From Prose to Panel: Negotiating authenticity and visual modality in the comic-book adaptation of a literary memoir

Dodds, Nick (2019) From Prose to Panel: Negotiating authenticity and visual modality in the comic-book adaptation of a literary memoir. In: ILLUSTRATION AND ADAPTATION International conference organised by TIL and ILLUSTR4TIO, 10th & 11th October 2019, University of Burgundy, Dijon, France.. (Unpublished)

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Official URL: https://til.u-bourgogne.fr/manifestations/colloque...

Abstract

This paper concerns the novelization and adaptation of a text-based literary memoir into the visual medium of a long-form comic-book. The chief aim is to investigate how the transportation from one mode to another reshapes the narrative, with particular focus on the authenticating role of the graphic artist in the handling of real-life testimony and staying ‘true’ to the original text. This theme relates to my current project The Checkweighman - the graphic adaptation of Pilgrimage from Nenthead (Armstrong 1938), a memoir written by my great-grandfather Chester Armstrong. Chester was a miner from Ashington Colliery in Northumberland and Pilgrimage from Nenthead is cited as a prime example of working-class memoir in various academic accounts on British labour history (Rose 2010:466). Tellingly though, there is scant reference in Chester's book to his working routine as a surface worker at the colliery. Instead, the author presents a detailed self-examination of the inner life of the mind, the impulse towards autodidacticism and the triumph of art and ideas over religious doctrine. Chester describes in stark terms the feeling of absolute impotence at “getting into the industrial harness” (Armstrong 1938:67). It is the juxtaposition between the restrictive pit environment and the liberating force of imagination that forms the narrative thrust of the graphic adaptation. Critical, strategic and artistic approaches to authentication and visual modality will be examined, through the reflexive articulation of the on-going adaptive process and formal analysis of proto-page artwork from the project in hand.

The adaptation of Chester’s text presents both a challenge and an opportunity in regard to translating the written word into the heavily codified form of the comic-book, which is distinct from other pictorial story-texts. The page design in a comic-book foregrounds the distillation of dramatic scenes, character actions and dialogue into mathematical grid configurations, depicting a series of select panel-moments and strip-ellipses which are dependent on the reader to both recognize and follow sequentially. Furthermore, strip-narratives encourage active participation from the reader to affect closure, to read into the negative spaces and imagine parts of the story that are not shown. At their core, there is instability in the spatial and temporal elements of a comic-book, a dissonance between image and text and an essence of “unfixability” (Hatfield 2005:xiii) that can be mobilized by the graphic memoirist to reflect meaningfully on the fragmentary nature of true-life experience. In approaching the creative act of adaptation, this paper will explore the ways in which the comic-book artist ‘performs’ authentication by utilising page modality and visual style to convey emotional veracity and narrational intent and through the selection and incorporation of pictorial referents of ‘realness’ (El Refaie 2012: 135-178).

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Departments: Graphics and Photography
Additional Information: Conference committee: Sophie Aymes (Université de Bourgogne, France), Nathalie Collé (Université de Lorraine, France), Brigitte Friant-Kessler (Université de Valenciennes et du Hainaut-Cambrésis, France), Xavier Giudicelli (Université de Reims, France), Christina Ionescu (Mount Allison University, Canada), Maxime Leroy (Université de Haute Alsace, France), Ann Lewis (Birkbeck, University of London, UK), Gabriele Rippl (University of Bern, Switzerland), Shannon Wells-Lassagne (Université de Bourgogne, France).
Depositing User: Nick Dodds
Date Deposited: 07 Jan 2020 09:52
Last Modified: 18 Feb 2020 15:41
URI: http://insight.cumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/5172

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