>*some minor editing due to stupid spelling and syntactical errors (2005-08-29, 10:39 pm)
Something Jon posted in my comments down below got me thinking about something. We were talking about the assumed primacy of text in reading (he was talking, I was injecting pointless nonsense here and there…), and alternative modes, or lenses through which a critical apprehension of an art object may be obtained (in addition to, not instead of, the text itself, just so I’m clear) came up.
He continued with:
A link to a published discussion between a neurologist and a mathematician sent me off on a mental tangent from which I was destined not to return, and I started thinking about the apprehension of the universe through use of mathematics.
I never really responded–or rather, my response was short (and I guess there’s some sort of half-life for Haloscan comments as most of my old comments at Dan’s blog are gone), and didn’t necessarily get into the meat of what I was thinking about.
See, in the end–written and printed mathematics are just another kind of text. As are music notation, various dance notations (e.g. Labanotation and Benesh Movement Notation), as well as SignWriting. All of these are read, but obviously not all of them are read by everyone (or read in the same manner).
This is true of written languages–I doubt there is anyone that can read them all (or that they are all read in the same manner).
See, one of the functions of criticism–for me at least–is the ability to articulate differences. In other words, being able to tell why A is different than B while giving some sort of account of why that difference exists. For example, why is it that almost all logographic scripts (e.g. Hieroglyphs; those by various cultures that use Chinese characters) are read vertically rather than horizontally as is the case with almost all alphabetic or phonetic scripts? What is it about the orthographic direction of certain classes of scripts that make them more likely to be read in the direction that they are read? What are the implications for the construction of meaning due to differences in scripts?
These are the types of questions that interest me and now maybe you can see the direction I’m going. Whether or not comics “writing” constitutes another type of “language” as Neil Cohn contends (and that Scott McCloud seems to imply) makes no difference because in the end, the form is still just another complex set of symbolic notations just as mathematical notation and labanotation are. At the same time, the type of notation that it is makes reading it as different as reading music notation or reading SignWriting (or as reading a logographic script).
This is not to say that there is an absolute difference. I don’t at all mean to imply that at all–all of these forms of notations ultimately happen “in the head,” so to speak, so there is ultimately going to be some overlap of function about how meaning is created, or how the script is read.
But going back to the “assumed primacy of text in reading” that Dan mentions–more often than not this leads some comics criticism into litcrit. Which is fine. I have no problem with using literary criticism to analyse comics–some interesting and fascinating interpretations may be constructed in that manner. But in the end, I do have to agree with McCloud that comics are essentially a “visual” form of communication (obviously this is problematic as we can see that any “text” is visual in nature). In other words, while we may very well have wordless comics, or “sourds” as they are sometimes called in French bande dessinée criticism, we couldn’t very well have imageless comics (i.e. “picture-less”). The latter would just be called “books” after all.
So, with apologies to Dave Fiore I’m going to have to disagree with the equivocation of narrative and language; to any bloggers out there, with the equivocation of language and thought. Sometimes we can think without words–and in many cases we can even write and read those ideas without words.