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Grennan, Simon: "Demonstrating discours. Two comic strip projects in self-constraint." In: Studies in Comics 2.2 (2012), S. 295–316.
|Resource type: Journal Article
BibTeX citation key: Grennan2012
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Keywords: "99 Ways to Tell a Story", "Clyde Fans", Gallant. Gregory, Kanada, Madden. Matt, Narratologie, Seth, USA
Collection: Studies in Comics
There has been a trend in comics narratology to focus on the analysis of structures or systems of enunciation, or what Émile Benveniste terms histoire or ‘what is told’. Instead, this article will approach comics narratology as the relationship between histoire and discours: between ‘what is told’ and ‘telling to’ after first outlining a summary of approaches to narrative, which group around a difference in focus on histoire relative to discours or on histoire alone. Following Barker, it will consider the enunciator, enunciatee, context and medium to be topics affecting both the form and content of what is expressed, bringing alterity to bear on the semic analysis of structure. To demonstrate the importance of this relationship, it will analyse two comic strips: Seth’s Clyde Fans Book One (2004) and Matt Madden’s 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style (2007). This analysis will scrutinize the ways in which two different types of self-constraint are utilized by Seth and Madden in order to produce their strips. Seth employs a rule in Clyde Fans, which can be summarized as nothing un-American, nothing post-1959. This rule represents both a social identification of the experience of pre-1959 America with a specific canon of images and technologies, and articulates Seth as a subject submitting to constraint by this perceived canon. Similarly, Madden’s 99 Ways to Tell a Story represents a self-aware project that seeks to apply 99 different constraints to a single script. However, unlike Seth, Madden’s self-constraint derives from self-observation, or an attempt to adopt the perceived social position of a generalized other in each of his drawings, represented by both drawing style and genre. Both these works demonstrate ways in which social constraint represents self-constraint in the expressive form of the strips themselves. This analysis is not possible considering histoire alone. These examples demonstrate how the relationship between the physical form of the strips, the semic level and subjective constraints at the level of discours contribute to their meaning. This suggests an alternative approach to comics narratology, from the point of view of the relative consideration of histoire and discours, rather than approaches that consider histoire alone, which have dominated comics narratology in the last two decades.
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