Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



My dissertation, The Visual Novel: Fictional Space and Print After 1900, examines how and why the novel has assimilated visual mediums—film, art, and the digital—into the genre as a means of adapting to the proliferation of mass media and technology. This project connects a history of the novel (genre) with a history of the book (the genre’s physical form), thereby theorizing and narrating a history of the visual novel. I demonstrate that through fictional space, a critical term used by narratologists and textual studies scholars, visual writing emerges as a hybridized mode of creative composition where we can see most vividly the relationship between author, text, and reader. Characterized by the use of eccentric typography, nonstandard design, and experimental layout, the visual novel relies on text as image by defamiliarizing readerly expectations of print, type, and page space by assimilating composition techniques from the visual arts such as montage and collage. I argue that the visual novel’s multimodality expands definitions of “novel” and “narrative” through a discussion of British and American writers—A. S. Byatt, John Dos Passos, Steven Hall, and James Joyce, as well as contemporary small press editions of works by Laurence Sterne and Oscar Wilde. At times when screen culture advances print’s obsolescence, both historically and more recently, visual writing makes print predominant in the media ecology once again by drawing upon the very technologies that threaten it, and my dissertation responds to this recurrent milieu by arguing that these novelists utilize self-reflexive techniques to create works that actualize print’s potential and the novel’s flexibility.



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Committee Chair

Michelle A. Masse