This book laid the foundation for the theory of "visual language" by analyzing the sequential images found in comics using the tools of linguistic theory.
Collecting the earliest of Neil Cohn's theoretical writings, it covers the split between "comics" and "visual language," the boundaries between text and image, and lots more. Special focus is given to the importance of the sequential aspect of visual language grammar. This includes an in-depth analysis expanding and categorizing the number of panel-to-panel relationships, demonstrating their limitations, and culminating in arguments against these types of "panel transitions." The alternative is a new theory of sequential image understanding based on the hierarchical relationships between time and space.
Breaking new ground, this book provides a reunderstanding of the graphic and linguistic modes of communication in light of a linguistic and cognitive perspective.
2003 / 120 pages
Digital versions may be available to purchase for people outside the United States on request.
Proper citation for this book:
Cohn, Neil. 2003. Early Writings on Visual Language. Carlsbad: Emaki Productions.
"Neil Cohn [argues] that panel sequences follow a "grammar," a set of rules about order and arrangement, just like words in a sentence do... his ideas seem to be shaping up into a major alternative to McCloudian notions of closure."
-The Comics Journal #255, Sept. 2003
This work presents a provocative theory: that drawings and sequential images are structured the same as language. Building on contemporary theories from linguistics and cognitive psychology, it argues that comics are written in a visual language of sequential images that combines with text. From this emerges the foundation for a new line of research within the linguistic and cognitive sciences, raising intriguing questions about the connections between language and the diversity of humans’ expressive behaviours in the mind and brain. Learn more...
Contemporary research on this visual language of sequential images has been scattered across several fields: linguistics, psychology, anthropology, art education, comics studies, and others. This book collects chapters that cross these disciplinary divides from many of the foremost international researchers of visual narratives, inlcuding important papers and review chapters summarizing the literature on specific approaches to understanding visual narratives. The result is a comprehensive “reader” that can be used as a resource to researchers, a supplement to courses, and a broad overview of fascinating topics to for anyone interested in the growing field of the visual language of comics and visual narratives. Learn more...