Reading the graphic surface

The presence of the book in prose fiction

By Glyn White

Reading the graphic surface


  • Hardcover

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-6969-7
  • Pages: 228
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £17.99
  • Published Date: March 2014
  • BIC Category: Literature, Literature: history & criticism, Literary studies: fiction, novelists & prose writers, LITERARY CRITICISM / Semiotics & Theory, LITERARY CRITICISM / General, Literature & literary studies / Literary theory, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: fiction, novelists & prose writers


This book critically engages with the visual appearance of prose fiction where it is manipulated by authors, from alterations in typography to the deconstruction of the physical form of the book. It reappraises the range of effects it is possible to create through the use of graphic devices and explores why literary criticism has dismissed such features as either unreadable experimental gimmicks or, more recently, as examples of the worst kind of postmodern decadence.

Through the examination of problematical texts which utilise the graphic surface in innovative and unusual ways, including Samuel Beckett's Watt, B. S. Johnson's Albert Angelo, Christine Brooke-Rose's Thru and Alasdair Gray's Lanark, this book demonstrates that an awareness of the graphic surface can make significant contributions to interpretation.


1. Reading the graphic surface
2. The presence of the book
3. The graphic surface in theory
4. Mimesis and the graphic surface: a critical blindspot
5. 'If the gentle compositor would be so friendly': Samuel Beckett's Murphy and Watt
6. 'The technological fact of the book': B.S. Johnson
7. 'Some languages are more visible than others': Christine Brooke-Rose's Thru
8. Alasdair Gray: maker of books
Further reading


Glyn White is a Lecturer in Twentieth Century Literature and Culture at the University of Salford

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