Authoring the Readerly Experience: On Materiality, Multimodality and Singularity of Literature in Nicola Barker’s ‘H(a)ppy’

Avant, Vol. XII, No. 3,
published under license CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Tymon Adamczewski orcid-id
Kazimierz Wielki University

Received 13 May 2021; accepted 29 September 2021; published Online First 29 December 2021.
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Abstract: This article offers an overview of typographical and experimental strategies employed in contemporary novel writing in the context of author-ing, authority, freedom and experience programming. Nicola Barker’s novel H(a)ppy (2017) is discussed as an example of a rising trend in contemporary literary production characterised by an emphasis on multimodality and materiality of texts where the physicality of writing serves as a significant mode of communication, simultaneously aiming to transcend its medium. My claim is that although visually engaging and fascinating in itself, the typographical experimentation, apart from connoting a degree of liberation for both the writer and the reader, can also be looked at from the point of view of a particular “authoring,” i.e. programming of reader’s reception. This approach is contextualised against the backdrop of the theoretical discussion concerning the notion of author (Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida) as well as aspects of materiality of writing and of subverting authority in postmodern fiction and visions of the reader in multimodal texts. This is followed by a reading of the novel with reference to its themes of control and typographical experimentation. The article also recognises a performative aspect of such type of writing.

Keywords: Nicola Barker; materiality; experience; experimental typography; author


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