The imagistic text in Jonathan Safran Foer: Tracing unconventional texts from Kerouac to the artist's book

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With Jack Kerouac's iconic scroll manuscript of On the road1 exhibited outside of the US for the first time in 2009, attention may once again be brought to bear on the imagistic properties of texts in certain contemporary novels and the influence of artists who work within and around the conventions of the book. By forging an argument for the importance of working outside of the accepted conventions of the novel's structure and form, Kerouac's inventiveness invites us to find other ways in which the novel may be informed by the interpretive acts of artists who use the form of the book in their work. This article explores the relationship between Jonathan Safran Foer's novel Extremely loud and incredibly close (2005) and structural, linguistic and visual conventions found in selected artists' books.2 Of particular concern are: the self-reflexive interventions made by the author to draw attention to the novel's meta-narratives; the seemingly random use of imagery as elliptical illuminations; the manipulation of the typographic conventions of the page for imagistic and affective purposes; and, lastly, the use of a flip-book structure at the end of the book, suggesting an alternative conclusion and the reader's collusion in averting history. The novel's unusual structural, linguistic and visual manipulations are analysed through the lens of selected earlier novels which exploited and undermined the literary conventions of their day, as well as selected artists' books in which texts behave as images. In this analysis, the article attempts to show that an awareness of both a history of the breaking of literary conventions, and of certain artists' books and their structures, might help a reader gain greater insight into Foer's narrative by understanding how he enunciates not what a book is, but what it does and how it does it.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-22
Number of pages19
JournalDe Arte
Issue number81
Publication statusPublished - 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies


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