Skip to content

The Future of Text and Image

“The relation between the visual and the textual in literature is at the heart of an increasing number of scholarly projects and is becoming an independent discipline.”  So declare the co-editors of a new anthology of scholarly writings that has just arrived.  Cambridge Scholars Publishing (Newcastle upon Tyne) have kindly sent me a review copy of their new publication The Future of Text and Image: Collected Essays of Literary and Visual Conjunctures.  Edited by Ofra Amihay and Lauren Walsh, the volume contains twelve essays and an Introduction by W.J.T. Mitchell.  The essays are divided between four topics: Text and Image in Autobiography, Text and Image in the Novel, Text and Image in Poetry, and Text and Image in Art.

Alongside examinations of major forms and genres such as memoirs, novels, and poetry, this volume expands the discussion of text and image relations into more marginal forms of literature, for instance, collage books, the PostSecret collections of anonymous postcards, and digital poetry.  Considering the special role that cyberspace plays in the formation and expression of endeavors such as the PostSecret project or digital poetry, these last two examples also mark the particular effort to engage with the most recent text and image conjunctures becoming available in the digital age.  In other words, while exploring the destiny of text and image as an independent discipline, this volume simultaneously looks at the very literal future of text and image forms in an ever-changing technological reality.

Mitchell, who is Professor of English and Art History at the University of Chicago, edits the journal Critical Inquiry and is the author of a number of books, including Picture Theory (1994) and What Do Pictures Want? (2005).  In his Introduction, Mitchell maps the coordinates for the discussions that follow.

The difference between the visual and the verbal is actually two differences, one grounded in the senses (seeing versus hearing), the other in the nature of signs and meaning (words as arbitrary, conventional symbols, as distinct from images as representations by virtue of likeness or similitude.

Any systematic analysis of the relation between images and texts, then, leads inevitably into a wider field of reflection on aesthetics, semiotics, and the whole concept of representation itself as a heterogeneous fabric of sights and sounds, spectacle and speech, pictures and inscriptions.  Is this not a multiply articulated fabric, in which the warp and the woof are constantly shifting not only from sensory channels (the eye and the ear) to semiotic functions (iconic likenesses and arbitrary symbols), but also to modalities of cognition (space and time) to operational codes (the analog and the digital)?

I’ve just started to pick my way through the anthology and will report out over the coming weeks.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Terry: Try this one:

    September 26, 2012
    • Thanks for the link to Erik Anderson’s excellent essay. I just ordered his book The Poetics of Trespass.



      September 26, 2012
  2. Raúl Lilloy #

    I wrote Kolon in the same way.

    April 24, 2019
    • Thanks for sharing your novella!

      April 24, 2019

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: