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Word and image

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Conclusion

This course has shown some of the many ways in which authors and illustrators can use visual communication in their work. There is a huge range of possible signifiers, from non-standard punctuation (as in the cummings poem), to concrete poetry, to whole multimodal books where an understanding of the visual meaning is just as important, if not more so, than the words.

I have introduced different ways of approaching multimodal literature, from the Formalist or inherency-based to the more sociocultural. Inevitably, we tend to use a combination of approaches when faced with a multimodal text, as they provide us with different tools. Semiotics, for example, relies on an understanding of social and cultural connotations to find the meaning of the linguistic or visual sign in the text. Similarly, as Clare Bradford showed in Reading B, the meanings of individual signs in the text and their shifting meanings in different cultures are crucial to understanding the oppositional narrative presented by writers in postcolonial contexts.

What such texts mean to us as readers is due in no small part to our previous experience of literary texts and our culture, and to what we have been taught to value. As with language, visual elements of a text are often intertextual. These may be allusions to other visual texts, or deliberate connections made across semiotic modes such as in punning. In terms of Russian Formalism, writers and illustrators can be seen as creating and re-creating poetic structures, making the textual world strange and forcing us to consider it afresh.

I have looked in this course at some texts that use (or ask the reader to infer) a further semiotic mode – movement.

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