Multimodality studies consider the ways semiotic resources besides language can facilitate “meaning making” in communicative situations. Alison Gibbons and Wolfgang Hallet, among others, adopt multimodality studies as a framework for literary analysis, calling attention to a growing corpus of novels in which various design features (such as layout) and semiotic systems (such as pictures or maps) offer experiences that are not linguistically shaped. They observe that these additional modal and material resources can strengthen or weaken what readers infer from the written words in the novels. This article, however, traces the cognitive and perceptual processes triggered by the use of handwriting as a form of inscription in J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst’s novel S. (2013) to highlight how even the presentation of language in multi-modal literature can engender experiences that exceed linguistic comprehension. Thus the article argues that if studies of multimodality in literature intend to subvert “language-based” thinking, they need to move past the preoccupation with meaning making and also recognize those embodied experiences afforded by literary texts that do not seem to significantly modify the linguistic meaning.
At Hand: Handwriting as a Device for Spatial Orientation in J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst’s S.
Torsa Ghosal is assistant professor of English at California State University, Sacramento. She received her doctoral degree in English from Ohio State University. Her research focuses on the aesthetic experiences that contemporary multimodal literature offers. She also studies North American and South Asian comics, films, and electronic literature, and her articles on these topics have appeared in Storyworlds: A Journal of Narrative Studies (2015), Media-N: Journal of the New Media Caucus (2015), South Asian Review (2015), and Post Script (2014) and are anthologized in Latinos and Narrative Media (2013).
Torsa Ghosal; At Hand: Handwriting as a Device for Spatial Orientation in J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst’s S.. Poetics Today 1 June 2019; 40 (2): 189–213. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-7298508
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