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how do we read?

rmeyers's picture

A broad question, but important, I think for what we are looking at. I guess I started thinking (too much?) about Anne Dalke's question to me: did I have any expectations/answers of my own for how to read graphic novels? I think I need to change my no to a yes, or at least a hesitant yes with a very vague answer.

I was really delighted today to learn so much about graphic novels, especially the actual process, and how close they really come to movies. Also, the debate of whether pictures are 'received' more than 'perceived' --part of me wants to read the Scott McCloud books Right Now and Understand What He Means, but that probably won't happen immediately, so... instead, I am excited for the debate to continue in class.

All I have to offer is my own limited interpretation (as of right now --hopefully it will change!): When we read graphic novels, like when we watch movies and read books, there are symbols in the writing as well as in the pictures. As basic as the name "Cuckoo" or "Barbie" and as simple as the red used for blood. We receive symbols from both words and pictures, don't we? I guess it is possible words are more easily shaped to our own imaginings, but I am not sure if that is true... Moving on (if you will allow) we come to the debate of "archetype/stereotype" images that are "immediately recieved" or whether they also require extensive and educated decoding. The question of which word, archetype or stereotype, is better suited to this situation is something I hope we talk about in class again, or people post on here: discussion time! -- but back to images: I don't think I could convince myself images do not require decoding (too many films?), but I might be able to say that perhaps part of the immediacy of some images is that their symbolism/imagery is taken as 'fact' in our world -- red for blood. If this red was used instead as nail polish, it takes us slightly longer to decode a symbolic connection from the nail polish (the spirit of the character?) to blood (if one does exist).

To put this simply: Pictures can offer us much as 'literary-graphic-filmic' critics because they act immediately as well as with varying levels of symbolic meaning. (Some pictorial symbols are built so solidly into the cultural psyche they can form their own 'alphabets.' --yes or no?)

(But: the same is true for words, no? I guess that is where this breaks down: how much longer does it take to decode words? I am fairly certain it depends on the situation --but that is not the slight of graphic novels or movies, which also provide these details. I find my brain stretching here, maybe too far?)

EDIT: Just coming back to this post an hour later (ah, the interruptions of college classes). A few more questions/thoughts: For those who have read the foreword, the word 'stereotype' might work better than 'archetype', but I am not sure if that is specific to Sandman and the message of the writers/inkers/sketchers? I guess also I would ask how (and IF) the stereotypes are really subverted (we see Barbie in many 'symbolic' and 'classic' female poses (two arms crossed over her chest, hair waving in the wind --this occurs multiple times))?


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