The Logical Structures of Comics: Hypotaxis, Parataxis and Text Worlds

  • Paul Fisher Davies
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Comics and Graphic Novels book series (PSCGN)


This chapter explores the logical function of graphic narrative, a second component of ideation alongside the experiential component. It stresses the hypotactic nature of comics, particularly its ability to project nested ‘text-worlds’, over against the paratactic sequentiality of the medium. Parataxis rests on adjacency and sequence, and so the chapter considers some approaches to determining sequence in graphic narrative structures. It offers some critiques of existing approaches, in that they operate largely at the level of the panel, rather than considering lower levels of organisation in the rank structure of graphic narrative, and that they prioritise determinate order over understanding of dependencies. The chapter describes the ‘cluster’ as a potential unit of reading analysis and argues that enclosures are always already ‘speech balloons’, in that they outline and project text-worlds. Transgressions beyond enclosing borders may be used to indicate immediacy, contact, a reaching out of textual elements into the phatic space of communion between creator and reader, the ‘discourse-world’ in which both collaboratively make meanings. The nested structure of comics discourse, its ability to present worlds within worlds and to shift from one level to another, is presented as an essential resource of comics meaning-making.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Fisher Davies
    • 1
  1. 1.University of SussexBrightonUK

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