Word and image
Word and image

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Word and image

3 Word and image in fiction

3.1 How visual elements function alongside text

The rebus is created and enjoyed by both adults and children, but it is a common assumption in some cultures that while literature designed for children contains pictures, adult fiction does (or should) not. This view is not, of course, universal: there is a strong tradition in France, for example, of the bande dessinée, a comic-style format for fiction aimed at an adult readership. Here I consider fictional texts for both child and adult readerships which use images alongside words. The particular focus will be the creative juxtaposition of word and image, as this is often crucial to how readers interpret the text as a whole.

Books for both adults and children have been illustrated (and re-illustrated for different editions and audiences) for centuries, and there is a vast literature on the work of illustrators. Some of the examples in this section are fairly traditional literary works in which images are used to illustrate the story being told in words (with illustrations often separated in some way from the verbal text, printed above or below it, or even as separate plates). In such texts, the narrative is conveyed in words while the illustrations have a supporting role, reinforcing the narrative or perhaps illuminating a salient detail. Others, often more modern texts, employ paralanguage, images and words – in some cases blurring the boundaries between them to such an extent as to make the distinctions unidentifiable. These kinds of texts are the subject of an increasing academic interest in how words and pictures are used in books, particularly those for children (Nodelman, 1988; Unsworth and Wheeler, 2002; Watson and Styles, 1996; Arizpe and Styles, 2003; Nikolajeva and Scott, 2000; Wyile, 2001). In what follows I show you a small selection, to demonstrate how visual elements function in the text – what they do and how they might be seen to ‘mean’.


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