Wednesday, 11 December 2013

ABC blog: S

To see previous entries, click A  B  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R

S is for syllepsis. It is one of many terms that I had to invent when we wrote How Picturebooks Work. Every time we encountered something we needed a name for I would invent it, much to my co-author's irritation because she thought we had too many fancy words in our book already. But structuralists love labels, and we needed a label to put on side narratives in picturebooks, not mentioned by words, which either are completely independent of the main narrative or reflects it in some way. Jane Doonan calls them running stories, but I felt it was a bit awkward as a term. Genette uses syllepsis for an independent narrative, although of course he had never seen a picturebook. (Just imagine how much more interesting his study of paratexts might have been!) One of the great masters of syllepsis is the Swedish picturebook maker Sven Nordqvist, the author of Pettson and Findus (aka Festus and Mercury, for an inexplicable reason). He always has some weird creatures in the foreground that live a life of their own, oblivious of the main characters and their doings. But if you don't pay attention to the sylleptic narrative you miss half the fun. Or, in some picturebooks, almost all the fun.

S is also for sequel. I have considerable issues with the terms sequel and series which many colleagues and students use interchangeably. While I see no point in having two different terms for the same thing, I feel it imperative to have two separate terms for two distinct phenomena. A sequel is a narrative that continues from where the previous narrative stopped. There may be as many sequels as you like, but as long as they have some kind of temporal sequence and progression that's what they are. Serial fiction, or series, indicates a set of books without temporal relationship. The characters never grow up, and all their adventures cannot possibly be squeezed into their summer holidays without poetic licence. You can read series in any order, but you need to read sequels in a particular order, although it doesn't have to be chronological within the story (the author may have a reason to include a flashback). Now, I know everybody will still call Harry Potter and The Hunger Games series, but I have made myself clear on the matter. 

Ill. Sven Nordqvist

No comments: