Psychologies of perception : stories of depiction

Miers, John (2022) Psychologies of perception : stories of depiction. In: Gray, Maggie and Horton, Ian, (eds.) Seeing comics through art history : alternative approaches to the form. Cham, Switzerland : Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 75-95. (Palgrave studies in comics and graphic novels) ISSN (print) 2634-6370 ISBN 9783030935061


“Psychologies of perception” refers in this chapter to a strand of art historical debate that recruits empirically-derived observations about the nature of the human perceptual system to the exploration of philosophical problems regarding the interpretation of pictorial images. The first half presents an overview of this tradition beginning with Ernst Kris and Ernst Gombrich’s work on caricature and taking in contributions from Rudolf Arnheim, Richard Wollheim and Kendall Walton. Each of these writers is characterised as engaged in a balancing act between the competing aims of making falsifiable claims about perceptual processes and evoking the pleasures of engaging with artworks. The relevance of these debates to comics studies is framed primarily with respect to the attention they pay to the effects of drawing style on the recognition of pictorial images. This argument is developed in the second half, which introduces recent developments including the influence of Arnheim’s work on contemporary metaphor theory and Simon Grennan’s recent theorisation of narrative drawing, both of which inform the author’s autobiographical comics presented in this section. The chapter concludes by suggesting that comics scholarship’s focus on the narrative effects of depiction offers to art historians a novel way of exploring artists’ representational choices.

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