Reading the graphic surface : the presence of the book in fiction by B.S. Johnson, Christine Brooke-Rose and Alasdair Gray.
This thesis develops a critical vocabulary for dealing with
the visual appearance of prose fiction where it is manipulated for
effect by authors. It explores why literary criticism and theory
has dismissed such features as either unreadable experimental
gimmicks or, more recently, as examples of the worst kind of
postmodernist decadence. Through the examination of three
problematical texts (B.S. Johnson's Albert Angelo, Christine
Brooke-Rose's Thru and Alasdair Gray's Lanark: a Life in Four
Books), the thesis demonstrates that an awareness of the graphic
surface can make significant contributions to interpretation
particularly around the issues of representation in fiction and our
understanding of the reading process in general.
There are four large chapters divided into sections. Chapter
One sets out to demonstrate both how and why the graphic
surface has been neglected; the first section looks at the visual
perception of graphic surface and at how that perception may be
obscured by other concerns or automatised until unnoticed.
Section two looks at theoretical obstacles to the perception of the
graphic surface, particularly those which see printed text as either
an idealised sign-system or a representation of spoken language.
Section three moves on to examine how 'blindness' to the graphic
surface, and particularly to its potential mimetic usage, is
reflected and perpetuated in literary criticism. Section four
examines critical assumptions about the transformation of
manuscript to novel, and what our familiarity with the printed
form of the book leads us to take for granted. Section five
discusses our choice of texts and their specific authorial and
critical backgrounds. Chapters Two, Three and Four deal with the
three chosen texts (listed above) individually and in detail, before
a concluding summary which touches on some of the implications
of the project.