Changing My Mind

I know I should probably spend this week writing on the required reading materials, especially in regard to how Nat Turner stacks up to reality—to the best of our own understanding. To tell you the truth, though, I’m still hung up on last week’s conversation about “storytelling” and “literature.” In hindsight our discussion was incredibly nebulous. I’m not sure if that was more of the fact that we were grappling with very esoteric terms or just that I didn’t get a full night sleep the day before. I must admit I probably wasn’t the clearest in my thoughts that night in some respect, but that is the beauty of these blog posts and their existence as a sort of big red reset button on our thoughts for the week or the previous one.

I think the most interesting question that was never asked last week was in regard to the series of woodcut illustrations composed into novel format. What if Gods’ Man wasn’t “A Novel in Woodcuts” but simply “A Novel?” How much would that change our judgment of the book’s cover before even opening it? Does such a statement (and it most certainly is a statement in and of itself) change the way we read it? I’d like to think so, because when I see “A Novel in Woodcuts” I see a transfixion of what makes a novel a “novel”—that is, sequential prose of a given length—and adapting that to carved illustrations. To outright call itself a novel would be much more deliberate call to overturn genre conventions, but that may have not been the author’s intention.

Perhaps, ultimately, there is no harm in calling Nat Turner a novel or calling it literature. So let’s call it that. And what of it? The sky doesn’t fall. The sea does not run red. Season three of Game of Thrones still airs without a hitch.

I believe I was a bit harsh in my first response regarding Nat Turner in suggesting that there’s not much in the way of the written word being worked with in it to be considered literature. It was rightfully brought up by someone else last week before class had started that the confession and the way it unfolded as described in the back of the book was different from how Baker integrated the confession into the progression of the “graphic novel.”

In a certain sense, then, Baker is working with the source material—literature by definition—in ways that can be arguably seen as literary. Visual rhetoric and expression may overpower the piece, but there is certainly an engagement with the written “discourse” of Nat Turner and his multiple representations across various source materials that Baker is directly reacting to—if not responding to. If it’s unfair to call it literature, it is at least inviting the reader to participate in ways that are “literary” interpretations.