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Building Bridges for Multimodal Research

International Perspectives on Theories and Practices of Multimodal Analysis

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Edited By Janina Wildfeuer

While multimodality is one of the most influential semiotic theories for analysing media artefacts, the concepts of this theory are heterogeneous and widespread. The book takes the differences between approaches in Germany and those in international contexts as a starting point, offering new insights into the analysis of multimodal documents. It features contributions by researchers from more than 15 nations and various disciplines, including theoretical reflections on multimodality, thoughts about methodological, empirical, and experimental approaches as well as analyses of various multimodal artefacts.
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When Here is Now and There is Then: Bridging the Gap in Time with “Sumer Is Icumen In”

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1 Introduction

“The text resists; you take it into you, but it is not ‘you’; you break it open, suck it, chew it; you change it, and it will change you, so that, ultimately, you and it, subject and object, then and now, are not easily distinguishable.” (Brown 2000: 561)

The past is getting closer. It seems so close to our reach. We can carry around every book ever written (or so it seems) in our pockets. We can find a picture of anything on the Internet, and we can tour the streets of 17th-century London. We can visit museums virtually. Quotes from people long deceased regularly feature in social media, often with a mugshot alongside. Chaucer, Walt Whitman, Mellibus, Queen Anne Boleyn – Shakespeare alone manages multiple accounts from his side of the pearly gates.

This interaction with today’s world from notable figures beyond the grave is symptomatic of what I consider to be false bridges over the gap in time. Indeed, if these are bridges at all then the traffic they bear is only one way: today’s culture is projected onto the past which is manipulated to fit the needs of the present dominant culture. In a wider cultural sense, such manipulation is also felt – and responded to – by many cultures and people that do not ‘fit’ the apparent hegemony. The past, or at least what we think of as ‘the real past’, is silent.

Except, of course,...

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