the text compensates for what the image refused to expose” on a frequent basis.

To conclude that meaning is produced by the intericonic gutter (the “entr’image”) at least as much as is produced by the images themselves, there is but one step, one that some people have been tempted to cross. Thus Benoît Peeters: “The true magic of comics operates between the images, the tension that binds them. . . . In Hergé these are memorable ‘gutters’ that we must analyze, these intervals between two panels lavished with accuracy and audacity.”13
(Groensteen 112)
[Endnotes 12–13 from p. 175 (quoting, except for curly brackets):
12 {Claude-Françoise Brunon.} “L’entr’images,” Europe, no. 720: La bande dessinée, Paris, Messidor, April 1989, pp. 37–46.
13 {Benoît Peeters.} Case, planche, récit, op. cit., p. 27. Scott McCloud also makes the ellipse (closure) a founding concept in his theory of comics, distinguishing six “types of linkage” between two panels. Cf. Understanding Comics (Kitchen Sink Press, 1993), chap. 3.


Groensteen then notes that a gutter as an empty space does not always appear. There could simply be a single line separating panels, as for example with Bretécher and Töpffer [see section 1.7.2]. For, “the semantic relations between the images is the same” regardless of whether there is an empty space or a line (Groensteen 112). Thus, we should not suppose there is some kind of a void between images when none are shown. [The idea seems to be that there is the semantic function of the break between images, and it does not matter whether or not it is constituted by a gap, visible or invisible, or not. It will have the same semantic function either way.] Hence “the gutter in and of itself (that is to say, an empty space) does not merit fetishization” (112).

Groensteen then addresses an objection. One might argue that the gutter is to be understood metaphorically as that between images which demands the reader fill-in unshown story content, and thus in that sense is a gap even if unseen.
Maybe, you will say to me, but the term “gutter” (blanc) lends itself metaphorically. We use it to designate “that-which-is-not-represented-but-which-the-reader-cannot-help-but-to-infer.” It is therefore a virtual, and take note that this virtual is not abandoned to the fantasy of each reader: it is a forced virtual, an | identifiable absence. The gutter is simply the symbolic site of this absence. More than a zone on the paper, it is the interior screen on which every reader projects the missing image (or images).
(Groensteen 112-113. Note: this is not Groensteen’s position)

[Groensteen then construes this missing narrative material in terms of Benoît Peeters’ notion of ghost panels (cases fantôme). In the footnotes he does not cite a source, but refers to an example Peeters gives. I cannot at the moment figure out Peeters’ argument and reasoning for it. If I had to guess, I would suppose that Peeters shows some panels (maybe two consecutive ones) and demonstrates that for the procession to work, the reader must in their imagination formulate a third additional panel intervening between them. Groensteen counter-argues that this only applies in very limited cases, and it cannot be said to express the functioning of the gutter in general. So in other words, perhaps, when the viewer sees for example the movement of an object that is shown in one relative location in a first frame and a more distant location in a second frame, we do not, Groensteen seems to be saying, imagine other panels in between the two showing the intermediary positions. Since I do not know what the argument really is here, I should not comment. But I think there is an interpretation, a phenomenological sort rather than a semiotic one, that is missing here. I do not think that the closure function requires that we explicitly imagine all the intermediary events or actions in between panels. I think they can be implicitly realized. In other words, in the case of motion for example, we can have the sense (not just the interpretation, but the perceptual sense) that the object has moved, even without imagining all the phases of that movement. Or in the case of events or characters’ actions, we can have the impression of those activities in their effects, as sort of compressed phenomenal impressional data. (I discussed this notion of phenomenal compression in bracketed commentary for the summary of chapter 3 of McCloud’s Understanding Comics.) So in other words, when we go from one panel to the next, packed into the next one are all the implicit phenomenal variations that are given indirectly by means of the noticeable differences between the two. At any rate, Groensteen makes a second point in this paragraph, and I may not summarize this one properly either. He says that these examples of ghost panels never involve only two panels. I am not sure if he means there are always at least three visible panels required for an additional invisible ghost panel, or if he means that there are two visible ones plus the additional ghost as the third. His point is that the threshold of narrative significance is the syntagmatic triad he described in section 2.3.]
I certainly do not believe that the comics reader has to mentally construct “ghost panels” (cases fantôme; the expression is from Peeters), except maybe in extremely rare examples identified by theorists to prove a point. These examples are a little too well-selected to permit the construction of general conclusions. By looking at it closely, we cannot help but be struck by an apparent paradox: these famous examples never relate to segments composed of only two panels — a necessary amplitude but sufficient to the exhibition of a gutter. A third panel is almost always implicated,14 and this confirms that it is indeed at the minimum a compound syntagm, or even a much longer sequence, that is at the major level of significance, the threshold where one can elaborate pertinent logical inferences.
(Groensteen 113)
[Endnote 14 on p. 175 (quoting):
14. Thus, in the famous example chosen by Peeters in Tintin in Tibet, that of Captain Haddock’s fall in the New Delhi airport, it is remarkable that Hergé interpolates a third panel representing Tintin (which is not directly concerned with the gag) at the location where there would most likely be a “ghost panel,” and that within this supplementary image the link between the two other panels of the syntagm would have been much less happy.]

[Groensteen’s next point is very interesting, but I am not sure it is clearly formulated in my mind yet. Groensteen seems to be expressing two important related ideas here. The first is that the gutter is not something that is filled in. It is a gap that never ceases to be such. It is an void whose emptiness is its own value and status of being, rather than a receptacle into which story content gets filled. Thus “an intermediate state between the two panels does not exist”. The second idea is that each successive panel at least at first nullifies all that come before them. Then, presumably, it can be placed in relation to them in sequence or whatever. I have the vague sense that he is saying that there is an ultimate value or authority placed on whatever panel is the present one being read. And that authority is stripped away and given to the next panel when we turn toward it.]
We would be mistaken to want to reduce the “silences” between two consecutive panels by assimilating the ellipse to a virtual image. On the contrary, this silence often speaks volumes. It has nothing to introduce, no gap to suture. It is in this sense that Henri Van Lier spoke of the “null blank” (blanc nul) in which the multiframe floats like a falling leaf. This blank, “the annulment of all continuity,”15 is the opposite of the “relay-gutter” (un blanc-relais). It is the Mallarmean blank of Coup de dés, the void of the music of Webern and that of quantum physics. Reading a comic, I am here, then I am there, and this jump from one panel to the next (an optical and mental leap) is the equivalent of an electron that changes orbit. In other words, an intermediate state between the two panels does not exist. The comics image is not a form that, subjected to a continual metamorphosis, would be modified by investing successive frames (between which it would be permissible to reconstitute the missing moments). It is necessary, in contrast, that the gutter (provisionally) cancels the already read panel in order to allow the next panel to exist in its own right, in terms of a complete and compact form.
(113)
[Endnote 15 on p.175 (quoting, except for curly brackets): {Henri Van Lier.} “La bande dessinée, une cosmogonie dure,” op. cit. {in Bande dessinée, récit et modernité, ed. Thierry Groensteen (Colloque de Cerisy, Paris: Futuropolis-CNBDI, 1988)}, p. 8.]

[I may not be able to summarize the next paragraph properly. The sentence I do not know how to interpret is “Following this logical fallacy, all panels inevitably intervene apropos”. I did not understand what the logical fallacy is supposed to be. Is it logically fallacious to hypothesize a coherent narrative? Or is the logically fallacy the one of inferring that we fill the gaps? The paragraph minus that term I think can be summarized in the following way. The links between panels are not ones where there is a filling in of their gaps. Nonetheless, each one is placed into some meaningful relation with the others. He calls this ‘iconic solidarity’. What might also be suggested here is that every panel is linked to every other panel, in a more or less prominent or obvious way.]
Panels belonging to the same sequence are assuredly in debt to each other. On the semantic plane, this iconic solidarity, in which we have recognized the very foundation of the comics system, is programmed by the author at the breakdown stage, and, at the time of reception, postulated by the reader in the form of hypothesizing a coherent narrative. Following this logical fallacy, all panels inevitably intervene apropos. For the comics reader, the fact of presupposing that there is a meaning necessarily leads him to search for the way that the panel that he “reads” is linked to the others, and how it re-reads in light of others.
(113)

Comics, on account of the sequential panel format, are structured with “discontinuous enunciation” and “intermittent monstration”. [Perhaps enunciation and monstration refer to the “saying” and “showing” functions we have examined. What is important here of course is the strobe-like pattern in the way the material is given, that is, by discrete units with insufficient connections between them to make it a continuous structure or perhaps even to make it a continuous experience. Groensteen characterizes the gutter as being the place where logical conversions happen. Those conversions seem to be variations in the explanatory relations between the panels that change as new information is added. We saw how that works in the Alack Sinner example he gave in the prior section 2.3. My overall impression is that for Groensteen, the gutter is not to be seen as a “gap” but rather as a flexible “joint.” For, it is a connection that can vary, but it is not a hole that is filled in with additional material.]
Comics exist only as a satisfying narrative form under the condition that, despite the discontinuous enunciation and the intermittent monstration, the resultant story forms an uninterrupted and intelligible totality. The “gutter” between the two panels is therefore not the seat of a virtual image; it is the site of a semantic articulation, a logical conversion, that of a series of utterables (the panels) in a statement that is unique and coherent (the story). The Alack Sinner page taught us that this conversion is sometimes passed in stages. The first statement, issued from a dialogue between two or three juxtaposed panels — and naturally, forged under the control of the preceding ones — may be nothing but a provisory one that must undergo, under a stroke of unforeseeable retroactive determination, a correction in moving toward the adoption of a new, more inclusive statement.
(114)

[Groensteen now continues with this notion of the flexibility of the interpretation, and he elaborates it using quotation from Wolfgang Iser. At this point I think we should be careful. Iser has been used for explaining the filling-in of the gutter. For example, Hannah Miodrag writes in her Comics and Language: “This ‘filling in,’ especially as described by McCloud, is no more than the comics version of the ‘intentional sentences correlatives’ [sic] that Wolfgang Iser describes in prose fiction, which ‘disclose subtle connections’ between the ‘component parts’ of the text that together create ‘the world of the work’ (Iser 1980: 52)” (Miodrag 66). We should distinguish two sorts of “filling-in”. One is the sort that Groensteen is against with regard to what happens in the gutter, namely, filling in what transpired (or is located spatially) between what is shown in successive panels, by explicitly imagining it. The other sort, which Groensteen thinks is really how the gutter functions, is perhaps not even a filling-in, but rather a forming of logical narrative connections between parts, whether successive or not. So to make the difference clear, let me return to an example I used for section 2 of Iser’s “The Reading Process”. We are concerned especially with panels 2-4.
 photo Rosa Don. Life Times Scrooge McDuck.Companion.p130.hari brush.2M_zps0zfwh5ux.jpg
Were one to use the first type of filling-in, they would imagine the brush falling on the peeper’s head, even though it is not shown. Groensteen does not think that readers actually go through such a task. Rather, they would do the second sort of filling-in, which is really not a filling in but rather the creation of logical ties between panels. So Groensteen might say that upon seeing the peeper on the ground unconscious, fallen beneath the broken brush in the woman’s hand, we simply make a narrative connection between this and the panel just two prior to this one, and we note conceptually in our minds that the woman hit the man with the brush, all without picturing it in our minds. Groensteen’s point in this next paragraph seems to be that these logical narrative relations are according to Iser something that is flexible, on account of the horizonal structure of temporal consciousness. There is always an openness for new connections and for old connections to be retroactively revised. (For more discussion on the ideas from these quoted passages from Iser’s The Act of Reading, see the summary of section 5.2.1 of this book by Iser.)
Clearly, this progressive construction of meaning is not exclusive to comics. Rather, as Wolfgang Iser has notably demonstrated, it is analogous to the process that structures the reading of a literary text. The “wandering viewpoint” constitutes, he says, “the basic hermeneutic structure of reading.” In a sequence of sentences, new correlations frequently “lead not so much to the fulfillment of expectations as to their continual modification. . . . Each individual sentence correlate prefigures a particular horizon, but this is immediately transformed into the background for the next correlate and must therefore necessarily be modified. Since each sentence correlate aims at things to come, the prefigured horizon will offer a view which — however concrete it may be — must contain indeterminacies, and so arouse expectations as to the manner in which these are to be resolved.”16
(Groensteen 114)

[As I am not familiar with the concept of something being “polysyntactic,” I will not be able to summarize the last part of this section properly. So I will simply quote it for now.]
The comics image, whose meaning often remains open when it is presented as isolated (and without verbal anchorage), finds its truth in the sequence. Inversely, the gutter, insignificant in itself, is invested with an arthrologic function that can only be deciphered in light of the singular images that it separates and unites. Therefore, the intericonic gutter can be qualified as “polysyntactic,” following what Anne-Marie Christin has said about “pictorial emptiness” (that which separates the figures in the interior of an image, in the space of the picture). Anne- Marie Christin suggests that the function of narrative is that which pictorial emptiness assumes with the greatest difficulty:
[T]he clear and immediate designation of the roles of the represented figures does not raise the space that mutually isolates them from each other but the codes that are individually charged, codes of dress, gestural codes especially, as shown in genre paintings, for example those of Greuze. If the emptiness is necessary to constitute a storia between the painted figures, as preconceived by Alberti, it is because it is foremost a mark of intelligibility, the clue to a co-presence.17 |
The intericonic gutter also marks the semantic solidarity of contiguous panels above all, both working through the codes of narrative and sequential drawings. Between the polysemic images, the polysyntactic gutter is the site of a reciprocal determination, and it is in this dialectic interaction that meaning is constructed, not without the active participation of the reader.
(Groensteen 114-115)
[From endnote 17 on page 175 (quoting).
17. Anne-Marie Christin, L’Image écrite (Paris, Flammarion “Idées et Recherches,” 1995), p. 18.]



Groensteen, Thierry. The System of Comics. Translated from French to English by Bart Beaty and Nick Nguyen. Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 2007. Originally published as Systém de la bande desinée. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1999.


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Miodrag (HS1) Comics and Language. ‘[Discussion of Wolfgang Iser in Miodrag’s Comics and Language]’

 

by Corry Shores

 

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[The following, except for the brief summary, is quotation from Miodrag’s text. Note: please check my transcriptions against the original text, as I probably added typos that are not found in the book.]

 

 

 

Hannah Miodrag

 

Comics and Language:

Reimagining Critical Discourse on the Form

 

Discussion of Wolfgang Iser in Miodrag’s Comics and Language

 

 

 

 

Brief summary:

Miodrag references two main ideas in Wolfgang Iser’s “The Reading Process: A Phenomenological Approach”. The first is the idea of the “intentional sentence correlatives.” These are the parts of the story world (constituted in the reader’s phenomenal consciousness) that correspond to the literary text’s sentence clauses. They are composed of an open sort of structure that invites linkages with other intentional sentence correlatives. And, sentences in literature tend to have have conceptual “gaps” between them (parts left out of descriptions and accounts of events) that invite the reader to bring closure by finding their own connections between the intentional sentence correlatives. [See also section 5.2.1 of Iser’s The Act of Reading.] Likewise in comics, each panel can be said to have an intentional correlative, and the gaps between panels as well invite the reader to find their own network of coherence connections between the correlated story parts. This is a lot like Scott McCloud’s notion of the closure process that the reader contributes at the invitation of the comics gutter. [See chapter 3 of McCloud’s Understanding Comics.] Miodrag often uses the term “suturing” for this notion of creating coherence between comics panels. The other notion from Iser’s text that Miodrag references is the way the intentional sentence correlatives involve anticipation and retrospection in how they tie given parts of the story world to others that are given in the text (or are temporally located in the story) before and after that particular sentence.

 

 

The following (up to bibliography) is quotation from Miodrag’s Comics and Language:

 

 

In a direct challenge to McCloud, Robert C. Harvey examines a very different kind of “gap” in comics, between picture and caption, which the reader similarly “fills in”  so that each illuminates the other, revealing their full import only through their mutual relationship (Harvey 2001). Though Harvey’s analysis provides a valuable counterpoint to McCloud’s emphasis on the “gutter” as the most – even only – pertinent gap within the comics form, by examining Simmonds’s compartmentalization of text in particular, we can see how the spaces in comics over which readers must make imaginative links are far more diverse than either of these conceptions admits.

 

This “filling in,” especially as described by McCloud, is no more than the comics version of the “intentional sentences correlatives” [sic? intentional sentence correlatives] that Wolfgang Iser describes in prose fiction, which “disclose subtle connections” between the “component parts” of the text that together create “the world of the work” (Iser 1980: 52). McCloud attempts to claim that comics’ “demand for active interpretation” and “participation” (McCloud 1993: | 136) is somehow unique to the form, an assertion symptomatic of the widespread urge to find some aspect of the medium entirely specific to it. Many critics are apt to follow his lead. Thierry Groensteen and Charles Hatfield, on the other hand, both acknowledge the similarity between the operations that McCloud and Iser describe, though Hatfield does so with more characteristic hyperbole, stating that comics are intrinsically more fractured and thus inherently more demanding of active participation that prose (Hatfield 2005: xiv), while admitting the two share in the general narrative principle that “no author worth his salt will ever attempt to set the whole picture before his reader’s eyes” (Iser 1980: 57). The pertinent difference between comics and prose literature is that in the former these narrative gaps are visible, physical spaces on the page over which a range of elements – segments of text, whether brief caption, extended narration, or speech bubble; individual pictures; and whole panels – are all drawn into the reader’s imaginative construction of the world of the work.

(Miodrag 66-67)

 

 

 

The collaborative “filling in gaps” between sequential panels, previously discussed primarily in relation to Iser’s notion of sentence correlatives, is in fact “an experientially rooted way of making sense of the world” (Christiansen 2000: 117). Ernst Gombrich explains that “there is no representation [that] leaves nothing to the imagination” (1952: 181). we fill in odd unheard words in conversation, overlook misprints and deduce the correct word when reading, and infer familiar images from loose or abstracted representations. The readiness with which we do so is testimony to the “importance of guided projection” (Gombrich 1952: 171) in interpreting all representational material. The process McCloud terms “closure,” then, has sundry counterparts beyond Iser’s theory (indeed, McCloud himself acknowledges this sort of guided projection informs all acts of perception, though critics citing his work tend to promote the simultaneous claim that the comics medium rests on this process “like no other” [1993: 65]). The process compares, for example, with the way we mentally group broken lines and proximate forms into continuous gestalts, and, as some critics acknowledge, with the way we suture | cinematic cuts, understanding fractured film scenes as whole narratives (Pratt 2009: 111–14, Beaty 1999: 68).

(Miodrag 108-109)

 

 

 

 

It is common to foreground the elliptical nature of comics and contrast the effort that goes into mentally linking discrete panels with the supposedly “passive” (Hatfield 2005: 33) and “effortless” (Harvey 1996: 175) viewing of motion picture frames that flow seamlessly and automatically from one to the next. However, the closely linked action of Fig. 5.1 and 5.2 here passes so smoothly that the act of mentally suturing their content becomes near-automatic, a “largely unconscious and mechanical operation” (Groensteen 2006: 10). Equally, the more jarring, imaginatively demanding cuts that can occur between comics’ panels can also be emulated cinematically. Films such as Memento (2000) or 21 Grams (2003) test the viewer with scrambled plotlines that unfold backwards to piece together the overarching story from fragments that reveal further information gradually, continually clarifying or modifying what has gone before. This operation works by the same principle as Iser’s sentence correlatives, and the visibility of the gap the reader must bridge in comics does not set the form apart from other narrative media that have recourse to similar narrative elision.

(Miodrag 113)

 

 

 

These panels finally recur intercut with the confession of the Comedian’s killer, as startling revelation that assaults the expectations the reader has built up, forcing a reassessment of everything previously read and exemplifying the interruptive process of “anticipation and retrospection” that Iser describes (1980: 54).

(Miodrag 138)

 

 

 

 

The network model proves a valuable one here, illuminating how comics  can create bridges between non-consecutive panels that are visibly co-present on the page, and conceptually co-present with all other panels throughout the text. Some of these connections are glaringly evident, but they may be more subtle, only revealing themselves upon closer, active analysis. The extent to which these networks contribute to our understanding of the text, which examination of Watchmen and Metronome has shown can be considerable, suggests that it is the very ability of comics to violate the sequential nature of narrative that in fact distinguishes the form. The dispersed connections may mirror the sentence correlatives Iser describes, but differ in being embodied, physical repetitions.

(Miodrag 140)

 

 

 

 

Miodrag quotations from:

Miodrag, Hannah. Comics and Language: Reimagining Critical Discourse on the Form. Jackson, Miss.: University Press of Mississippi, 2013.

 

 

 

 

Miodrag’s citations (and her own quotations of others’ works)  from:

 

Beaty, Bart. “The Search for Comics Exceptionalism.” Comics Journal, 211 (1999): 67–72.

 

Christiansen, Hans-Christian. “Comics and Film: A Narrative Perspective,” in Comics and Culture: Analytical and Theoretical Approaches to Comics, ed. by Hans-Christian Christiansen and Anne Magnussen, pp. 107–21.

 

Gombrich, E.H. Art and Illusion: A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation (London: Phaidon, 1952).

 

Groensteen, Thierry. The System of Comics, trans. by Bart Beaty and Nick Nguyen (Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2006).

 

Harvey, Robert C. The Art of the Comic Book: An Aesthetic History (Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 1996).

 

Harvey, Robert C. “Comedy at the Juncture of Word and Image: The Emergence of the Modern Magazine Gag Cartoon Reveals the Vital Blend,” in The Language of Comics: Word and Image, ed. by Robin Varnum and Christina Gibbons (Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2001), pp. 75–96.

 

Hatfield, Charles. Alternative Comics: An Emerging Literature (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2005).

 

Iser, Wolfgang. “The Reading Process: A Phenomenological Approach,” trans. by Catherine Macksey and Richard Macksey, in Reader Response Criticism: From Formalism to Post-Structuralism, ed. by Jane Tompkins (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1980), pp. 50–69.

 

McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art (New York: Kitchen Sink Press, 1993).

 

Pratt, Henry John. “Narrative in Comics.” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 67.1 (2009): 107–17.

 

 

 

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Iser (5.2.1) The Act of Reading, ‘[The open structure of the intentional sentence correlates]’, summary

 

by Corry Shores

 

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Summary of

 

Wolfgang Iser

 

The Act of Reading:

A Theory of Aesthetic Response

 

 

Part III.

The Phenomenology of Reading:

The Processing of the Literary Text

 

 

Chapter 5:

Grasping a Text

 

5.2

The Wandering Viewpoint

 

5.2.1 [up to the first subdivision]

‘[The open structure of the intentional sentence correlates]’

 

 

 

Brief summary:

When we read a literary text, our eyes pass over its series of sentence clauses. Each clause tells us something about the literary work’s world and its unfolding. The way this happens is that when we read the sentence, our phenomenal, “intentional” consciousness constitutes that part of the world that the sentence describes. It performs this constituting act by means of interpretation, imagination, and inference. So, each sentence in the text is correlated with a part of the story world – which is constituted in our intentional consciousness – that the sentence is describing. Thus this phenomenalized part of the literary work’s world (which corresponds to some particular sentence evoking it in our phenomenal awareness) is called the “intentional sentence correlate.” Intentional sentence correlates, as parts of our phenomenal awareness, bear the tripartite structure of temporalized consciousness that holds for all acts of conscious awareness, namely, {1} a present intentional part directed at the currently given intentional sentence correlate (that is,  the presently described situation in the story world), {2} a protentional part that expects certain things (more or less concretely) about the future, and {3} a retentional part that keeps what was previously intended and protended in the background of our current awareness. The second two parts serve as connecting structures that allow the reader to find coherence among the fragmented intentional sentence correlates that call for connection but do not explicitly provide it. Normally in a literary text, not every new sentence fulfills the protentional expectations of the prior sentences. Rather, there is often a defiance of expectations (which means that there is a tension between the retentional part of the correlate, which retains the prior expectation, and the current intentional part, which contains something in defiance to that retained protentional expectation). The overall process of reading a literary work, on account of these twists and turns in the story development, is a “wandering viewpoint,” because the way the reader configures the story world is continually under variation, as it navigates through the swings in the story’s progress.

 

 

 

Summary

 

Iser notes that “the whole text can never be perceived at any one time” (Iser 108). Rather, “the text can only be imagined by way of different consecutive phases of reading” (109). This is different than how objects are given to us, since they are all given more in their wholeness [even though it might take time to explore all their aspects], and also, “We always stand outside the given object, whereas we are situated inside the literary text” (109). [So when we view an object, our viewpoint largely remains from a particular outside perspective on the object. (Of course however we do move around the object and perhaps look inside it and so on. I am not sure how this differs from the experience of a literary text except perhaps that we do this exploration to a much greater degree with literary texts and also the constitution of the literary text involves much more irregularity and dramatic modification. Iser also notes that we explore the literary work from inside it rather than from outside it. One exception to this distinction could possibly be things like puzzle boxes, where their constitution is something obtained through an active participation with it and where its constitution unfolds gradually and through a series of unexpected discoveries.)]

The relation between text and reader is therefore quite different from that between object and observer: instead of a subject-object relationship, there is a moving viewpoint which travels along inside that which it has to apprehend. This mode of grasping an object is unique to literature.

(109)

 

Iser then notes a complication with understanding texts as objects. The text does not simply denote objects in the empirical world. Rather, literary texts remove objects from this context, which invites us to reconsider them and perhaps even develop new judgments of them. “Instead of finding out whether the text gives an accurate or inaccurate description of the object, he [the reader] has to build up the object for himself – often in a manner running counter to the familiar world evoked by the text” (109, bracketed insertion mine).

 

Iser now refers to this moving viewpoint as the “reader’s wandering viewpoint” (109). We apprehend the object in phases, and it is always incomplete. [So we look at the text sentence by sentence. None of them is final (except perhaps the last, but even that last is not final in the sense that we might continue to reconsider the whole text upon further reflection and additional rereadings). This means that we must constantly synthesize each part with the prior and following parts. Because this is an act of consciousness, the synthesizing activity brings the text into the reader’s consciousness.] “The incompleteness of each manifestation necessitates syntheses, which in turn bring about the transfer of the text to the reader’s consciousness. The synthetizing [sic?] process, however, is not sporadic – it continues throughout every phase of the journey of the wandering viewpoint” (109).

 

Iser will examine this synthesizing activity in greater detail. He has us consider the “span of the text which can be encompassed during each phase of reading and from which we anticipate the next phrase,” and this has been called the “eye-voice span” (109-110). [Iser will then use the notion of ‘intentional sentence correlates’. The idea seems to be that when we read a sentence in a literary text, correlated to it in our phenomenal awareness is the part of that literary work’s world. All these partial determinations of the literary work’s world (that is, all these intentional sentence correlates) form connections (on the basis of the reader’s interpretative and imaginative interacting with the correlates) to constitute the entire world of the literary work.]

It may help us to understand the nature of this synthetizing [sic?] activity if we examine in detail one paradigmatic moment in the process of reading. We shall, for the present, restrict our analysis to the sentence perspective of the text, and here we may turn for support to the empirical findings of psycholinguistics. What is known as the “eye-voice span,”when applied to the literary text will designate that span of the text which can be encompassed during each phase of reading and from which we anticipate the next phase: “. . . decoding proceeds in ‘chunks’ rather than in units of single words, and . . . these ‘chunks’ correspond to the syntactic units of a sentence.”6 The syntactic units of sentences are residual ‘chunks’ for perception within the literary text, although here they cannot be identified merely as perceptual objects, because the denotation of a given object is not the prime function of such sentences. The main interest here lies in the sentence correlate, for the world of the literary object is built up by these intentional correlates.

Sentences join in diverse ways to form semantic units of a higher order which exhibit quite varied structures; from these structures arise such entities as a story, a novel, a conversation, a drama, a scientific theory. By the same token, finite verbs constitute not only states of affairs which correspond to the individual sentences, but also whole systems of very diverse types of states of affairs, such as concrete situations, complex processes involving several objects, conflicts and agreements among them, etc. Finally, a whole world is created with variously determined elements and the changes taking place in them, all as the purely intentional correlate of a sentence complex. If this sentence complex finally constitutes a literary work, then I call the whole stock of interconnected intentional sentence correlates the ‘portrayed world’ of the work.7

 

How is one to describe the connections between these correlates — especially as they do not have that degree of determinacy pertaining to a declarative sentence? When Ingarden speaks of intentional sentence correlates, the statement and information are already qualified in a certain sense, because each sentence can achieve its end only by aiming at something beyond itself. As this is true of all the sentences in a literary text, the correlates constantly intersect, giving rise ultimately to the semantic fulfillment at which they had aimed. The fulfillment, however, takes place not in the text, but in the reader, who must ‘activate’ the interplay of the correlates prestructured by the sequence of sentences. The sentence themselves, as statements and assertions, serve to point the way toward what is to come, and this in turn is prestructured by the actual content of the sentences. In brief, the sentences set in motion a process which will lead to the formation of the aesthetic object as a correlative in the mind of the reader.

[Footnote 5 on p.109 (quoting):

5 See I.M. Schlesinger, Sentence Structure and the Reading Process (The Hague, 1968), pp.27ff. The similarity between and indeed congruence of the “eye-voice span” and the span of short-term memory has been demonstrated with psycholinguistic experiments by Frank Smith, Understanding Reading A Psycholinguistic Analysis of Reading and Learning to Read (New York, 1971), pp. 196–200. His book also contains important observations on the part played by the “eye-voice span” in “identification of meaning”.

Footnotes 6 and 7 on p.110 (quoting):

6 Schlesinger, Sentence Structure, p. 42; see also Ronald Wardhaugh, Reading: A Linguistic Perspective (New York, 1969), p. 54.

7 Roman Ingarden, The Cognition of the Literary Work of Art, transl. by Ruth Ann Crowley and Kenneth R. Olson (Evanston, 1973), p. 31.]

 

 

Iser then notes Husserl’s notion of protention [the temporalized mode of intentional consciousness that is directed toward the future and by which we have expectations of what will later enter our present awareness]. Since all intentional correlates are structured with protentional expectation, this means that none of them will entirely fulfill our expectations [including even the final sentence correlate, which also will keep the literary text’s world open to further development, even if that development does not unfold by means of the text itself.]

The semantic pointers of individual sentences always imply an expectation of some kind – Husserl calls these expectations “protentions.” As this structure is inherent in all intentional sentence correlates, it follows that their interplay will lead not so much to the fulfillment of expectations as to their continual modification.

(111)

Iser locates the wandering viewpoint in this temporalized structure of intentional consciousness.

Now herein lies a basic structure of the wandering viewpoint. The reader’s position in the text is at the point of intersection between retention and protension [sic?]. Each individual sentence correlate prefigures a particular horizon, but this is immediately transformed into the background for the next correlate and must therefore necessarily be modified. Since each sentence correlate aims at things to come, the prefigured horizon will offer a view which — however concrete it may be — must contain indeterminacies, and so arouse expectations as to the manner in which these are to be resolved.

(111)

So, because each correlate has an open protentional horizon generating expectations that are either fulfilled or not, and also because even with every fulfillment there are indeterminacies that still call for further fulfillment, the reader’s viewpoint is always in a state of flux. Another consequence of this is that if the described object confirms expectations, that means “the range of possible semantic horizons will be correspondingly narrowed” (111). Normally writers use this pattern (of expectation fulfillment) for describing objects in the literary work’s world, because in these cases, “their concern is to narrow the range in order to bring out the individuality of that object” (111). But normally literary texts are formulated so that it is like a series of defied expectations [and perhaps we might think of it as a series of more or less drastic plot twists, with many being very subtle and others drastically defying expectations and causing significant retroactive revision of the reader’s configuration of the story world. (A notable film that is structured on the basis of these drastic sorts of turns is the original Total Recall. Kafka novels also seem to have a constantly reconfiguring story world.)] “In most literary texts, however, the sequence of sentences is so structured that the correlates serve to modify and even frustrate the expectations they have aroused. In so doing, they automatically have a retroactive effect on what has already been read, which now appears quite different” (111). [I am not sure, but I think the next point is the following. As we acquire new information about the story world, the prior information recedes into the background of our retentional consciousness. For, the new information takes precedence, as it is adding something that now seems most important to consider. However, since each new piece of information calls for us to reconsider something in the past, it also calls up from our retentional awareness something that we were only marginally attending to in the background.]

Furthermore, what has been read shrinks in the memory to a foreshortened background, but it is being constantly evoked in a new context and so modified by new correlates that instigate a restructuring of past syntheses. This does not mean that the past returns in full to the present, for then memory and perception would become indistinguishable, but it does mean that memory undergoes a transformation. That which is remembered becomes open to new connections, and these in turn influence the expectations aroused by the individual correlates in the sequence of sentences.

(111)

 

 

So as we can see, each new sentence we read can both revise what we have read and modify what we expect to transpire next: “throughout the reading process there is a continual interplay between modified expectations and transformed memories” (111). Iser then notes that the text does not tell the reader how to perform these modifications. It does not tell us specifically exactly what to expect nor how to connect our memories in the proper way to account for the present circumstances. Iser then describes the basic structural features of the intentional sentence correlates. It has two temporally connecting parts of its structure. One part is hollow, and it is the protentional expectation that is related to the forthcoming correlates, in that it “looks forward to the next correlate”. The other structural linking part of the intentional sentence correlate is the retrospective section, “which answers the expectations of the preceding sentence (now part of the remembered background)” (112). [This point about the retrospective section is a bit complicated. Let us take for example the Aesop fable of the fox and grapes. We first learn that the fox is thirsty and sees grapes somewhat high up on the vine. The sentence correlate to this is what comes into our mind as we form the story world in our imagination on the basis of that sentence. We might picture the fox standing underneath the grapes, looking longingly at them. Since this is the first sentence, the retrospective part is perhaps not as obvious. But we would also presume, by means of inference, that the fox was somewhere else walking toward the grapes and suddenly noticed them. We would also presume that in the past the fox had not had anything to drink. The important part in this first correlate is our expectation that the fox will see the grapes as an opportunity to solve its problem of thirst, and perhaps try to get the grapes. That is the protentional expectation section of the intentional correlate. Then we read the next sentence(s). It tells us that the fox tries over and over to get the grapes, and then quits. So here, the retentional part “which answers the expectations of the preceding sentence (now part of the remembered background)” is the part of it that recalls how the fox was thirsty and had the motivation for his current actions. Our expectations, which began vague, are now fulfilled by current correlate, which is thus continuous with these prior expectations. Let us for convenience lump into this correlate his quitting. We might now sense some uncertainty about what will happen next. Will the fox devise some clever trick to get the grapes? Will the fox accept defeat? Since the fox was thirsty at the beginning, and there is no indication yet of him being clever, we might just assume he will leave thinking that he failed. However, the final sentence tells us that he concludes regarding the grapes, “They looked sour anyway”. This implies that he never wanted them. It would be an example of our expectations being defied. How does that defiance of our expectations occur with regard to this structure? It is a conflict between our retained protention and current intention. Or more precisely, it is a tension within our current intentional sentence correlate between its retrospective section (which retains the prior protentional expectation of him regretting not getting the grapes) and its intentional section (which conflicts with that prior protentional expectation, now found in the retrospective section. So, instead of regretting his failure, he instead thinks it was not a loss anyway). We might also note in this example how even the final sentence leaves a lot open in this story world. Will the fox later realize it was being dishonest with itself? Did we misinterpret the beginning where it said he was thirsty? Did the fox actually learn by jumping and getting a better view and smell of the grapes that they really were sour? The final sentence of a story, by necessity of its structure, leaves parts of the story world open. Some endings, however, leave a lot more open and encourage further rereadings to explore all the interpretative possibilities. And perhaps that openness or ambiguity of the ending is itself something significant, as for example it captures an important way that things often work in life.]

It is clear, then, that throughout the reading process there is a continual interplay between modified expectations and transformed memories. However, the text itself does not formulate expectations or their modification; nor does it specify how the connectability of memories is to be implemented. This is the province of the reader himself, and so we have a first insight into how the synthetizing [sic?] activity of the | reader enables the text to be translated and transferred to his own mind. This process of translation also shows up the basic hermeneutic structure of reading. Each sentence correlate contains what one might call a hollow section, which looks forward to the next correlate, and a retrospective-section, which answers the expectations of the preceding sentence (now part of the remembered background). Thus every moment of reading is a dialectic of pretension and retention, conveying a future horizon yet to be occupied, along with a past (and continually fading) horizon already filled; the wandering viewpoint carves its passage through both at the same time and leaves them to merge together in its wake. There is no escaping this process, for — as has already been pointed out — the text cannot at any one moment be grasped as a whole. But what may at first sight have seemed like a disadvantage, in comparison with our normal modes of perception, may now be seen to offer distinct advantages, in so far as it permits a process through which the aesthetic object is constantly being structured and restructured. As there is no definite frame of reference to regulate this process, successful communication must ultimately depend on the reader’s creative activity.

(111-112)

 

Iser will “now take a closer look at the basic structures that regulate this process” (112). Iser’s first observation is that “on the level of the sentences themselves, it is clear that their sequence does not by any means bring about a smooth interaction of protention and retention” (112). Iser then quotes Ingarden on this issue, where Ingarden observes that often times the next sentence flows continuously from the prior one. But in some cases there is a gap that the reader must overcome somehow.

Once we are transposed into the flow of thinking the sentence, we are prepared after having completed the thought of one sentence, to think its “continuation” in the form of another sentence, specifically, a sentence which has a connection with the first sentence. In this way the process of reading a text advances effortlessly. But when it happens that the second sentence has no perceptible connection whatever with the first, the flow of thought is checked. A more or less vivid surprise or vexation is associated with the resulting hiatus. The block must be overcome if we are to renew the flow of our reading.9

(Iser 112, the above is entirely Iser quoting Ingarden)

[Footnote 9 on p. 112 (quoting except for curly brackets):

9 {Roman} Ingarden, {The} Cognition {of the Literary Work of Art, transl. by Ruth Ann Crowley and Kenneth R. Olson (Evanston, 1973),} p. 34.]

Ingarden thinks that there should not be such gaps and frustrated expectations. Iser assess this as a result of his classical notion of an art work “as polyphonic harmony” (Iser 112). However, “in literary texts, not only is the sequence full of surprising twists and turns, but indeed we expect it to be so – even to the extent that if there is a continuous flow, we will look for an ulterior motive. There is no need for us now to go into Ingarden’s reasons for demanding a ‘flow of sentence thinking’; what concerns us here is the fact that there is such a hiatus, and that is has a | very important function” (112-113). The important structure here is this gap or hiatus that “enables the sentence correlates to be set off against one another” (113). [The function it seems is to enable the literary work to unfold in a dynamic way:] “On the level of sentences themselves, the interruption of expected connections may not be of any great significance; however it is paradigmatic of the many processes of focusing and refocusing that take place during the reading of the literary text. This need for readjustment arises primarily from the fact that the aesthetic object has no existence of its own, and can consequently only come into being by way of such processes” (113).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Iser, Wolfgang. The Act of Reading: A Theory of Aesthetic Response. London / Henley: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978.

 

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21 Aug 2016

Iser. The Act of Reading, entry directory

 

by Corry Shores

 

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[Central Entry Directory]

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Entry Directory for

 

Wolfgang Iser

 

The Act of Reading:

A Theory of Aesthetic Response

 

 

Part III.

The Phenomenology of Reading:

The Processing of the Literary Text

 

 

Chapter 5:

Grasping a Text

 

5.1

Interplay between Text and Reader

 

5.2

The Wandering Viewpoint

 

5.2.1 [up to the first subdivision]

‘[The open structure of the intentional sentence correlates]’

 

 

 

 

 

Iser, Wolfgang. The Act of Reading: A Theory of Aesthetic Response. London / Henley: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978.

 

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20 Aug 2016

Miodrag. Comics and Language, entry directory

 

by Corry Shores

 

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[Hannah Miodrag, entry directory]

 

 

 

Entry Directory for

 

Hannah Miodrag

 

Comics and Language:

Reimagining Critical Discourse on the Form

 

Discussion of Wolfgang Iser in Miodrag’s Comics and Language

 

 

 

Miodgrag, Hannah. Comics and Language: Reimagining Critical Discourse on the Form. Jackson, Miss.: University Press of Mississippi, 2013.

 

 

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Hannah Miodrag, entry directory

 

by Corry Shores

 

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Entry Directory for

 

Hannah Miodrag

 

 

 

Comics and Language:

Reimagining Critical Discourse on the Form

 

Miodrag, Comics and Language, entry directory

 

 

 

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18 Aug 2016

Groensteen (2.3) The System of Comics, ‘The Planes of Meaning’, summary

 

by Corry Shores

 

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[The following is summary. Boldface and bracketed commentary are my own. Proofreading is incomplete, so please excuse my distracting typos.]

 

 

 

Summary of

 

Thierry Groensteen

 

The System of Comics

 

Chapter 2:

Restrained Arthrology: The Sequence

 

2.3

The Planes of Meaning

 

 

 

Brief summary:

There are three layers of experience operating simultaneously and cooperatively while the reader of a comics work follows the panels and discerns the narrative. The first plane is the immediate experience of the prelinguistic signs or “utterables” within one particular image (or panel). These do not rise to the level of an explicit narrative unit, but they provide the raw material on the basis of which narrative units are constructed. The second plane is the triad of panels, namely, the present one the reader is now seeing along with the one coming before and the one coming next, which forms a narrative syntagm, that is, the smallest unit of narrative meaning. The third plane is the sequence, which is something like a sentential unit of the narrative in the sense that it what it expresses in the narrative can be expressed as a proposition (or logically connected propositions) which describe the contents and events of that narrative chunk.

 

 

 

Summary

 

Groensteen will now “formulate in more general terms all that we have just observed” in the prior section(s) of this chapter (see section 2.2). [Groensteen then uses the notion of a “staging of meaning,” but I am not sure yet what he means by ‘staging’.] “It seems that the analysis of this example allows us to conclude a staging of meaning. This | is plainly revealed in terms of the reader’s crossing of several successive meaningful planes” (111).

 

[Recall from section 2.1 the notion, borrowed from Deleuze in the context of film and applied here to comics, that the comics image is an ‘utterable’. By this Groensteen may mean that in itself it has no linguistically explicit narrative content, but it provides sensory material with significance of some sort on the basis of which explicit linguistic narrative constructions can be built. Groensteen will not go so far as to use the term “intrinsic narrative” for this situation but rather “immanent significance”.]

Given that it has no existence other than the theoretical (since the outer frame, or the péri-field, is always imposed on the perception of the comic reader), the panel’s plane should be principally considered. The image, seen by itself, outside of all context, is, as Deleuze rightly suggests, an utterable. I can translate or express what I see inside the frame (the what of the monstration) in linguistic terms. Sometimes, this virtual statement will be a straight narrative (Alack lights his cigarette), whereas other times, failing to perceive a dynamic internal relation to the image, I have to content myself to name the object-sign (or object-signs) that it shows. Rather than an intrinsic narrative, I will employ a more neutral term, that of immanent significance. At this elementary stage, my job as a reader is simply observation and identification.

(Groensteen 111, boldface and underline mine)

 

[So this is the first “successive meaning plane” that the reader “crosses.” The second is the syntagm, which is limited to “the triad composed of the panel that is currently being read, the panel that preceded it, and the panel that immediately follows it”. The idea so far seems to be that at any moment, we are on the first plane, receiving the immediate, prelinguistic significance within the image. At the same time, our experience resides on another plane where we take into account the contents of the current panel and its immediate neighbors, especially in light of the narrative relations that form between them. Note. There was a section in chapter 1 that we have not summarized yet on the “ inset”. He wrote: “the dialogue between the panels frequently passes through other configurations, | including those that find a frame welcomed within one or several other frame(s). This apparatus, which I will designate as the inset (incrustation), gives evidence of the extreme suppleness that characterizes the management of space within comics” (85-86). Groensteen seems to be making the point that there is one case where there is not this triple panel syntagm structure, and that is when dialogue is situated between two panels. Here, instead of there being a central panel and two others on each side, there is rather text in the center and panels on each side. But I am not sure. I quote:]

The second plane is that of syntagm, limited, in occurrence, to the triad composed of the panel that is currently being read, the panel that preceded it, and the panel that immediately follows it. At this level, my reading of the panel is already forcibly different, informed before and after by other contents with which I construct (or verify) semantic relations, on the basis of a postulate of narrative coherence. Plainly, I am now involved in interpretation. This arthrologic micro-chain constitutes an instance of shifting interpretation: at any moment of my reading, I will privilege the relations of immediate proximity and I will reconstruct this triad, which is carried along with me. (Only the phenomenon of incrustation contradicts this rule, by installing a privileged dialogue between two terms, the incrusted panel and the panel that accommodates it.)

(111)

 

[The third plane of meaning is the sequence. This seems to be the story on a more global level, even if it is not taken in its entirety. My impression is that the syntagmatic panel triplet is like a word or phrase, and the sequence is more like a sentence or paragraph. Here it seems maybe Groensteen is saying that it can take the form of a propositional statement. I will quote, as I am not sure.]

The third plane of meaning is that of the sequence. The semantic articulations of the story allow me to identify and to circumscribe a story segment of any length, characterized by a unity of action and/or space. The sequence allows itself to be converted into a synthetic statement that, transcending the observations and constructions of the inferior level and stopping (at least provisionally) the work of inferences, produces a global meaning that is explicit and satisfying.

(111)

 

[I am not sure, but Groensteen’s next point might be that the semantic units we see here are open to be modified and enriched from further consideration, analysis, and research following after one’s experience of reading it.]

General arthrology demonstrates that the panel can also be the object of distant semantic determinations, which overtake the frame of the sequence and proceed to a networked operation. Like all narrative works (deployed in time), a comic is governed by the principle of differance (delay): its signification is constructed solely on the terms of the reader — freed afterward to the interpretation deepened by the research of meaning that knows no definitive limit.

(111)

 

Groensteen then notes that in many comics, especially ones for children, the interpretive flow moves linearly forward with meanings being explicitly obvious with each new step in the story’s progress [rather than requiring that the child go back and reexamine prior panels to reinterpret them in new lights.] However, Groensteen will later give an example where the young reader will still need to take into account distant panels in order to obtain the humorous effect of a sequence (112).

We must always remember that a number of works that are more traditional and less sophisticated than Alack Sinner, obeying a narrative order that is strictly linear (of the causal-deductive type), never spare a retroactive determination at the level of the sequence. Rather, it is the plane of the syntagm that is dominant. In comics for young children, the authors simplify their intention by forcibly rendering each panel totally explicit and significant in itself. But the analysis of a page taken from a given series (Jojo by Geerts) will show that even here, certain effects, for example a humorous effect, do not hold unless the young reader effectuates a reconciliation between distant panels and scenes. The choice of the network as the ultimate level of interpretative pertinence is not exclusive to modern comics, with their fragmented writing, but is a general principle.

(112)

 

 

 

 

 

Groensteen, Thierry. The System of Comics. Translated from French to English by Bart Beaty and Nick Nguyen. Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 2007. Originally published as Systém de la bande desinée. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1999.

 

 

 

 

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Groensteen (2.2) The System of Comics, ‘A Plurivectorial Narration’, summary

 

by Corry Shores

 

[Search Blog Here. Index tabs are found at the bottom of the left column.]

 

[Central Entry Directory]

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[The following is summary. Boldface and bracketed commentary are my own. Proofreading is incomplete, so please excuse my distracting typos.]

 

 

 

Summary of

 

Thierry Groensteen

 

The System of Comics

 

Chapter 2:

Restrained Arthrology: The Sequence

 

2.2

A Plurivectorial Narration

 

 

 

Brief summary:

Narration in comics is accomplished in a non-linear fashion, as subsequent panels cause us to return to prior ones to retroactively revise our interpretations of what they are saying with regard to the parts of the narrative that they contribute to.

 

 

 

Summary

 

Groensteen will now have us “come to terms with what a sequence of fixed images really communicates, and how, subsequently, narration is accomplished” (108). He begins by analyzing a page from Muñoz’ and Sampayo’s Rencontres. He writes: “What seems to be narrated in this page can be summarized in a few words: The hero, Alack Sinner, is awakened by the noise of a newspaper that the wind has blown up against his window. The headline splashed across the front page informs him of the death of John Lennon. The authors use seven panels to produce the equivalent of this statement” (108).

 photo Muntildeoz amp Sampayo. Alack Sinner 3 Rencontres.p3_zpsxl9bjlqd.jpg

 

Groensteen first makes two basic observations: {1} “The first two panels are sufficient to deliver the apparent narrative content of the entirety of the sequence, whereas the following images do not appear to add anything except an anecdotal prolongation (Alack lights a cigarette)” (Groensteen 108). {2} “The seven images break down into two series: on the one hand, four panels in which the protagonist appears, and on the other, three panels showing the newspaper and its large headline in shots that are increasingly tightened. No images simultaneously present Alack and the newspaper on which we can read the words ‘John Lennon Killed’” (Groensteen 008).

 

Groensteen’s first argumentative point is that “If the first two images summarize the sequence, neither can be held to be intrinsically narrative. It is from their juxtaposition that I can deduce a narrative proposition” (108). [I am not entirely sure I follow the reasoning. Is it not possible for two images, in which either or both is intrinsically narrative, to be combined to further create more narrative content? The fact that the two together summarize the narrative to me does not seem like sufficient evidence to conclude that neither on its own has intrinsically narrative features. But it does seem to be true when looking at them that there is no intrinsic narrative content to them.] [Groensteen’s next point reminds me of Charles Hatfield’s distinction between symbols that show and symbols that say, from section 2 of “The Art of Tensions”. I am not certain, but Groensteen might be making the following point. Each panel shows part of the situation. But only through their “confrontation” do they say something (narratively speaking) about that situation.]

Again, this involves no small amount of interpretation. Is Alack really sleeping? If he was awake, was his attention drawn to the noise (no onomatopoeia is signaled) or only to the sight of the newspaper? Nothing allows me to categorically respond to these questions. As a reader, I construct meaning on the basis of inferences that appear to be the most probable. There is the content that each of these images shows, and there is the meaning that their confrontation permits them to say.

(108)

 

[For the next point, we recall a quotation from section 2.1 by Roger Odin (I did not include the quotation there, because I did not understand the part that is now relevant, so let us examine it here): (quoting Odin) “A fixed image can certainly have a narrative structure: it suffices that the vectorization corresponds to an actantial structure of a conflicting type between a subject and an anti-subject or of a relational type between a subject and an object of desire” (104, citing, on page 174: ““Le cinéma: langue ou langage?” Communications, no. 4, Paris, Le Seuil, 1964, p. 63. Text reprised in Essais sur la signification au cinema, t. 1, 1968.”) The part that I did not understand was the notion of “a relational type between a subject and an object of desire”. Now I think Odin might mean the following. A still image can show a subject and also an object of that subject’s desire. Groensteen here will note the panel above where the man is reaching for a cigarette. Because there is a subject and an object of desire, and because also the effort exerted toward fulfilling that desire by interacting with that object is depicted, that means we can say there is an intrinsic narrative element to the image. (I suppose that narrative structure would be something like: character wants something; character tries to get it.) Groensteen then notes the retroactive inferential nature of how we come to see that image as showing the man reaching for the cigarette and lighter. It is only later that we see him holding these items rather than having turned on the lamp, which was another possible outcome of his reaching action. (This notion of the retroactive inferential construction of the story is similar to points Wolfgang Iser made in section 2 and section 4 of “The Reading Process: A Phenomenological Approach”.)]

Nevertheless, in the rest of the sequence, certain images, considered on their own, are instantly translatable to linguistic statements expressing an action; and, faithful to the wishes of Roger Odin, this action puts into relation “a subject and an object of desire.” Thus, for the fourth panel: Alack lights a cigarette. The third panel itself can be translated by a statement of this sort, which would be: Alack reaches out his arm to grab a cigarette and a lighter. But I only opt for this translation because it is verified retroactively by the following panel. Considering only the third panel, I could have also imagined that our friend wanted to turn on his bedside lamp. The fourth panel, which shows him lighting his cigarette, informs | me a posteriori11 of the precise signification of his gesture, at once positively — he had to have taken out the cigarette and lighter for I can see him light the first by means of the second — and negatively — he did not light the lamp, since the room is still plunged in darkness.

(Groensteen 108-109)

[Endnote 11 on p.175 (quoting):

11. This retroactive effect should always be relativized, to the degree that, during the first glance at the entirety of the page it is likely that the contents of the fourth panel.]

 

Groensteen then pushes this point about retroactive revision a step further: the fact that a subsequent panel invites us to reconsider what is going in a prior one can mean that our eyes will often travel not just in the left-to-right vector but also in right-to-left [and probably in all directions depending on the points of origin and destination].

Furthermore, wasn’t it already a retroactive determination that permitted me to know that the newspaper appears to me, in the first panel, as something seen by Alack—or better: that I see it with him and “through his eyes”? By itself, the first panel only shows me a newspaper flattened against a window, without allowing me to wonder which house this window belongs to, or if the sight of the newspaper is remarked upon by some other occupant. We can therefore formulate this first rule, that the meaning of a panel can be informed and determined by the panel that preceded it much like the one that follows it. If there is a vectorization of reading, there is no unidirectional vectorization in the construction of meaning.

(110)

 

Groensteen then says the best example of “retroactive determination” is the next image to appear, that is, the first one on the next page (110). This might make us [even turn the page backward] and reinterpret the sixth panel (above) where he is coughing (110). [Previously we might have interpreted him coughing just from the cigarette smoke. Now we might interpret him as having been beginning to retch.]

 photo Muntildeoz amp Sampayo. Alack Sinner 3 Rencontres.p4.1_zpsbv8pb0rz.jpg

Groensteen then shows how this revises the narrative sequence.

The best example of retroactive determination is furnished by an image that does not appear on this page, since it is the first panel of the following page. We see Alack Sinner leaning over a sink, in a position that leaves no doubt that he is vomiting. This panel provides its own meaning, not only with regard to the images that immediately preceded it (and notably the sixth panel of the reproduced page, which shows Alack coughing and shaking), but to the entirety of the preceding page. In light of this delayed revelation, I must correct my initial spontaneous linguistic translation. The sequence is now reduced to the following statement: The news of the assassination of John Lennon affects Alack to the point that it makes him sick. All the rest (Alack’s awakening, the newspaper, the window, the cigarette) are reduced to the rank of simple circumstances.

(Groensteen 110)

 

[I am not sure I follow Groensteen’s last point. He seems to be saying the following. Each panel might seem to present some objective independent fact. However, the images of the newspaper headline are more impressions hitting and affecting Alack. We at first might have seen them as objective depictions, but after the vomiting panel, we retroactively realize that they were more of an indication of the intensity of Alack’s subjective experience of the shock they gave him. Let me quote as I think I got that wrong:]

This panel — which we should consider to close the sequence — sheds light on, and justifies a posteriori, the nearby image, as well as the very tight image of some of the letters that compose the title of the newspaper (cf. panels 5 and 7). It is now evident that they materialize the emotional impact of this news on the hero. Shocked, he feels it resonate stronger and stronger within him, at the same time that the nausea rises. The status of these two panels is therefore different from the others: they are not objective representations — otherwise the wind should have already carried the paper away; and also, Alack did not approach the window, so there is no objective reasoning for the enlargement of the letters — but rather they are graphic translations of effects. What they express happens entirely in the head (and stomach) of Alack Sinner.

(110)

 

 

 

 

Groensteen, Thierry. The System of Comics. Translated from French to English by Bart Beaty and Nick Nguyen. Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 2007. Originally published as Systém de la bande desinée. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1999.

 

 

Image credits:

Muñoz & Sampayo. Alack Sinner #3 Rencontres. ©1984 Casterman.

 

 

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Groensteen (2.1) The System of Comics, ‘Regarding the Threshold of Narrativity’, summary

 

by Corry Shores

 

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[The following is summary. Boldface and bracketed commentary are my own. Proofreading is incomplete, so please excuse my distracting typos.]

 

 

 

Summary of

 

Thierry Groensteen

 

The System of Comics

 

Chapter 2:

Restrained Arthrology: The Sequence

 

2.1

Regarding the Threshold of Narrativity

 

 

 

Brief summary:

Narrative connections in comics can either be found intrinsically within images (for example, within panels), extrinsically between them, or both. We can first of all say that not every juxtaposition of images necessarily involves a narrative relation. We can also say that the main narrative operations in comics are not found within images. Instead, the contents of images have a sort of prelinguistic significance, in the sense of Deleuze’s “utterables” in his film theory, which provides the basic material for narrative significance of a more linguistically structured sort to be formed secondarily. With this in mind, and by taking notice of the fact that many images present themselves simultaneously on the comics page (rather then appear exclusively to one another like a succession of shots in a film), we can conclude that the proper place to turn our attention when analyzing the narrative connections in comics is between the panels (or simply just between the images).

 

 

 

Summary

 

Groensteen begins by mentioning the questions we will address in this chapter:

Immobile images separated by gutters: how do we tell a story with these things? Is the narration in the images? Is it dispersed between each image, or does it emerge | from being arranged end to end? Does the intericonic gutter have a symbolic function? What part does the text play in the production of meaning? These are just some of the questions posed to those of us who want to theorize the operation of the breakdown, in the same way as they are posed, at least intuitively, to the artist who wishes to translate the story that is in his head into a sequence of images.

(103-104)

 

Groensteen will now summarize film theorists’ attempts to define “the threshold of narrativity.” While most film theorists may agree that editing plays a decisive role in film narration, they vary on the issue of “whether a single image can itself be considered narrative” (Groensteen 104). [Here by single image with regard to film we seem to be talking about a still image like a frame. I mention this, because we can have one continuous shot, thus not involving any editing, within which a narrative fully unfolds.] Christian Metz thinks that a single photo is unable to tell a story, but two photos juxtaposed [I suppose like comics panels] can tell a story.

[T]he photo is so incapable of narrating that when it wishes to do so, it becomes cinema. The photo-novel is not a derivative of the photo but of cinema. An isolated photo can not narrate anything; that’s for sure. But why must it be by some strange corollary that two juxtaposed photos are forced to narrate something? Moving from one image to two images is to move from image to language.1

(Groensteen 104, qtg. Metz)

[Footnote 1 on p.174 (quoting, except for curly brackets):

1. {Christian Metz.} “Le cinéma: langue ou langage?” Communications, no. 4, Paris, Le Seuil, 1964, p. 63. Text reprised in Essais sur la signification au cinema, t. 1, 1968. This is a position that is similar enough to support, acting this time with regard to painting, Aron Kibedi Varga in Discours, récit, image (Pierre Mardaga, Liège, “Philosophie et langage”, 1989). According to Varga (p. 96 f.), a fixed image, a picture representing “living beings engaged in an action” can evoke a story (particularly if it is already known to the spectator) but could not tell it with strict accuracy. Only “the juxtaposition of images generate stories.”]

 

Groensteen then mentions Roger Odin’s view, which goes against Metz’. He thinks that even in a still image, we read it (so to speak) from left to right, with eye motions that are thus “vectorized like written discourse,” and thereby a story might emerge (See p.104 for more details).

 

[I do not follow the next idea of André Gaudreault very well. It might be the following. Narration is a matter of transformation. A single shot, as a moving image, involves transformation and thus narration. But on another level, by means of the editing of shots, there is another layer of narration. I might have misinterpreted, so please consult the quotation to follow.]

André Gaudreault3 takes into his account the two “story principles” announced by Tzvetan Todorov,4 those of succession and transformation: “What could, indeed, be considered as narrative . . . are all utterances that relate actions, gestures or events that have between them a ‘relationship of succession’ and that develop ‘a rapport of transformation.’” He recalls that, for us to be able to talk of transformation between two photographs, for example, their reconciliation must “affirm both resemblance and difference.” Consequently, to observe that “transformation (in the sense of modification) can, to a degree, be considered as the single and unique condition of narrativity since, being by definition a process, it already implicates succession.” Gaudreault concludes that, with respect to cinema, the necessary condition of narrativity resides within movement. Moving images will always be “ready-made narratives,” whatever the “degree of the structurization | of the action that they present.” But they would only enact a narrativity that is “native,” “spontaneous,” or intrinsic (that is, “directly linked to subjects of expression”), to which can be added a “second layer” of narrativity, one that is extrinsic, based on editing, and therefore on the arrangement of “narrative contents.”

(Groensteen 104-105)

[Footnotes 3 and 4 on p.174 (quoting, except for curly brackets):

3. I summarize here the essence of chap. III (“A la recherche du premier récit filmique,” pp. 37–51) of Gaudreault’s work Du littéraire au filmique. Système du récit, op. cit. {(Paris: Klincksieck, “Méridiens,” 1988).} All the citations are taken from these pages.

4. Cf. Todorov, Les genres de discourse (Paris, Le Seuil, 1978), p. 66. Underlined in the text.]

 

Groensteen says he has simplified the terms in this film context so that they apply simply to the concerns we have here for comics. He then summarizes the two sides of the debate. One side thinks there can be narrativity in a single still image. The other side thinks it requires more than a single still image.

I have simplified the terms of these technical debates in order to retain only that which is useful here, that is to say, applicable to comics. The images that interest us are not moving images, but fixed images. According to Gaudreault, we can only talk about their location in terms of extrinsic narrativity: narration is born from the articulation of its contents, but it cannot be found inside each image (even in the “native” state), whereas for Odin, there is narration in the panel itself, which represents a pertinent actantial content, appropriately vectorized by the composition of the image.

(105)

 

Groensteen notes that this vectorization [of eye movements within a single still image by which a narration can unfold] applies more to comics, for two reasons. The first is that “the panel is fixed in the sense that its reading is not impeded by the internal movements of the image” (105). [By this I think Groensteen is saying the following. When we watch a film, what unfolds normally involves motion occurring all over the frame. Also the camera can be moving and the focus can be changing to different objects set a various distances. So here the left-to-right eye motions are distracted by the dynamics of motion in the shot.] The other reason is that unlike in films, the units of a comics work are already spatially arranged so that the eyes must move left-to-right to follow the sequence of panels. Thus, whenever viewing a single panel, our eyes might already have a left-to-right momentum: “the panel participates in a multiframe within which, at the level of each strip, the succession of images is explicitly vectorized from left to right” (105). However, Groensteen adds, in most cases, the contents of the panels are not vectorized, thus we cannot use this notion of vectorized eye motions as the basis for explaining how a single comics panel can by itself present narrative variation: “But if the act of reading obeys an obligatory direction (having already observed that several page layouts render the circulation of the gaze much more complicated, or uncertain), it is sufficient to take any random comic to verify that, in their very composition, the vast majority of images are not vectorized, whether their contents were simply deemed not vectorizable, or whether their narrow and vertical format blocks the vague impulses toward lateral exploration. Consequently, we cannot resolve the question of the panel’s internal narrativity on the basis of this particular criterion” (105). [However, the dialogue balloons seem to operate by the vector principle. (I included a diagram showing this by Scott McCloud from his Understanding Comics, in the summary of section 1.7.2 of this Groensteen book.) However, the story material in the image itself perhaps does not follow this vectorization. But I wonder also, in cases where physical motion is shown, if it is conventional at least in Western comics to position the point of view such that the motion is depicted going from left to right, as by motion lines trailing to the moving thing’s left.]

 

[Groensteen’s next point seems to be that this film theoretic distinction between moving and fixed images does not really help us entirely for understanding the narrativity in comics’ panels. Instead, we will need to think in terms of narrative drawing, which is something we will learn about shortly. Let me quote as I might have this wrong:]

But the opposition between the two categories of moving images and fixed images is assuredly too crude, even though it is true that each permits an abundance of semiotically and aesthetically differentiated images. Thus, as we will see later, comics lean toward a work of narrative drawing, and its images generally present intrinsic qualities that are not those of the illustration or the picture.

(105)

 

[I am not certain, but Groensteen’s next points seem to be the following. Intrinsic narrativity (that is, narrativity found within a singular image) is more of an issue for film, because the motion of the images does not allow for us to see all the shots at once. We are either in one shot or another. So for film, we might wonder if one shot can by itself have narrative content (although I am confused, because of course it does; the question is if still images do). In comics, however, we see many panels on a page, so extrinsic narrativity is more of an obvious issue. I especially do not grasp Groensteen’s final point on language in the panels. Maybe he is saying that the text in one panel is already narratively referential to text in other panels, but that is just a guess. Let me quote so you can see what it means.]

The question of an intrinsic narrativity to the image beckons us less directly than it preoccupies the theorists of the seventh art. The co-occurrence of panels within the multiframe, their simultaneous presence under the eye of the reader, and also the visibility of the intervals between these panels, that is to say, the locations where their symbolic articulation is carried out, function so that we are naturally inclined to credit narration to the sequence—whereas with cinema, when it is a matter of a clear cut, the moment of passage between two shots is | not visible: I am in one shot, then suddenly I am in another. This tendency is reinforced by the fact that the inscription in the text (caption or dialogue) in the midst of the panel itself imposes the level of language on the image, thus obscuring the speculations on its eventual intrinsic narrativity.

(105-106)

 

[In the next paragraph, Groensteen makes the point that “between two images, transformation does not automatically ensure a relationship of narrative order”. But his account for why this is depends on his summarizing a demonstration he made in a talk he once gave. The summary is a bit too abbreviated and the terminology too underdefined for me to follow. (He does cite an article which perhaps gives the same demonstration, but I do not know yet.) If I had to guess, he may have in a scientifically demonstrative sort of way shown that with certainty two certain images involve a transformation but the link between them cannot be seen as involving some logical (narrative) sort of ordering. He also distinguishes a visual series from a narrative sequence, and it reminds me of the same terminological distinction Hatfield made in section 3 of “The Art of Tensions”. Perhaps Groensteen is saying that an image series may not evoke a narrative procession when viewed, or in other words, the series may not constitute a narrative sequence. I wish Groensteen had made his demonstration here in this book, because a very important conclusion of his depends on it. For, this goes against McCloud’s demonstration where he suggested that a series of non-sequitur transitions will still come to obtain some kind of coherence in the viewer’s mind. Whether or not this would be a narrative coherence, I am not sure.]

In privileging the sequence, we accomplish nothing more than displacing the problem, since it is not true, contrary to what Christian Metz has postulated, that two juxtaposed drawings (like two photos) are forced to tell us something (or three, or n drawings that are assembled within the same page). I demonstrated this point at the Cerisy colloquium on comics in 1987, identifying five intra-narrative modes wherein panels can be regrouped within a multiframe, namely amalgam, survey, variation, declension, and decomposition. But, within these fundamental modes of organization (qualified, at the time, by “primary distributive functions”), two at least —variation (where the images define the same thematic paradigm) and declension (where an identical motif is submitted to different stylistic treatments) — verify the dual conditions of resemblance and difference between images and can therefore be placed under the regime of transformation. For as such, the linking of panels is not determined by any logical inference nor by any causal-deductive order. It follows that between two images, transformation does not automatically ensure a relationship of narrative order. In fact, once images present a rapport of transformation between them, they constitute at the very minimum a series (the minimum being only two images) but not necessarily a narrative sequence.5

(Groensteen 106)

[Footnotes 5 on p.174 (quoting, except for curly brackets):

Cf. “La narration comme supplément,” Bande dessinée, récit et modernité, op. cit. {ed. Thierry Groensteen (Colloque de Cerisy, Paris: Futuropolis-CNBDI, 1988)}, pp. 45–69. In this text, I define a series as “a continuous or discontinuous succession of images linked by a system of iconic, plastic or semantic correspondences.” Note that the survey and decomposition can also produce series, without being based on a rapport of transformation.]

 

Groensteen then address the issue of the threshold of narrativity. [The ‘threshold of narrativity’ seems to be what is the least necessary for narration to occur.] Groensteen says that we can at least be certain that “the juxtaposition of two images, taken in a rapport of transformation, does not necessarily produce narration” (106). Regarding whether or not a single image can contain a narrative is a matter we examine later (106).

 

[Groensteen’s next point is very important and fascinating, but I might not get it exactly right. I think he might be saying that the comics image is to be understood in terms of Deleuze’s notion of the prelinguistic sign, which Deleuze also calls an ‘utterable’. The idea here is that there is a visual given with significance, but that significance is not raised to a linguistic signification in its immediate reception. So it is an utterable rather than an enunciation. Groensteen might be arguing that the comics image begins as an utterable in the sense that it has some sort of prereflective narrative significance even before that significance is brought explicitly to light by means of placing it within a discernible narrative sequence where it plays a role in advancing that narrative procession. I follow the part on François Wahl even less. But Groensteen might be saying that the way we perceive something visually is already structured such that it lends itself to linguisticized (and also narrativized) articulation.]

To continue to borrow from film theory, I find my strongest support in the analysis of the “movement-image” (the shots) proposed by Gilles Deleuze. And most particularly in the following passage: “On the one hand, the movement-image expresses a total that changes and establishes itself between objects: It is a process of differentiation. . . . On the other hand, the movement-image includes intervals. . . . It is a process of specification.”6 This dual characteristic of the movement-image presents a subject that is “semiotically, aesthetically, [and] pragmatically” formed, but non-linguistically:

It is not an enunciation, and these are not utterances. It is an utterable. We mean that, when language gets hold of this material (and it necessarily does so), then it gives rise to utterances which come to | dominate or even replace the images and signs, and which refere [sic]  in turn to pertinent features of the language system.7

Wouldn’t the fixed image of comics, which by definition does not change, be semiotically, aesthetically, and pragmatically formed (structured) as well, but in a different manner? The question can now receive a partial response, since the first half of this book has already brought to light the structuring power of spatiotopical parameters: the forms, dimensions, and contours of the frame, the site of the panel, the methods of text inclusion, etc.

 

To my mind, the status of utterable can and must be extended to all forms of images, but it is not enough to take note of its semantic potential. Indeed, the image, as we will see shortly, is not only an utterable, it can also be a descriptable and an interpretable. The meaning that the reader (of a comic) or the spectator (of a film) constructs the reading that is executed from the image has as conditions a selective description and a personal interpretation. This appropriation can ultimately be converted into an utterance; it can also steer us toward an aesthetic judgment, one that would consider the image for its appreciable qualities.

 

Deleuze, however, did not extend to all images the enunciable quality: He reserved it solely for movement-images. In chapter 7 of What Is Philosophy? (“Percept, Affect, and Concept”), he assigns the meaning of all works of art, notably the tableau (painting), toward the single register of sensations (percepts and affects),8 that is to say that he places it “outside all mediation of language,” a fact that ought to stun François Wahl. Indeed, one can consider what would make moving images a subject that language necessarily seizes, as “the visible, such that painting expresses it” — or better: if it is the painting that expresses it — will not be “torn from the register of sensation.” For Wahl, Deleuze strangely strikes an impasse on the “discursive being of the tableau and its constitution by the phrase,” which is precisely the subject that he consecrates in his work titled Introduction au discours du tableau.9 François Wahl’s thesis is that “it is in the structure of language that perception is constructed,”10 the conversion of the picture into linguistic propositions makes it all the more natural that the picture (more generally: the visible) already obeys a specific discursive organization, its configuration consisting of a game ruled by contextual rapports.

(Groensteen 106-107. The ‘[sic]’ in the Deleuze block quotation is mine. Also for that quotation, the italicization in my edition is different than as it is given here.)

[Footnotes 6-10 on p.175 (quoting, except for curly brackets):

6. {Gilles Deleuze.} Cinema 2: The Time-Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta (University of Minnesota Press, 1989), p. 29.

7. Ibid., p. 44.

8. Cf. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, What is Philosophy? trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), pp. 154–188. Most notably this sentence: “The work of art is a being of sensation and nothing else: it exists in itself ” (p. 164).

9. {François Wahl. Introduction au discours du tableau.} Seuil edition, “L’ordre philosophique,” 1996. What preceded was a summary of no. 87, p. 199.

10. Id., p. 17, emphasized in the text.]

 

[As a note, I am not certain that “Deleuze, however, did not extend to all images the enunciable quality: He reserved it solely for movement-images.” This might be right, but the reason I am not sure is because I would think that at least Deleuze would also consider time-images in film as having prelinguistic signs (and thus as being utterables). Perhaps Groensteen means that Deleuze only reserves it for cinematic moving images (within which a movement-image or a time-image can appear). And while it is true that Deleuze studies the non-narrative, non-figurative elements in Francis Bacon’s paintings in the Francis Bacon book, Deleuze also considers the non-narrative, non-figurative elements to present “brute facts” in some way. As such, I wonder if they would not also function as prelinguistic signs or utterables. We will explore this question later when summarizing parts of that book.]

 

Groensteen then claims that we should not look within images but rather between them to study the narrative elements or functions, because that is where “the pertinent contextual rapports establish themselves with respect to narration” (107).

Again, demonstrating that meaning is inherent to the image is not something that directly speaks to comics, since it is between the panels that the pertinent contextual rapports establish themselves with respect to narration. It is moreover at this level that we will quickly verify that the linkage of images constructs articulations that are similar to those of language.

(107)

 

 

 

 

 

Groensteen, Thierry. The System of Comics. Translated from French to English by Bart Beaty and Nick Nguyen. Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 2007. Originally published as Systém de la bande desinée. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1999.

 

 

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