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Connections Across Disciplines

sweetp's picture

            Thoughts of this paper were generated from the class discussion on 3/30/10. It consists of ideas that excited me at the time and continue to interest me today. And so, my task stands: I must formulate the March 30th, 2010 stockpile of raw brain material into a coherent paper; all of these separate thoughts need to have a connecting theme in order to make a strong and well-structured paper. What I have come up with is a larger theme running through this class as a whole.           

            Near the beginning of our discussion that Tuesday, the class discussed the illustrations in Alice in Wonderland. Anne told us the story of the Alice in Wonderland book illustrator John Tenniel demanding that the story’s writer, Lewis Carroll, omit a chapter of the work because he couldn’t illustrate it.  This account reminded of my first paper’s topic, on comments’ effects on blog postings.  The conclusion I came to through my research for that first paper was that comments on blogs do not have a sweeping effect; the text in the blog posting is subtly molded, if changed at all, by its comments. This isn’t as drastic a shaping as the above illustrator and novel text instance. These two instances are two different commenting sources’ effects on their accompanying texts. 

            After we had finished our Alice in Wonderland conversation, our guest speaker Dave Joria led the discussion, and the topic turned to graphic art and the production of webcomics.  Joria is a graphic artist in a group called "Tangent Artists," who shared his experiences in the graphic story/comic business, and more specifically talked of one of their most recent comics called "Skeleton Crew." He described his experience of graphic novel making, where illustrations come before text. He related the story of how he (the artist) draws images and then hands them over to his sister, who writes the dialogue and storyline to accompany them.  He also provided us with descriptions of the different techniques in which comics have been made historically/are made today.  One method consists of a writer sending a synopsis of the comic’s storyline to an artist, and the artist then creating the pictures to go along with the words.  Another way of making comics is the writer creating a screenplay format of the comic, by means of which he can direct how he wants the story illustrated. Joria’s description of the different types of comic production reminded me of the description of another artistic process I had heard about recently: the process of making music.  A friend had told me about the way he makes  his hip-hop music: his method involves the text (in my friend’s case, lyrics) coming before an illustration (a background rhythm, or a ‘beat’). For him, lyrics inspire a rhythm that correctly illustrates them: and so he layers a baseline, drum beat and/ or more below what the artist is saying or singing.  Here were two different processes of making each artists’ respective form of art.

            Also brought up in our discussion of graphic novels was the fact that they employ images as a large part of their storytelling technique.  I then began to think about how reading images and reading words are different; for example, I much prefer decoding and interpreting words, while others love looking at pictures as a change from the usual text-based practice of reading.  In this I noticed a hint of an earlier conversation I’d had, in the art history course that I’m taking: in this class, we had discussed how images and visual art forms are more easily understood than words.  Pictures are a way to tell a story that is readily accessible to more people: comprehension of images is available to people across education levels, races, classes, and social statuses. Not so with text: letters and words are societal constructs with specific meanings that can only be accessed by the literate.

The professor mentioned illustrated bibles to exemplify this claim, and told us how these volumes provided a way for the illiterate to access Christianity. So, pictures are a way to make a text more available to everyone? Well, not for everyone: for me, it took more effort to look at the pictures AND the words in a text (I’m not too adept in multi-tasking). I ruminated about this, and have come to the conclusion that over-educated people’s problems in general are that they are disconnected from the skill of looking at pictures, as so many words and sentences have been crammed into their brains.  Pictures provide easy access for some and are roadblocks for others. 

            What do these separate notes from a single class day have in common?  All of these ideas are joined by the overarching theme of connections across medias, forms, disciplines... Connections connecting things of all kinds!   Book illustrators that were similar to blog comments, web-comics similar but also contrasting with hip-hop, words as opposed to pictures...and all these links underline the core concept of this class: different kinds.  More specifically, my thoughts followed a common theme of the class discussion over these past months: these class ruminations show me finding connections across different areas, joining parts, linking zones. And that’s what this class is about.  


Anne Dalke's picture


I just suggested to TPB1988 and Herbie, both of whom have written, this week, about adapting novels into films, that they might want to learn more about the subfield of "adaptation studies," and the way it looks "closely at the ways adaptations play with their sourcetexts." This sort of study, once called  "intertexuality," is now being called as "intermediality."  I mention this "connection" because I think that's another way to name what you are tracing above, an "overarching theme of connections across medias, forms, disciplines...."

But here's a caution to such work: finding a "connecting theme" does not, by itself, "make a strong and well-structured paper." Identifying and tracing the links among ideas doesn't necessarily result in an argument or a claim. Although you've created an interesting sequence, it hasn't yet come to a conclusion.  As spleenfiend and I have discovered, a "gap" might provoke learning; as rachelr and I have been discussing, a frame is always necessary for seeing--and for understanding what we are looking @. Are there any gaps among the connections you've identified? Any spots where they don't line up? Is there a way to frame the connections, not among themselves, but by looking on them from "outside"?

Yes: you've followed "a common theme," "finding connections across different areas, joining parts, linking zones." And yes, "that’s what this class is about." But what's the effect of making those connections? What's the payoff for all those linkages? How to "bring it home"? How to "create the spark" that's about to fly in the image above?