Coherence-building in comics

Bridgeman, Teresa. 2004. Keeping an eye on things: attention, tracking, and coherence-building. Belphégor 4 (1).

Bridgeman’s article discusses various aspects of coherence-building throughout comics structure — “coherence” being the discourse theory notion of a salience across various units. It thus joins various other works that apply discourse theory to comics, though dabbles in cognitive science a bit as well.

The piece covers a lot of ground over various parts of comic structure (style, color, composition, layout, etc), and it uses cognitive principles to at least elucidate the elements of structure fairly well, though it sticks to a fairly generalized notion of them. On the whole though, not much is “new” about the work presented here. It takes the fairly overt elements of structure and simply maps cognitive-theory-lite to them, while also drawing from a well-done mixture of McCloud and Groensteen’s ideas.

McCloud and Groensteen’s theoretical orientations are often put at odds with each other, yet this paper makes ample use of both of their theories. While I may not particularly subscribe to either of their theories (I do have my own ideas, you know), it’s at least nice to see that not everybody falls into one camp or the other.

Partly though, the non-novel nature of the paper may be due to “intent,” which is less to provide a cognitive analysis of the structure, so much as (it seems) to use cognitive principles for analysis. This seems to be an inherent disciplinary tension though. While I do think it succeeds as an application of cognitive theory to literary analysis (which most of the paper is devoted to), I’m also wary for whether it knows the difference between the two intentions.


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