Spatialising narrative: ‘irresponsible pictures’.
In: Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, 19 Apr 2008, Boston, USA.
In the early twentieth century Walter Benjamin called for more than textual ways of writing to more adequately record the passing of the present into the past. Jared Gardner (2006) contends that the form Benjamin sought was the 'comic book' or 'graphic novel', in which the present becomes its own 'archive'—its past always in the process of becoming. Indeed, graphic narrative might be characterised by a refusal to choose, such that it operates in the interstices between present and past, word and image, presence and absence, writer and reader. Influentially, Scott McCloud (1993) has argued that graphic narrative spatialises time through the rhythms of presence and absence in its frames and gutters. He argues that comics enlist their readers as active collaborators in the meaning-making process of 'closure' as they fill in the gaps between frames. Yet, the alliance between writers and readers is always uneasy. In rendering time as space, graphic narrative serves to fracture both. In the liminality of the gutters tensions are never neutralised, but put to creative use; 'we' are moved to see, feel or think differently through an active process of imaginative production (Whitlock, 2006). Setting aside any controversy over the literary merits of graphic narrative, this paper explores affect and performativity in popular, 'shonen' (boys) manga, specifically Tite Kubo's 'Bleach' (2001-present), Hiromu Arakawa's 'Fullmetal Alchemist' (2001-present), Masashi Kishimoto's 'Naruto' (1999-present) and Kazuki Takahashi's 'Yu-Gi-Oh' (1996–2004).
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