Week 2 Readings Prompt due Sunday 2/3 by 5pm

What is an Imagetext, according to W.J.T. Mitchell? Mitchell alludes to several examples (Blake, “Sunset Boulevard,” Thucydides) in illustrating his definition.  Please illustrate your answer with one of your own examples.

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24 Responses to Week 2 Readings Prompt due Sunday 2/3 by 5pm

  1. knkern94 says:

    An image-text is a unique form of work where visuals and words come together to create a final piece. These are distinguished from other similar works because they cannot be categorized with a single genre like “images” or “texts”, seeing as they incorporate both. Also, the image and text are equally important to one another in their relation and to what they are portraying. The meaning could be vastly different if they were not put together. When analyzing image-texts, it would be typical to compare the similarities and differences between the pair; however, according to Mitchell this process if not of the utmost importance to recognizing “the whole ensemble of relations between media” (89). I definitely agree with his point that our generation has a hard time visualizing this mixed media in any other way.
    The best example I could think of for image text is my favorite episode of the T.V. show Schoolhouse Rock where they sang “Conjunction Junction.” I could not quite interpret how Mitchell felt about cinema being used for image-text, although he did give a long example about a disturbing movie scene; however, Schoolhouse rock always used cartoon images along with teaching elementary lessons. When it comes to learning English, which uses a lot of text obviously, collaborating cartoon images is ideal for people with short attention spans such as me. This proves that sometimes images and text can be used together and actually fulfill a purpose.

  2. Elana says:

    According to W.J.T. Mitchell, an image-text is the general representation of the relationship between the visual and verbal art forms. Mitchell explains that some interartistic comparisons are disjunctive, meaning the pictures do not represent the texts, while others are “synthetic identifications of verbal and visual codes” (Mitchell 91). The importance of the image-text, according to Mitchell, is to analyze the relationship between both art forms and see what difference the differences and similarities between the two forms make (Mitchell 91). For example, an Archie comic would be considered an image-text. The language and visuals work together to narrate a story about the lives of high school students in Riverdale, NY. However, through analyzing the image-text one would determine if the writing works for or against the pictures. Does the language help one understand the meaning of the pictures or does it have the opposite effect? However, the image-text doesn’t only identify the relationship between the verbal and visual art forms in the specific example (Archie comics), but it also “thematizes that relation in the institutional practices of the medium to which it belongs” (comic books in general) (Mitchell 103). The image-text signifies the relationship of all comic books in respect to their written texts and illustrated pictures. That relationship which defines the comic book genre as a whole is the main importance of the similarities and differences that the two art forms make.

  3. W. J. T. Mitchell views image-text as any form of art or media that utilizes both the visual aspect of the media (image) and the written words or language (text). Mitchell goes on to argue that all types of art and media are image-text unless the artist or writer has specifically designed his or her work to be separate from its natural partner. Mitchell does not view the relationship between images and text as one that separates one from the other, explaining that “the image/text problem is not just something constructed “between” the arts, the media, or different forms of representation, but an unavoidable issue within the individual arts or media” (94). In other words, even ostensibly “visual” media such as paintings often have titles, captions, or textual materials represented within the painting, while “textual” media is in and of itself a visual object, since one has to look at the text to read it. Thusly, Mitchell proves his arguments about the interconnectedness of visual and textual media.
    One example I can think of representing the interconnectedness of image and text is the recent film Skyfall that came out this past year. In the film, much of the dialogue deals with the characters “working in the shadows”, and discusses their relative moral greyness or blackness. In an echo of this dialogue, there is a plethora of images throughout the film of characters blackly silhouetted against their backgrounds, giving a visual representation of earlier dialogue. With only the text or only the image, this theme of moral decrepitude would not be nearly as strong, but the marriage of image and text makes the movie better.

  4. W.J.T. Mitchell argues that an image-text is any kind of representation of something that includes both aspects of the visual world and the textual world. This tends to be a very broad topic and I believe he means it to be that way on purpose. Initially he gives many examples of books that have text accompanying them and how they work together or appose each other in expressing their topic. For example, He points out exactly what we talked about in class about the way Barthes tells us of the Winter Garden photo is explained through his writing but instead, a picture of a wife/mother is depicted. Mitchell points out that by putting the explanation of the photo of Barthes mother along with a photo that could be either a mother or a wife, Barthes is indirectly telling s something vital about the relationship he had with his mother.
    This particular example shows how a seemingly unrelated photo works together with a text.
    One example that I think may express this idea of “imagetext” in an unconventional way in is music videos. Although the lyrics aren’t always put on the screen with the video, you are forced to connect the words being sung with the video that you are watching. Music videos can be watched and analyzed and they are most times a clear collaboration between visual and textual elements.

  5. Emily Schweich says:

    In “Beyond Comparison: Picture, Text, and Method,” W.J.T. Mitchell opines that visual and verbal media are often separated as distinct disciplines in today’s university. However, he notes that even “pure” visual representations utilize text, whether explicitly as a caption or implicitly through personal interpretation, to describe or analyze the visual. Likewise, one can’t escape the visual component of text. Mitchell calls writing the “imagetext incarnate,” for reading it involves visual interpretation (Mitchell 95). (I think of beautiful handwriting here, for cursive handwriting in itself is a visual art.) In opposition to this principle, he develops the idea of an “imagetext,” a multimedia, “synthetic” work or concept that, as the name suggests, combines images with text (Mitchell 89). Later in the chapter, Mitchell writes about two types of imagetexts: textual pictures, which evoke visual images through language, and pictorial texts, which represent and repress language in a visual field (Mitchell 107).

    Over winter break, I saw “Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective” at the National Gallery of Art. This exhibit highlighted the work of a legendary American pop artist who employed text to produce comic-book style art — a perfect example of imagetexts. Lichtenstein used thick outlines, bright colors, and Ben-Day dots to make his paintings seem as if they’d been reproduced in photographs. His early subjects included Disney comics and everyday objects depicted in black and white. In the 1960s, Lichtenstein began adapting DC Comics’ close-up images of lovelorn young women, complete with captions that highlighted the shallowness of the romance portrayed by the mass media. One of his most famous paintings, Drowning Girl (view it here: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/d/df/Roy_Lichtenstein_Drowning_Girl.jpg) , is a prime example of Lichtenstein’s commentary on American culture. During the Vietnam War, Lichtenstein painted fighter planes with prominent sound effects, such as “Blam!” (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/c/c3/Blam.jpg)”. His paintings can be considered imagetexts because his combination of text with pop art style continues to serve as a social commentary on 20th century American media.

  6. The image/text is a unique medium of expression, as defined by W.J.T. Mitchell. In this form of art, the image and the text are so intrinsically linked that to separate them would detract from the artist’s intention. This codependent relationship occurs when the “texts explain, narrate, describe, label, and speak for the photographs” while the “photographs illustrate, exemplify, clarify, ground, and document the text” (94).

    As the title suggests, Mitchell exhorts his audience to avoid the trap of simply comparing the two. In his mind, images and texts are so different, and serve such specified roles that comparison is arbitrary. Rather, it is more important to note, “What difference do the differences make?” (91). To do this, it is necessary to determine whether the images were juxtaposed, blended, or separated. To better understand the author’s intent is to better understand the ultimate goal of the image/text.

    An example of image/texts that our “generation raised on MTV” would understand id the music video (107). One that comes to mind in particular is for the song “Take on Me” by A-ha. I first heard this song without the music video, which gave me a different understanding than after I saw the video, which reflects the artists’ intended meaning. It is a creative music video that travels between a hand drawn comic strip and a live action scene of a girl in a diner. This blending of images and text creates an effect that is more profound than if either of them had just stood alone.

  7. alangdon93 says:

    W.J.T. Mitchell argues against the post structuralism viewpoint of a text being completely separate from the visual, or the idea that a photograph is completely separate from any text. He argues that “all the arts are ‘composite’ arts (both text and image); all media are mixed media combining different codes, discursive conventions, channels, sensory and cognitive modes” (95). An artist’s painting always has a form of “textuality” that is either “elicited or repressed” by the painting (97). The idea of a visual art evoking a textual story and vice versa makes sense to myself, an MTV child. Growing up in school I was taught that if I tell a story or write anything that makes the listener or reader able to visualize what I am saying or writing, then I have achieved my purpose and done a good job. Thus, it makes sense to me that a picture or a painting created by an excellent artist also can and will tell a story or using W.J.T. Mitchell’s words become “textualized”.

    An Image/Text that comes to mind is dancing. So much of professional dancing is a dancer creating physical visual art, to tell a story, put to music. Last semester I saw Jekyll and Hyde performed by the Synetic Theater who, without words, performs dance adaptations of plays and musicals. Although they do not say words, their movements, facial expressions, and set tell a story to bring a text to life.

  8. joezim1994 says:

    W.J.T Mitchell explores imagetext as the ways in which images and text interact—and in a sense, compete—in works of representation. He prefers to spell it as “image/text” to emphasize with the slash a “problematic gap, cleavage, or rupture in representation” (89) rather than simply combination or relationships between the visual and the textual. There is interplay of image and text “within the individual arts and media” (94) as Mitchell points out that it is “hard to keep discourse out of painting, it is equally difficult to keep visuality out of literature” (99).

    Sometimes art deliberately uses imagetext to further meaning. One piece that I can think of is the movie “La Jetée”, a science fiction film that is composed entirely of still images and spoken narration. The narration tells the story of a man sent back in time to prevent an apocalyptic event. The images show his story in still frames as he travels back in time and finds a woman he remembers from the past. Visually, the movie focuses on the romantic relationship that develops between the two (the only filmed segment is a scene of the woman waking), while the narration suggests that this relationship is impossible. Other examples I can think of are the Park Chan-wook film “Oldboy”—where a man is locked in a room with only a television for 15 years and both photographs and recorded audio play a key role in the revenge plot—or the illustrations of N.C. Wyeth, which add beautiful visuals to classics of American literature. Imagetext uses these two very different media to either work with or against each other in creating a certain effect on the audience.

  9. Mitchell argues that an image-text is the collaborative efforts of both images and text in order to create a meaningful dialog/narrative, and not necessarily through comparison. Mitchell argues that in order to study image-text, comparison is not necessarily needed (Mitchell 89). In many ways, people feel that both the images and the text are competing for a greater importance within the work, yet depending on the traditional uses of images and text or the new waves that develop, images and text can take different priorities (91). One of the most interesting points made was that text is not solely text, it is also has a visual existence that seems to get overlooked (95). Though the actual letters of a text are a more literal translation of visual representation than images, it is nonetheless still visual. This leaves an interesting twist to the concept of imagetext.

    One example of image and text working hand in hand is the movie The Usual Suspects. This movie is full of nefarious characters that are juxtaposed through both the visual aspects and the textual ones. The most interesting are the visuals of the narrator and the ending where the textual aspects become exceedingly important by revealing the true identity of the antagonist. The striking impact of the various words and the corrected stance of the main antagonist was perfect in exhibiting the last plot twist. Thus the imagetext was in perfect accord with the message obtained.

  10. According to W.J.T. Mitchell, and image-text is a combination of both images, typically photographs, and language to convey meaning. Neither the image nor the language ought to be overpowering, and ideally, they ought to be able to exist independently of one another, as they are different mediums, so that they have equal impact and power. But at the same time, it is almost impossible to separate the two, photography cannot be truly ‘pure’. He states that “language (in some form) usually enters the experience of viewing photography” (Mitchell 282). They are often inextricably taught in conjunction and constantly juxtaposed and compared. An image-text gives two mediums through which to convey its message, or two lenses as Mitchell puts it. Both convey, through different methods, different aspects of the subject, thus giving a more complete and accurate picture. Therefore, an image-text is simply the combination of images and words, working in collaboration in some way to have a stronger effect or to better prove a point.

    An example of image-text is the movie Easy A. The movie is narrated by the main character through a series of video blog posts, a retrospective telling of recent events. She emphasizes her points and divides her story into major parts through short hand-written posters which she displays to her web audience, and thus to us as well. These words supplement the rest of her story, told through the images of the film. Text is also used to clarify the passage of time, often highlighting the comedy of events. Test is further used, more abstractedly, in the form of the letter A which the main character puts onto her clothes, in a reference to The Scarlett Letter, signaling her transformation. The textual and visual elements are equally important in this movie.

  11. shjones says:

    Mitchell’s idea of the “imagetext” is, as obvious as it might sound, the combination of images and texts. What is important in Mitchell’s idea though is that with the “imagetext”, the visual and textual are not being compared and contrasted, but rather combined to create a wholly new product. He says, “Rather than comparing this novel or poem with that painting or statue, I find it more helpful to begin with actual conjunctions of words and images in illustrated texts, or mixed media such as film, television, and theatrical performance.” Mitchell cites examples such as silent films and certain comics to represent his idea. In these instances the textual message is nonverbal and is viewed using sight. This aspect of the imagetext can also be viewed via audio. In a show I have recently become interested in for example, Arrested Development, there is a good deal of narration that interjects sporadically. It comes in at very specific time just to complement a character’s expression or actions. This way, we are clued in to what happened off-camera, and still enjoy the full impact. The effect is fantastic; the spontaneity of learning the truth behind some of the crazy situations gets a laugh from me every time.


  12. W.J.T. Mitchell envisions an Imagetext as any media that portrays relation between visual or written form, whether explicit or barely conceptual. He alludes to this definition in his discussion of the issue of the analysis in Imagetext media. Just as he warns that “comparison itself is not a necessary procedure in the study of image-text relations”(89), Mitchell intends that the visual and textual portions of a piece have relation and work together rather than gaining meaning by being mere tools of comparison and contrast. Mitchell also warns against purist visions of what an image or text is (96) and insists that text and visual cross each other in many subtle and implied ways, such as in the titles of paintings (98).
    The most satisfying Imagetext concept that the writer can think of that also expresses Mitchell’s definition is the picture and text meme seen in the link below. Without going into a severe discussion of the meme, pop images like the “Troll Face” serve a great example into showing how text and visual relations can create meaning. The “Troll Face” is a picture endlessly interchanged among captions and references, always animating the verbal bullying it causes in a distinct and iconic matter. At the same time, just the mere idea of a “Troll Face” makes it difficult to single the image into a purely visual realm as it is seemingly almost metaphysically bound to its textual counterparts.

  13. shulamitshroder says:

    In his essay “Beyond Comparison,” W.J.T. Mitchell discusses the prevalence of academic studies that compare the visual arts (mostly paintings) and verbal representation (mostly literature). He declares that this comparison is pointless, though, because it overlooks the idea of the imagetext. He defines an imagetext as a piece of media or art in which the verbal and the visual cannot be separated. He includes all media, art, and literature as types of imagetexts. Although it may not make sense at first glance to describe a painting or a poem as an imagetext, he explains that both contain elements of visual and verbal representation. For example, many paintings and sculptures are based on texts (for example, the Bible) or include texts somewhere within them. They also all have titles or are deliberately left untitled, both of which lead to more in-depth study of the meaning of the title in relation to what the viewer can see visually. The description of a text when it does not contain photographs or illustrations on the side as an imagetext also appears nonsensical at first look. But, as Mitchell explains, writing itself is a very visual form of representation. The words on the page are images to which we ascribe meaning.
    One concrete example of the imagetext in today’s world is the film “Stranger than Fiction.” It depicts an IRS agent who hears a voice in his head and eventually realizes that his life is being narrated by an author writing her latest novel. This movie, even more so than other movies with voice-over narrations, is an incredibly interesting blend of the verbal and the visual. Verbal representation is present in the narration, the novel being written, and the dialogue of the characters on the screen. The visual arts come into the equation with the scenes depicted on the screen. There is no way the film would have existed without the presence of both the visual and the verbal forms of representation. The idea of the imagetext is even more appropriate in discussing “Stranger than Fiction” than it is discussing other films.

  14. An Imagetext, according the W.J.T. Mitchell, is the collaboration of language (such as poetry or a story) and images (such as illustrations, film or photographs) to create one incentive, message, or piece. Mitchell describes two other different facades Imagetext. Image/text with the slash refers to an Imagetext with a “problematic gap,” in which the representation of the work is not being properly elicited or displayed to the viewer. Image-text with a hyphen refers to how images and text relate to each other. Mitchell later states that the problem of Image/text is also that, “all arts are ‘composite’ arts…” so a way to go around this is to make sure the image and text are correctly correlated with each other or “dispute” the correlation or connection (Mitchell 94-95). These thoughts of how image and text should be represented together (if at all) originated form his reading of Roland Barthes and such studies like of William Blake’s work of poetry and illustration. From Blake’s work, Mitchell notices a discrepancy and claims that too many times, the actually meaning of an image may be tarnished from predisposed assumptions or bias from texts. He also states that images and language are only compared to each other rather that contrasted, “Difference is just as important as similarity… (Mitchell 89).”

    An example of Imagetext would a video or picture of a dancer doing an interpretive dance along with a narration or caption to the dancer’s actions. In this video, the dancers are dancing according to the lyrics of the song that is playing. The song that they are interpreting through their dance is called. “Turn to Stone,” in which they even go as far to incorporate stiff body movement to mimic a stone statue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgZHbhszGrU.

    Another example is of the children’s television show, Sesame Street, in which the image of the screen relates directly to what they are telling the audience. By doing thing, they are being as basic and simplistic as possible so the children will know exactly what the characters on the show are teaching. In this video, The Count counts pots of flowers whilst the numbers are being displayed in the background: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQC82okzTXI

  15. esrayagoub says:

    W.J.T. Mitchell introduces the idea of an “imagetext” as the means by which photography and literature come together. Mitchell notes that art and literature are often compared, rather than being spoken of as two art forms that compliment each other. Mitchell explains “imagetext” as the difficulty defining the was the two terms are connected. Mitchell himself seems to believe that combining the two art forms gives off a much more powerful impact. He points out how imagery has always been a part of literature, and photos rarely lack a caption or title of some sort.
    The idea of imagetext makes me think of gossip/tabloid magazines. In many cases photos taken by paparazzi are accompanied by a caption that is really more of an assumption (“is he cheating”/”are they back together”). Magazines and websites of that nature would have no prominence without images because people would never believe what was written. In these cases images give text validity, even though that text is often inaccurate. I think this example shows explains the “imagetext” problem that Mitchell speaks of.

  16. megmck12 says:

    W. J.T. Mitchell defines the imagetext as any composite piece that demonstrates the representation of connections between image and text by combining them. Mitchell exemplifies this perfectly by drawing our attention to William Blake, and artist who illuminated the books of poetry he wrote. What stands out to me in this example is that Blake is responsible for both the image and the text, rather than adding an image to text or text to an image. Further, Mitchell feels that Blake’s texts seemed to be created with the intention of demonstrating the relations between image and text. On the other hand, Mitchell gives the example of the photographic essay, where the creator of the text does not necessarily need to be the creator of the image. Rather, the author of the photographic essay is the creator of the imagetext as a whole. Mitchell also uses the film “Sunset Boulevard” as an example of an image text. The narrator, removed from the events by his death, is inherently connected to the story by his part in it when he was alive. The film “image” serves to illustrate his narrative “text”. Mitchell continues to bring out that arguably, all art is composite—all art, written or visual, deals with the imagetext. For instance, “writing, in its physical graphic form”, must be seen as an image in order to be understood as a text. On the flip side, purely visual images are given textual or literate descriptions and meanings.

    I would illustrate Mitchell’s definition of an imagetext with the 2001 film ‘Amelie”. This French film follows its subject, Amelie, through childhood, self discovery, day to day events, and a quest for love. The film is largely narrated and contains only sparse dialogue. This narration serves as a text in a similar way as “Sunset Boulevard”, by allowing the ‘text’ of the film to resonate with the audience as the ‘image’ of the film illustrates that narration. Further, since my French education allows me to hold a painfully basic conversation at best, I watched the film with English subtitles. These subtitles add to the text of the film, allowing me to draw connections between language, visual text, audio text, and visual images.

  17. maxinesrich says:

    As described by W.J.T. Mitchell, an “imagetext” is the intersection between image and text. Mitchell explains that while image and text constantly interact, there being on true “pure” form of either medium, and that these forms only exist in the hypothetical realm. Every image contains some hint at text, and text is both literally an image (the written word) or is connected to an image through description. An “imagetext”, however, leans neither towards the medium of image nor towards the medium of text, and rather walks the center line.

    This type of medium, made of a perfect mingling of image and text, reminded me the cover art of an album or CD cover. While this, according to its namesake, is primarily thought of as an art, it is in truth an “imagetext” combining the message presented by the image with the title and artist written on the front of the album. Further, this art combines with the lyrics of the music contained within the confines of the album, adding further to the intended message of the cover art/title.

  18. clairetomaszewski says:

    In W.J.T. Mitchell’s article discusses the relationship between a visual image and some form of text, hence the term “imagetext.” He argues that the visual and textual aspects are so strongly linked, that it is better not to separate them. The image is important for clearly representing a place or event, whereas the text is vital in adding context and explanation. Together, images and texts create a full representation of what the artist is trying to convey.

    When I read this, I thought of one of the projects I had to in my photography class. We had to create a “cause collage” which used visual and textual aspects to create an advertisement for awareness of an issue, in other words, we had to create an “imagetext.” Mine raised awareness about the dangers of tanning and skin cancer. The image I used was a beach and I made the sun extremely over-sized, and then I had a statistic about skin cancer coming through the rays of the sun. Using the image of an overpowering sun and the shocking facts, I was able to express my advertisement using an “imagetext.”

  19. Ross Fasman says:

    An “imagetext” in one that, when coupled with writing, is inescapably bound by the visual and the verbal. In other words, as Mitchell frames it, the “cognitive models” by which we interact cannot be independently experienced with either the text or the visual; the “adventure” (in Barthes’ term) is the interplay with both forms of epistemological representation, language and sensory perception.

    The greatest example that I could use is a picture of George W. Bush throwing at the first pitch at the 2001 World Series at Yankee Stadium after the 9.11 terrorist attacks. This is an “imagetext” because the narrative of the circumstances is just as important as the visual representation caught by the photograph. The crowd, the American flag, the armed guards all represent visually the hysteria surrounding the attacks; but the momentous occurrence of the photograph is a return to normalcy that can only be understood having learned of the narratives of the families whose innocence was lost after the attacks. As such, we cannot understand the magnitude of the “imagetext” without knowing both the circumstantial language and the “studium” of the photograph caught in that particular moment in time.

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