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On Tangle Formations and Fluid Narratives: Scrapbooking and Photography in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

By Michelle Lezana


Along the axes of the still-flourdishing tendency in industrialized societies to render and mediate experience through image-making practices, and the attraction towards taking photographs of events permeating contemporary narrative, the present study intends to analyze the impact and role of intermedial practices between photographic and verbal language in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, with an specific emphasis on the protagonist’s scrapbook Stuff That Happened to Me. Given that Oskar Schell decides to perpetuate what occurs to him primarily through pictures, his diary challenges traditional ways of journaling and storytelling through scrapbooking strategies, thus disrupting the teleological reading of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, while becoming an intertextual resource, a narrative practice and a method of signification.
In order to lay an analysis of the impact of “Stuff that Happened to Me” along the pages Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, selected case-studies are seen through the lens of Analog Fictions for the Digital Age by Julia Breitbach and Writing with Scissors by Ellen Gruber Harvey, joined to essentials of photographic theory. Ultimately, by posing questions such as: does Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close entail a radical provocation on the relationship between photography and literature, or is it a mere transposition of 18th century scrapbooking practices? Is this novel in its construction just a historical result of the long-known dialogue between word and image, or another symptom of the present information overload? Or is it, surprisingly, a consequence of its contextual circumstances – namely, an age of visual dominance? These inquiries will open the opportunity to briefly address ‘the visual turn’ in literature and the understanding (or the necessity to understand) new hybrid modes of reading and writing.

Key words: Scrapbooking, photography, intermediality, narratology