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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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Comics scholars like Christopher Eklund (2006: 209), Randy Duncan and Matthew J. Smith (2009: vii), and Kent Worcester (2010: 111) concur in the opinion that extensive research on static visual narratives referred to collectively as comics has been developing for several decades, but both Worcester (2010: 111) himself and Jeet Heer and Worcester (2009: xi) point out that the heyday of modern comics scholarship began, roughly speaking, at the turn of the 1980s and 1990s, with the emergence of what Heer and Worcester refer to as the “new comics scholarship” (2009: xiv). According to Heer and Worcester (2009: xiii), the new comics scholarship marks an important change in contemporary comics studies — a change toward research into “the formal aspects of comics” (Heer and Worcester 2009: xiv), with the focus on revealing the unique capacity of comics exemplifying various publication formats, generic conventions, and cultural traditions to “achieve meaning” (Heer and Worcester 2009: xiii; original emphasis). The lively dialogue about the capacity of comics for meaning, referred to by Heer and Worcester (2009: xiv) as the “formalist turn” in the new comics scholarship, was initiated by practicing cartoonists — Will Eisner (2008 /1985/), Robert C. Harvey (1994, 1996), and Scott McCloud (1994 /1993/) — whose contribution to comics studies, while invaluable insofar as it provided “a solid foundation for academic inquiry into comics” (Varnum and Gibbons 2001: xiii), was criticized for its lack of an academic orientation, for “being removed from the scholarly traditions with which it might best intersect” (Beaty...

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