Reading as designing: A multimodal approach to literary texts

Rumiko Oyama-Mercer

Punctum, 5(1): 203-215, 2019
DOI: 10.18680/hss.2019.0012

Abstract

The theme of the current paper has arisen from the context of teaching literature to undergraduates in Japan. I will base my discussion on several examples of visual translation done by my students. They were asked to visualise what seems most crucial to them in the story they read in the literature class. The paper explores the relationship between the choice of represented participants and what is perceived as a salient element in the story; namely, how written words in literary texts can be translated into visual manifestations and most importantly how the given visualisation is motivated by the reader and what it indicates about their interpretation of the written text. The paper first gives a brief outline of some issues of reading in the age of the internet and its impact on reading in general in terms of social semiotics. It will then draw attention to some specific data in order to explore the relationship between the affordances of two modes. What is there to tell the story and show the world-view of the reader? The data shows how different readers position their point of view, from which the story is appreciated. By looking at how the given text can contribute to a more active understanding of the story. The paper therefore explores some positive outcomes of a multimodal reading of literary texts. My proposal here is that the approach can actually enhance awareness towards language use rather than pushing it aside – in order to visually translate the verbal narrative, one needs to have a precise focus or a specific perspective from which the story is read and interpreted. The current research demonstrates the potential of reading as a more open-ended and creative sign-making activity.

KEYWORDS: visual translation, motivation, point of view, salience, affordance
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