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An introduction to a book that doesn't exist:

Prose and verse are generally accepted as distinct writing formats with their own rules, styles, and grammars.  Though their borders are somewhat vague, they have come to be seen as something of a dichotomy in the eyes of the general public.  There are, however, at least 3 other popular approaches to writing as exhibited in picture-books, comicbooks, and plays.  Though sometimes given short shrift, these styles are accepted as literature.  They are included in libraries, book stores, and academic study.  Most importantly, they are read.

In the general case, there is clearly writing being done in the creation of any one of these.  But what of the wordless comic or silent play?  Should we consider scripts written, but fully realized plays, comics, and picture-books, to be performance, art, or some other kind of non-literature?  These worries of theory are kinks to be worked out, surely, but they are not of immediate practical concern to the writer.

On firmer ground, we may say, where words and pictures or performance coexist in a synergistic relationship, writing becomes a part of the art, and art a part of the writing.  Thus, artists may be authors, with or without fashioning words.  Authors, of course, are artists in their own right.


  1. I'd be interested to see some analysis of examples from comic books, accompanied by the actual pages from the comic books. I mean who's to say what is and what isn't a synergistic relationship between words/pictures or words/performance?

    I bet there are all sorts of neat intermediary cases too. I remember reading once a long time ago this Batman comic by Grant Morrison that was in the same physical format as a typical comic book (I mean, it had the staples on the back, the page size was the same, etc.), except there were only a few pictures and most of the comic was written like a prose novel, without even dialogue boxes, but in paragraphs (and an excessive amount of similes).

  2. Yeah, I forget what that sub-genre is called. It was popular in the '70s and '80s, especially in back-up features. I'd consider it more of a picture-book on its own. The art there doesn't usually help too much with the story, though. It's more decorative.

    As to the idea of analyzing where and when something that is not scribed is nevertheless writing, or at least an integral part of some literature-as-art, the idea appeals to me. However, the more I think through the nitty gritty, the more complicated things get.

  3. I suppose Roy Lichenstein's work reinforces some kind of idea that all art forms are, in a way, linked, and therefore they are able to overleap the boundaries we place on them by considering them in such a compartmentalised structure. And wasn't there a Flemish or Dutch artist whose artwork consisted of a typed piece of writing. Also, of course, there are the old illuminated manuscripts.
    Perhaps it is just our modern desire to label things that drives us to make these distinctions in the first place, but I certainly agree that we ought to try to blur these distinctions in our minds.

  4. I was just thinking that the quotation at the top of your (Pointless Man's) blog seems like a summary, sort of, of what this post is about.

  5. Also, in response to Will Mc, I don't think the 'desire to label things' is a modern phenomenon, seeings as how it's been done probably since language was invented, and plus Aristotle did in a systematic way with regards to art and also substances and species and genera.

    Unless you mean that we label things differently in modern times than before?

  6. If meaning is even intersubjective or holistic, then we would almost certainly label things differently today than did the ancients, even in using the same terms. In the case of plays, for example, the episodic form has come to be something entirely different for the average viewer than for the student of drama or Aristotle. I don't know that's what Will meant, though. Maybe he intended to point out our collective drive to subdivide cultural subgenres to the point of giving a name to the style of music played by one band (like Morphine's 'low rock'), which may be a relatively recent phenomenon.

    As to the relationship between the quote at the top and this thread, I originally put the quote there with comics in mind.

  7. Sorry I didn't reply sooner - no internet.

    When I referred to the "modern" trend of labelling, I meant that we now seem incapable of leaving something unclassified. This, to me, is manifested by the subdivision of cultural sub-genres Travis talks about (although not necessarily confined to music), which I think is linked in no small part to our increasing desire for a simplistic solution to every problem, as evidenced by politician's growing use of sound-bytes. While I accept that this may be merely the latest stage of progression that is fact a part of our underlying human nature, as Ross pointed out, I do feel that recently, this aspect has become drastically more pronounced. In addition, I feel that we now attach labels needlessly, most obviously, I think, in the field of psychology and education, where we are greeted by a teeming multitude of abbreviations and acronyms to describe conditions that, only a few years ago, would never have been considered, as their effects are so minute.

  8. I don't know what you (Tavis) mean by holistic/intersubjective. I mean, I know what those words mean according to the dictionary/my intuition, but I can't relate that to this change in the way things are labeled that I/you were talking about.

    The best I can do is think of an example like how the word 'punk' (keeping going with music examples...)used to mean in England around the 17th century or so a prostitute, but now it means a style of music, or I suppose a style of dress and attitude towards life that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with having sex with strangers for money and usually isn't used to describe that. Though I suppose there could be punk prostitutes now??

    About the desire for simplicity...

    I'm not so sure this is just a modern thing. Things have been getting much more complex very quickly since about the Industrial Revolution, approximately, what with all these secretive megacorporations, new technologies, and laws and regulations, governing just about every aspect of peoples' lives. What I'm saying is that people could have always had the same drive for simplicity. They could have always wanted the simple solution. But now that life is becoming more complex, this drive is more pronounced (as you say), though not increasing, relative to the new context we live in.

    Isn't it a fact that things are more complex now than before for most people?

  9. I don't know...I've been think about it lately. What it would take to live in the wild again. You'd have to know how to identify the foods that are safe to eat, you'd have to know how to build shelter, so you'd have to know how to use basic tools and also build those tools. You'd have to know how to track animals, and how to kill and prepare them for food. You'd have to learn how to crush nuts and stuff like that.

    There's a complexity to living in the wild too and we've basically forgotten all the skills that would allow us to live that way anymore. We've been neutered, like domestic animals, that need to rely on their owners (in this case the vast supply chain network that gets us our food and other stuff) in order to survive.

    But my life now more complex than living in the wild?? I have a ton of anxiety. Is that a sign of trying to cope with complexity? To a degree, yes. Because I have no idea how to use my computer and I don't really trust it anymore because I don't trust the applications that run on it (iTunes, Internet Explorer, Google Analytics). I don't trust the applications for several reasons. One of them is that I don't know how they work. And I don't know how they work because 1) I don't have access to the source code which is blocked from me by the corporations for proprietary reasons and 2) because even if I did have access to the source code, I'd have to learn computer programming language better so that I could understand it/change it 3) It's still possible to get an overview of what the programs do by reading the EULA that you have to agree to before downloading/using them, but they update the EULA all the time and companies like Apple (and Facebook apparently) like to surreptitously slip in MalWare downloads with their Updates.

    And then you multiply those problems with every program on my computer, more or less, and also with all the other technologies I own (my Car, my television, my music player, my eBook reader,etc.) which I have no idea how they work and couldn't take them apart and put htem back together if my life depended on it, and I think you have not only a degree of complexity that would take eons of time to comprehend fully for any one individual, but also a huge lack of control over the 'basic' things I use every day in my life.

    Anyways, that probably sounded like a crazy rant...but that's where I'm at right now.

    I really want to have survivalist skills, or some skill that can allow me to be strange as that may sound...because I want a surefire fallback that isn't my parents for when I have a job. I don't want to have to take any of the bullshit employers try to make their workers suffer, just because they know that the workers can't afford to be insubordinate since their subsistence depends on their obedience (or at least cunning disobedience).

  10. Anon, by 'holistic', I mean relying upon the whole (as opposed to, say, meaning being atomic). In this case, I meant that the meaning of an individual word or phrase might be determined or informed by the structure and contents of the language it is in, and the words it is accompanied by, such that it might signify something different in varying contexts. Thus, words we have borrowed or directly translated from Ancient Greek might mean something other than intended in the source language, even where usage remains similar and importantly tied to its origins (as with 'episodic').

    In the case of 'intersubjective', I meant that meaning might be defined by a language's participants at a societal level, as opposed to being definite all by itself or set at the individual level. This would place an emphasis on connotation as well as definition.

    Both of these approaches to meaning allow for changes in definition, usage, and connotation over time, even within the same language or dialect.

  11. So a non-intersubjective approach could allow for changes in definition too, except in this case it would be something like a private language. Like one person could have a set of words that he constantly changes the definitions for without ever telling anyone else, so they have no idea what he's actually talking about even when they hear/read his words.

    Also, connotation can be very personal too. There are words that have connotations/resonances that probably no other person would even consider but me.

    As for holism. I think I see what you're saying. When the Greek word Eudamonia is translated, sometimes the translator renders it as happiness, and sometimes as another word ('flourishing' accord to wiki), because in English happiness has different connotations to us than it would to Ancient Greeks just because of the way we use it in our society. Thus 'happiness' is the most literal translation, though not the most accurate.

  12. I believe intersubjectivity should take individual views into account (at the very least, when and where they have a notable impact), though language is almost necessarily broader. Communication tends to require the involvement of multiple individuals.

    Denial of intersubjectivity need not lead one to more atomic subjectivism. After all, there are those who believe words (and phrases, sentences, paragraphs, etc.) have definite, objective meanings. Who or what determines those meanings depends, I suppose.

    Despite the absolutist's heartfelt belief that meaning is somehow fixed, questions remain as to whether there is an 'actually' when it comes to what a person has spoken or written about. Debates involve questions of ownership of meaning, the impact of intent, perhaps unintended but seemingly justified readings, symbolism and other indirect methods of communication, and the subconscious.

    Many intuitively believe individuals may fix meaning, if only in things they originate. Of course, there aren't too many instances where we actually come up with something all that new all by ourselves. When we do, we may end up with gibberish. Take Lewis Carroll's 'Jabberwocky', for example. Some would claim Carroll alone (could have) had control or knowledge of the full and real meaning of 'Jabberwocky' (word by word, stanza by stanza, and as a whole); those who say anyone may have such; and those who hold no one does. There's something to be said for all of these positions, which I think might be blended together, but which most see as mutually exclusive.



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