Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Unflattening: Against the Hegemony of Text

One of the most important strands in Unflattening is Sousanis' concern with the routines of education. From the first image, he imagines education - and by implication, society itself - trapped by the past, following paths that have been well-worn by previous scholars and, consequently, limiting the possibilities of research and perception.

Perhaps Sousanis' main worry is the assumption that 'the word' is more important than the image. In Judeo-Christian culture, the primacy of the word could be traced back to John's Gospel, which associates Christ (the manifestation of God in the physical universe) with the logos.

The privilege afforded to words manifests across anglophone culture: Christian fundamentalism stresses the literal truth of The Bible (an obsession reflected or originating in the status of The Koran in Islam), the primacy of the script in theatre (thank you, Shakespeare), the oaths sworn in the legal system, Plato's collected works (despite Plato's ambiguity about the written word).

Sousanis recognises this hidden assumption, and counters that words can be enriched by images - not as illustration, but as a competing and complimentary presence. He draws an analogy with the way that academic training, through an emphasis on appeals to authority (footnotes, accepted boundaries of discourse), reduces education to a rote process.

Unflattening itself is an example of how words can be challenged. The placement of words within a comic book text, and their relationship to images, attacks their simple semiotic reading. Rather than 'a word' being defined within its own system (by other words), it shifts into a conversation with the image and the overall design. 

It also contains a powerful expression of how words define experience without drawing attention to themselves. In the chapter Strings Attached, a happy puppet suddenly realises how their actions are determined by invisible guides... but far from being discouraged by this revelation, the puppet realises that awareness of the strings suggests a new way to play.

1 comment :

  1. Certainly food for thought.
    Here is a short video outlining a research project conducted at Edinburgh University by my former tutor which aims to get 'Beyond The Text' in law.