Graphic Sublime: On the Art and Designwriting of Kate Armstrong and Michael Tippet

Abstract (in English): 

This critical essay was written for the Prairie Art Gallery catalogue presenting Kate Armstrong's and Michael Tippett's Grafik Dynamo! Its argument, implied in the catalogue version, can be stated explicitly in the present scholarly format, namely that narrative, associated with the development of the modern novel in print, is distinctly unsuited to literary arts produced in and for the electronic medium. Narrative in the Dynamo! is not entirely absent, but its dominance is put into question. The same holds for the place of argumentation in critical writing. The Dynamo! develops episodically, haunted by the comics, and by the popular and literary narratives it samples; the essay develops similarly, in blocks of partly autobiographical, partly analytical text. Propositions emerge not sequentially or through feats of interpretation, but at the moment when a block of text encounters a cited image from the Dynamo! Another collocation having implications for criticism, is the reading of Armstrong/Tippett's work in the context of a particular strain of contemporary fiction in print, which itself demonstrates that narrative was only ever a mode, one among many and not necessarily the dominant mode, in print literature itself. References are made to Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, to Pynchon's (and Armstrong/Tippett's) modernist antecedent, Henry Adams, to non-linear, non-sequential narratives by Robert Coover, Don DeLillo, and William Gaddis that are as open to innovation formally as they are expansive in subject matter. In this context, "Graphic Sublime" also introduces a major, as yet unpublished novel from the early 1970s by Phillip Wohlstetter, Valparaiso.

(Source: Author's abstract in DHQ 6.2)

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Eric Dean Rasmussen