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Metaphoricity of Conventionalized Diegetic Images in Comics

A Study in Multimodal Cognitive Linguistics


Michał Szawerna

This book offers a cognitive-semiotic approach to metaphoricity of visual representations in static visual narratives referred to as comics. It implements this approach in an exploration of conventionalized visual signs depicting diegetic situations, motion events, sound events, and diverse psychological experiences in such narratives. With his focus on the intersection of comics studies, conceptual metaphor theory, and Charles Sanders Peirce’s theory of signs, the author analyzes a broad array of attested data retrieved from comics exemplifying various publication formats, generic conventions, and cultural traditions. His exploration situates the metaphoricity of the analyzed visual signs against the backdrop of their overall semiotic makeup and in relation to the metaphoricity of their linguistic counterparts.

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Chapter 2. Metaphoricity of individual comics panels and multi-panel complexes


2.0. Introduction

In this, the first analytical chapter of my study of the metaphorical underpinnings of major visual conventions belonging to the narrative medium of comics, I will examine the general semiotic makeup and then further explore the metaphoricity of (1) the major formal unit of comics — the panel — which typically takes the form of a “rectangular frame that contains pictures and, usually, speech balloons depicting a single scene within a narrative in comics” (Saraceni 2003: 109) and (2) the progressively more inclusive visual complexes made up of multiple panels, referred to by Groensteen as “multiframes” (2007 [1999]: 30), spanning a range from the so-called strip, usually made up of three or four panels, through the page, typically made up of three or four strips, to the entire comic, which may equally well consist of a single page as several hundred pages.

The primary goal of this chapter’s exploration is to contribute to multimodal cognitive linguistics in general, and to the intersection of conceptual metaphor theory and the new comics scholarship in particular, by theorizing panels and multiframes as semiotically diverse signs — that is, signs combining indexical, iconic, and symbolic characteristics in a unique way — which become meaningful to members of the comics-reading audience in large part because in their capacity as metaphorical hypoicons they are characterized by a number of modality-independent conceptual metaphors which incorporate, as prominent elements of their target domains, the non-specific semiotic objects these signs represent on a regular basis:...

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