LIT4303 – The multimodal novel: Theory and contemporary practice

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

Since the turn of the millennium, there has been a rise in so-called multimodal novels – that is, novels that integrate images and visual forms into the narration and utilize the pictorial quality of script. Multimodal novels emphasize the media-specific possibilities of the printed book. By foregrounding the novel’s materiality, they often involve the reader in a meta-reflection on the compositional, material and social practices of writing and reading narratives.

In this course, we will look into the current theoretical debate about the multimodal novel and its specific ways to involve the reader in the experience of reading and the unfolding of storyworlds. Drawing on state-of-the-art cognitive approaches to literature, we will jointly lay out a theoretical and analytical framework that factors in the ‘embodied reader’ and the role of social cognition for literary reading. Taking into account the shift toward a ‘new materialism’ in literary theory, we will moreover theorize the contemporary multimodal novel against the backdrop of changing historical practices of textual materiality and mediality.

Our primary reading – Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2005) as well as excerpts of Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves (2000) and Anne Carson’s Nox (2010) – will ‘anchor’ our theoretical discussions throughout the course.

In our final session, we will address the question whether the recent rise of the multimodal novel can be seen as a sign of endurance of the printed book in the digital age or a nostalgic but possibly futile act of resistance to (media) change.

Learning outcome

Upon completing this course, you will have

  • sound knowledge of the current theoretical debate dealing with the rise of the multimodal novel since the millennium on the one hand and with the interplay of textual strategies and reader cognition on the other
  • gained practice in assessing critically the role of embodied cognition, materiality and mediality in literary reading
  • worked out your specific focus of interest regarding the different theoretical approaches and developed a specific line of argument to be discussed in your term paper.
  • experience in developing arguments about topics in a clear and convincing fashion


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Seminar, two hours per week for ten weeks.

In the course of the semester, you will develop a specific focus of interest and a concrete claim to write about in your term paper. Throughout the sessions, we will discuss possible projects, convincing lines of argument and general requirements of scholarly writing. Additionally, one of our sessions will focus on the presentation of your work-in-progress to allow for joint discussion and feedback.

Obligatory activities:


The obligatory requirements must be fulfilled in order to qualify for the exam.

The assessment of the course is based on a term paper of approximately 9 pages.

The submission of exam papers takes place on Inspera.

Assessment guidelines

Submit assignments in Inspera

You submit your assignment in the digital examination system Inspera. Read about how to submit assignments in Inspera.

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Language of examination

You may write your examination paper in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish or English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Withdrawal from an examination

A term paper or equivalent that is passed may not be resubmitted in revised form.

If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.

Facts about this course






Autumn 2019


Autumn 2019

Teaching language