Ord og bilder på vandring. Bildebøker som gjenskaper dikt og bildekunst
Not peer reviewed
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This thesis, entitled Wandering words and images. Picturebooks that recreate poems and visual art works, examines a selection of Norwegian picturebooks including three poetry picturebooks and three narrative art picturebooks. A common feature of the picturebooks is the fact that each of them develops a dialogue with either literary or visual art works which have previously been published or exhibited for a primarily adult audience. One aim of this study is to examine how the original poems and artworks are transformed by being repurposed in a picturebook medium. Another aim is to investigate the ways in which the books address children as well as adults, and how the books may foster aesthetic experiences and understanding for both readerships.
The term ‘poetry picturebook’ implies a close interaction between poetry, illustrations and other visual aesthetics, such as graphic design, layout and book design. The poetry picturebooks selected for this study are: Gåsa, katten og hanen (2006) [The goose, the cat and the rooster] by Jakob Sande and Ingunn Wiken; Eg sette brillene på min katt (2007) [I put the spectacles on my cat] by Halldis Moren Vesaas, Tarjei Vesaas and Inger Lise Belsvik; and Når tussalusi kviskrar (2008) [When the woodlouse whispers] by Olav H. Hauge and Inger Lise Belsvik. The poems included in these books were published in the latter half of the 1900s by Norwegian authors writing mostly for adults. This thesis investigates how these poems are recreated in the picturebook editions from the 2000s by the combinations of verbal and visual aesthetics. As the three book titles suggest, the animal motif is prevalent, and consequently verbal and visual animal portraits are one of the investigated topics. Illustrated poetry is an under-researched field, and to date very few studies have offered in-depth analyses of interactions between poems and illustrations, and this thesis contributes to filling this gap.
The term ‘art picturebook’ indicates that visual and verbal narratives highlight the theme of visual arts. The selected books include: Hva skal vi gjøre med lille Jill? (1976) [What should we do about little Jill?] by the author-illustrator Fam Ekman; Det hjertet husker (2009) [What the heart remembers] written by Bjørn Sortland and illustrated by Hilde Kramer; and Freddy (2011) [Freddy] written and illustrated by Marvin Halleraker. The narratives are situated in various arts venue, including museums, galleries, private collections, artist’s homes, art studios and tattoo shops, as well as settings for performative arts and street arts. The staging of these diverse art scenes allows the reader to examine how the specific environments influence the characters’ art experiences, as well as their experiences in a broader sense. This category of books has not yet been widely researched, and the thesis explores how the art scenes serve as a basis for literary and visual narratives.
Chapter 1 introduces the framework of aesthetic theory, based primarily on the theories of aesthetic experience developed by John Dewey and Hans-Georg Gadamer, both of whom emphasize the recipient’s active role in the creation of meaning and sensuous experience. In addition, Gadamer’s understanding of the historical dimensions implied in art experiences provides a frame of reference. Chapter 1 also includes a discussion of how the topics of aesthetics and Bildung are understood and applied in the fields of children’s literature and rhetorical art didactics. Chapter 2 highlights aspects from picturebook research and intermedial theory relevant to the thesis. In chapter 3, the picturebooks are analyzed from the perspective of ekphrasis, and in chapter 4 adaptation theory serves as a vital premise in further analysis. Chapter 5 concludes the thesis.
The thesis combines methods of close reading designed for literary works, with methodologies for reading verbal-visual interactions. Moreover, the analyses are informed and structured from the perspective of the selected theoretical approaches. In chapter 3, the picturebook readings are grounded in a rhetorical as well as an interartial understanding of ekphrasis. In classic rhetoric, ekphrasis is a verbal tool to enhance the listeners’ visual and sensuous imagination, while in modern times ekphrasis for the most part has been defined as a literary work of art describing a visual work of art, or in a broader sense, verbal representation of visual representation. The poetry picturebook analyses underscore how the interactions between poems and illustrations may enhance the readers’ imagination and sensuous experiences in ways that correspond with the ideas of visualization and vividness in the classic ekphrasis. The analyses of the art picturebooks and their inclusion of art walks and art talks confirm the relevance of interartial ekphrasis studies for this category of books. There are very few studies of picturebook ekphrases, and chapter 3 presents explorative readings that include both theoretical and methodological reflections.
The analyses in chapter 4 focus on how each book adapts previous works. Here the thesis draws upon theories with a broad understanding of adaptation, which allows for the inclusion of several types of transformations, such as shifts in medium, art form, genre, context and audience, or involves reinterpretations of a work from new viewpoints. The analyses highlight the significance of the books’ paratexts in the process of adaptation. One key finding is that covers, formats, endpapers, title pages and book design contribute to the characterization of the books’ content and aesthetics, as well as to their cross-generational address. Another vital finding indicates that, in the poetry picturebooks, the interaction of poems and illustrations offer alternative ways of experiencing and interpreting poetry than those in readings of unillustrated poetry. The analyses of the art picturebooks reveal how works of art gain renewed life when integrated in a story and transformed into the illustrators’ own style. The visual and verbal narratives describe how the fictitious characters’ encounters with specific art works or artists influence their development and choices. Drawing on Bakhtin’s concept of chronotope, the analyses underscore how the characters’ art travels imply questions of identity, fundamental choices and formation.
The thesis suggests several fields for future research, such as studies of poetry picturebooks, ecocritical readings of illustrated animal poetry, investigations of how theories of ekphrasis may inform picturebook research, art and poetry picturebooks as an arena of adaptation studies, chronotope studies of picturebooks and children’s literature research with a focus on aesthetic experience and formation.