Charlotte Pylyser (Leuven)
“Narrative on Edge in the Belgian Graphic Novel”
This presentation was given as part of the "Beyond Narrative" conference on October 11, 2019.
Abstract: In its turn away from comics, which is marked by a ““natural” narrative status” (Baetens and Frey 8), the graphic novel has also altered its relationship with narrative. The straightforward relationship with narrative of comics is not repeated in this medium, particularly in the case of the Belgian - Walloon and Flemish - graphic novel which I propose to focus on for this paper. A turn to the visual and the accompanying appeal to the tabular storytelling potentialities of the graphic novel which assure meaning spatially, through the arrangement of the page (Fresnault-Deruelle 129-135), rather than to linear sequentiality as well as the prevalence of more lyric characteristics has turned the Belgian graphic novel into a decided narrative borderland. I intend to research narrative liminality in a corpus of five recent Belgian graphic novels - Après la mort, après la vie (2014), Plus si entente (2014), Gewonde stad (2014), Wij twee samen (2015), O scenario (2014) - that each experiment with or challenge narrative, often to more poetic or abstract effect than is common in comics. In particular I will investigate how segmentivity, “the ability to articulate and make meaning by selecting, deploying, and combining segments”, which has been identified as the core characteristic of poetry by Rachel Blau DuPlessis (McHale 28) and tabularity as well as metalepsis, in the sense of “a paradoxical contamination between the world of the telling and the world of the told” (Pier 190), combine to set narrative on edge in these works. Next to considering narrative liminality from the perspective of the development of the medium of the graphic novel, this paper thus also allows us to further explore the relationship between narrative logic, lyric logic (which also intermingle in the rising genre of graphic poetry) and the logic of the visual arts.