Date of Award

5-2008

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English

Advisor

David Kress

Second Committee Member

Carla Billitteri

Third Committee Member

Steven R. Evans

Abstract

As we move further into the twenty-first century, society has begun to rely on images as an integral means of conveying information, via television, movies and the internet, creating a visual culture. With the rise of this visual culture, the way we read, discuss and analyze these images proves to be almost nonexistent, especially in terms of images in the novel. In examining three novels published in the twenty-first century, Dave Eggers' You Shall Know Our Velocity, Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and Steve Tomasula's VAS: An Opera in Flatland, tactics and ways to approach images in text can be established which will help to increase the knowledge of how images function within the text, and how to write about them. We must be careful, though, in generalizing the conclusions arrived at in examining these texts. Images function as open-ended systems, as opposed to closeended systems of language, and this openness allows for many different interpretations and uses of images. In using the work of W. J. T. Mitchell, Johanna Drucker and Roland Barthes, it will become clear that images are difficult to read and interpret, but that a general understanding of images and how they function is necessary in examining the use of images in the text. Keeping in mind that images function differently in each text examined here, three general areas will be studied. First, the image as truth, and the fact that images do not always tell the truth, is explored in You Shall Know Our Velocity. This is also where we find the first instance (in these three texts) of an aesthetic created by the use of images in the novel. Second, images can be read as metaphor, as evidenced in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, where an autistic narrator uses images to stand in for metaphor, and how this affects the reading of the novel. Third, images are used to produce the novel as body in VAS: An Opera in Flatland. By using aspects of the body captured in imagistic forms, the novel becomes more like a body to be experienced than a novel made up of words and pages. This is done through the use of passive and active images, which allow for reader interaction and participation with the text. It is in examining images and their uses in these three texts, through the lens of critical theory, both visual and literary, that a better understanding of how they are read and interpreted begins. This is important in approaching the growing visual culture and how it affects not only our everyday interactions but also our art, mainly the novel.

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