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“Funny Books” – Comics and Reader Response Theory

McDonald, Keith ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7477-5963 (2009) “Funny Books” – Comics and Reader Response Theory. In: Possibilities and Perspectives: A Conference on Comics.

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This paper will consider comic books in relation to phenomenology and in particular some of the theories formulated by Wolfgang Iser. Iser contends that a ‘virtual
dimension’ of a literary text is ‘activated’ when the written word meets the imaginative functions of the reader, stating:
This virtual dimension is not the text itself, nor is it the imagination of the reader: it is the coming together of text and imagination.

I wish to extend this notion to comic book narratives and in particular explore the hybrid nature of comic books as an amalgamation of image and text. This draws from
the work of Will Eisner who suggests that the reader is a valuable participatory agent in comic book narratives, potentially bringing to life and ‘amplifying’ text and image. This theoretical underpinning will lead to a consideration of comic books alongside other media, in particular in relation to the Literature and Cinema. The argument
here is that although existing academic study into Literature and Film is highly valuable, a nascent discourse is required to explore comic book dynamics. The paper will be exemplified by several comic book moments which demonstrate ways in which comic book narratives occur and unfold as complex, changeable and at times self aware and reflexive texts.

1 Wolfgang Iser, “The Reading Process: A Phenomenological Approach,” in Modern Criticism and Theory, ed. David Lodge (New York: Longman, 2000) 197.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Status: Published
Subjects: A General Works > AZ History of Scholarship The Humanities
N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
School/Department: School of Humanities
URI: https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/6187

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