Irregular Illuminations: Distortions of Meaning and Metaphor in the Collage Narratives of Donald Barthelme

In: Learning to See: The Meanings, Modes and Methods of Visual Literacy

While the term collage narrative might be useful in describing an incredibly wide range of creative projects (anything from the graphic poetry of Hannah Höch to the hypertext prose of Shelly Jackson might be included without diluting the concept), few artists have been as successful in simultaneously developing the visual and literary potential of collage narrative as Donald Barthelme. Barthelme’s bizarrely illustrated collage narratives offer a rare glimpse into the turbulent, anachronistic mind of this self-proclaimed ‘onomatomaniacal lexicomane’. Through an analysis of a selection of Barthelme’s illustrated works, this chapter attempts to make sense of the apparent chaos (interpret the dream sequence, if you will) and offer a structural assessment of the complex verbal and visual parody that takes place within Barthelme’s collage narrative.

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