Even if images have occasionally made their way into both poetry and fiction, print literature has always been a decisively verbal art. Today, however, quite a dramatic change seems to be taking place. Not only have we witnessed an amazing rise of the genre of the graphic novel, whose essence is a mixture of word and image, but in more and more print novels we can see an intersection of the verbal narrative with images of all kinds. The print novel, then, seems to have entered with full force what W.J.T Mitchell has famously called “the pictorial turn.”
This new artistic practice poses new challenges to literary criticism. The aim of our paper is to map some of these challenges. Taking up examples from a range of contemporary print novels (Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Steven Hall’s The Raw Shark Texts, Gordon Sheppard’s Ha!), we discuss how the interaction between the verbal text and image (such as typographical devices, photographs, drawings, comic strips, or musical notations) can be approached. Our analysis of the narrative layering of the visual and the verbal focuses primarily on the issue of temporality and reading. The overall questions, then, are: What does the presence of images do to our reading of fiction? What critical vocabulary needs to be activated to analyze the braiding of image and narrative? Since the type of narratives we examine call for a hybrid methodology, in what quarters can narratology seek its partner(s)?