Disturbing the text: typographic devices in literary fiction

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Abstract:

In conventional literary fiction, effective typography recedes. Grey rectangles of justified type are so familiar they are essentially invisible on the page, allowing the reader to slip into the world of the book unimpeded by the activity of reading. This article explores ways some novelists use unconventional typography as a literary device, visually interrupting the reader to make a specific point. A range of typographic devices are shown to effect pace, point of view, tone of voice, characterization and to imply ephemeral documents within novels. These typographic devices are illustrated with examples from a collection of novels including Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves (2000), Salvador Plascencia’s The People of Paper (2005), Joanthan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2005) and Steven Hall’s The Raw Shark Texts (2007). The article aims to illustrate ways authors have experimented with typographic devices to literary effect, and to encourage more experimentation with word-image interplay as a storytelling device.

Keywords: ephemera; literature; narrative; novels; paratext; readers; reading; typography

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/btwo.1.2.101_1

Affiliations: University of Technology, Sydney

Publication date: March 1, 2011

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  • Book 2.0 is a new, interdisciplinary peer-reviewed journal which aims to publish articles and reviews on developments in book creation and design, (including the latest progressions in technology and software affecting illustration, design and book production). It will also explore innovations in distribution, marketing and sales, and book consumption, and in the research, analysis and conservation of book-related professional practices. Book 2.0 aims to provide a forum for promoting and sharing the most original and progressive practice in the teaching of writing, illustration, book design and production, and publishing across all educational sectors.
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