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Beyond the word/image dialectic : a visual grammar for contemporary picturebooks Hornberg, Brian Alan

Abstract

The purpose of this study is to use the grammar of visual design set out by Gunther Kress and Theo van Leeuwen to define changes in the visual codes of three postmodern picturebooks in direct comparison with three traditional picturebooks. I propose that the vocabulary and underlying concepts of the grammar supply a picturebook discourse more descriptive and inclusive than current methods. This examination is informed theoretically by the developments in the history of the picturebook that contribute to its versatility, the picturebook's recent acquisition of postmodern features, semiotic interpretation of the picturebook's double coded nature and the invitation to examine the interaction of the visual and verbal codes as part of the complex, yet flexible interaction between creator, text and reader. I utilize a multidisciplinary, three-stage approach beginning with a social semiotic visual content analysis, based on the grammar of visual design, which produces data that is discussed in the framework of the contrasts between the three traditional and three postmodern picturebooks, and again with regards to identified postmodern characteristics. I continue by framing a detailed discussion of each of the three postmodern picturebooks with Lewis' concept of an ecology of the picturebook, concentrating on viewing each book as a discrete entity, contextualized in the environment of its production and consumption, and presenting integrated image/word codes of communication.

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