“Seeing eye to I”: A multimodal approach to reading faces in graphic novels


WEDNESDAY  Jan 8, 2020,   17:00-18:30                                                                             Location: Room 803,  UCL Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL

What is our role as readers and spectators of a printed image, when the image “sees” us? How does this direct visual address prompt us to rethink the subject-object relationship?

Dr. Jena Habegger-Conti from the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences in Bergen addresses these questions using examples from Marjane Satrapi’s graphic memoir Embroideries (2003), and Nick Drnaso’s graphic novel Sabrina (2018). In Embroideries, the majority of images are drawn in portrait style: the characters are represented from the shoulders or chest up, with a full-face view, eyes out to the reader. Nick Drnaso’s graphic novel, Sabrina (2018) invites the reader to experience the exact opposite of visual direct address, offering characters that never make eye contact with the reader in the entire course of the narrative.

The seminar will focus on visual excerpts from both graphic texts and will present a comparative reading of faces and visual direct address, coupled with an analysis of visual indeterminacy and visual distancing. Drawing from her research in the fields of critical and visual literacy, intercultural competency and multimodality, Dr. Jena Habegger-Conti will explore how these two texts challenge our practices of looking and knowing in visual culture.


About the speaker

jena image

Dr. Jena Habegger-Conti is associate professor of English at the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences in Bergen, Norway, where she teaches visual literacy and English literature and culture in the teacher education program. Her recent publications include “Reading the Invisible in Marjane Satrapi’s Embroideries” (2019) and “Transcultural Literacy: Reading the ‘Other,’ Shifting Aesthetic Imaginaries” (2018). A forthcoming article explores the effects of visual indeterminacy and an aesthetics of the non-descript in Nick Drnaso’s graphic novel, Sabrina.


The Visual and Multimodal Research Forum is a research hub for academic discussion on multimodality run by the UCL Centre for Multimodal Research.

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