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The Visual Language of Comics: Introduction to the Structure and Cognition of Sequential Images.

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Drawings and sequential images are an integral part of human expression dating back at least as far as cave paintings, and in contemporary society appear most prominently in comics. Despite this fundamental part of human identity, little work has explored the comprehension and cognitive underpinnings of visual narratives—until now. This work presents a provocative theory: t Drawings and sequential images are an integral part of human expression dating back at least as far as cave paintings, and in contemporary society appear most prominently in comics. Despite this fundamental part of human identity, little work has explored the comprehension and cognitive underpinnings of visual narratives—until now. This work presents a provocative theory: that drawings and sequential images are structured the same as language. Building on contemporary theories from linguistics and cognitive psychology, it argues that comics are written in a visual language of sequential images that combines with text. Like spoken and signed languages, visual narratives use a lexicon of systematic patterns stored in memory, strategies for combining these patterns into meaningful units, and a hierarchic grammar governing the combination of sequential images into coherent expressions. Filled with examples and illustrations, this book details each of these levels of structure, explains how cross-cultural differences arise in diverse visual languages of the world, and describes what the newest neuroscience research reveals about the brain's comprehension of visual narratives. From this emerges the foundation for a new line of research within the linguistic and cognitive sciences, raising intriguing questions about the connections between language and the diversity of humans' expressive behaviours in the mind and brain.


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Drawings and sequential images are an integral part of human expression dating back at least as far as cave paintings, and in contemporary society appear most prominently in comics. Despite this fundamental part of human identity, little work has explored the comprehension and cognitive underpinnings of visual narratives—until now. This work presents a provocative theory: t Drawings and sequential images are an integral part of human expression dating back at least as far as cave paintings, and in contemporary society appear most prominently in comics. Despite this fundamental part of human identity, little work has explored the comprehension and cognitive underpinnings of visual narratives—until now. This work presents a provocative theory: that drawings and sequential images are structured the same as language. Building on contemporary theories from linguistics and cognitive psychology, it argues that comics are written in a visual language of sequential images that combines with text. Like spoken and signed languages, visual narratives use a lexicon of systematic patterns stored in memory, strategies for combining these patterns into meaningful units, and a hierarchic grammar governing the combination of sequential images into coherent expressions. Filled with examples and illustrations, this book details each of these levels of structure, explains how cross-cultural differences arise in diverse visual languages of the world, and describes what the newest neuroscience research reveals about the brain's comprehension of visual narratives. From this emerges the foundation for a new line of research within the linguistic and cognitive sciences, raising intriguing questions about the connections between language and the diversity of humans' expressive behaviours in the mind and brain.

30 review for The Visual Language of Comics: Introduction to the Structure and Cognition of Sequential Images.

  1. 4 out of 5

    Derek Royal

    This is a fascinating quantitative study of comics, although Cohn argues that this is about visual language in a broader sense, not just a focus on comics. (Still, "comics" does stand prominently in its title.) This is part of Bloomsbury's "Advances in Semiotics" series, and the text adopts a clear linguistics approach. However, one of the strengths of Cohn's analysis is its cognitive perspective, and in this way, he provides a more anchored study -- at least in terms of primary research -- than This is a fascinating quantitative study of comics, although Cohn argues that this is about visual language in a broader sense, not just a focus on comics. (Still, "comics" does stand prominently in its title.) This is part of Bloomsbury's "Advances in Semiotics" series, and the text adopts a clear linguistics approach. However, one of the strengths of Cohn's analysis is its cognitive perspective, and in this way, he provides a more anchored study -- at least in terms of primary research -- than does Karen Kukkonen's Contemporary Comics Storytelling from last year. Cohen is at his best when he is articulating a system or a narrative grammar in comics, although his analysis of three cultural visual languages (which makes up the second and final section) is persuasive, as well. There are places were Cohen's categorization seems too generalized (e.g., in his breakdown of American "dialects" into Kirbyan, Barksian, and Independent styles), but for the most part, he is discerning in the way he organizes his analyses. Another strong point of this book -- and something you rarely, if ever, find in comics studies -- is a utilization of the author's own primary research (in the form of quantitative studies) and his own illustrations...which are quite good.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Diz

    This book presents an interesting approach to comics--viewing comics as language rather than as art. The author takes a linguistics approach to examine the grammar and components of visual language, or language with pictures. It's a very interesting idea, and I'm looking forward to reading more about this. Perhaps the one weak point in this for me was the inclusion of a chapter about aboriginal sand drawings. It seemed a little bit out of place since every other chapter was about comics. It was This book presents an interesting approach to comics--viewing comics as language rather than as art. The author takes a linguistics approach to examine the grammar and components of visual language, or language with pictures. It's a very interesting idea, and I'm looking forward to reading more about this. Perhaps the one weak point in this for me was the inclusion of a chapter about aboriginal sand drawings. It seemed a little bit out of place since every other chapter was about comics. It was a very interesting chapter though.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rich Carr

    Communication is an amazing thing to understand, and Cohn's work here focuses on one of the three modalities of communication in the form of sequential images. Fascinating & scholarly, I could go on and on about the nuggets I've pulled from this for my work (instructional design), but let me state that if you communicate visually, and need to be effective, then this yarn is for you. Communication is an amazing thing to understand, and Cohn's work here focuses on one of the three modalities of communication in the form of sequential images. Fascinating & scholarly, I could go on and on about the nuggets I've pulled from this for my work (instructional design), but let me state that if you communicate visually, and need to be effective, then this yarn is for you.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Cyrus Daruwala

    I couldn't come up with a duller way to delve into the language of comics. A promising title proved to be deceptive. I gave it the extra star for the attempt, and for introducing me to a couple of new topics and comic artists. I couldn't come up with a duller way to delve into the language of comics. A promising title proved to be deceptive. I gave it the extra star for the attempt, and for introducing me to a couple of new topics and comic artists.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Quinn

    Very interesting hard to read but for a full educated person it shouldn't be difficult to read. Very interesting hard to read but for a full educated person it shouldn't be difficult to read.

  6. 4 out of 5

    University of Chicago Magazine

    Neil Cohn, AM'05 Author From the author: "Drawings and sequential images are an integral part of human expression dating back at least as far as cave paintings, and in contemporary society appear most prominently in comics. Despite this fundamental part of human identity, little work has explored the comprehension and cognitive underpinnings of visual narratives—until now. "This work presents a provocative theory: that drawings and sequential images are structured the same as language. Building on Neil Cohn, AM'05 Author From the author: "Drawings and sequential images are an integral part of human expression dating back at least as far as cave paintings, and in contemporary society appear most prominently in comics. Despite this fundamental part of human identity, little work has explored the comprehension and cognitive underpinnings of visual narratives—until now. "This work presents a provocative theory: that drawings and sequential images are structured the same as language. Building on contemporary theories from linguistics and cognitive psychology, it argues that comics are written in a visual language of sequential images that combines with text. Like spoken and signed languages, visual narratives use a lexicon of systematic patterns stored in memory, strategies for combining these patterns into meaningful units, and a hierarchic grammar governing the combination of sequential images into coherent expressions. Filled with examples and illustrations, this book details each of these levels of structure, explains how cross-cultural differences arise in diverse visual languages of the world, and describes what the newest neuroscience research reveals about the brain’s comprehension of visual narratives. From this emerges the foundation for a new line of research within the linguistic and cognitive sciences, raising intriguing questions about the connections between language and the diversity of humans’ expressive behaviours in the mind and brain."

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jon Christensen

    Text book. This is written as a text book and is very dry without accompanying material. Writer seemed to be knowledgeable but I just couldn't stick with it. Text book. This is written as a text book and is very dry without accompanying material. Writer seemed to be knowledgeable but I just couldn't stick with it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Filip Grac

  9. 5 out of 5

    Renee

  10. 4 out of 5

    James

  11. 5 out of 5

    Janina Wildfeuer

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Dibble Harris

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jef Costello

  14. 4 out of 5

    Anna

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kayla

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jill Gerber

  17. 4 out of 5

    Eddy Musa

  18. 5 out of 5

    Steve Weisberg

  19. 4 out of 5

    William

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ricardo Baptista

  21. 5 out of 5

    Siva

  22. 4 out of 5

    Angela

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kate

  24. 4 out of 5

    David Press

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Allen

  26. 5 out of 5

    Aundrey

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alexander

  28. 5 out of 5

    Martin

  29. 5 out of 5

    Dmitrij Beloussow

  30. 4 out of 5

    Esbeyde In'morales

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