Rhetorics of the Visual: Graphic Medicine, Comics and its Affordances

Sathyaraj Venkatesan1 & Sweetha Saji2

1Assistant Professor of English in the Department of Humanities at the National Institute of Technology, Trichy, India. Email: 2Research Scholar at the National Institute of Technology, Trichy, India.Email:

Volume 8, Number 3, 2016 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v8n3.23

Received June 08, 2016; Revised July 18, 2016; Accepted July 28, 2016; Published August 18, 2016


Affordances, in the context of comics, connote to the general attributes of the medium such as temporality, spatiality, gestures, tone/handwriting and economy. Although comics evinces a dynamic relationship among these elements, it is possible to delineate functional and rhetorical role of these affordances on a conceptual and technical level. Taking these cues, the paper after briefly reviewing the definition and scope of graphic medicine aims to demonstrate the functional and rhetorical role of the aforementioned affordances in communicating illness and illness related experiences. Among other issues this article also seeks to address the following: how do comics engage in the visual and verbal translation of the experiences of chronic illness? how do affordances of comics facilitate the readers’ haptic experience of an author’s subjective trauma? Despite its juvenile legacy, comics capacitates graphic medicine to represent physical and emotional aspects of narrating subjective illness experiences within the medium. The paper concludes that comics is a uniquely suited communicative medium as it diagrams the interiority of illness experience, and, in the process, evolves itself as a locus of tacit knowledge through its translation and mediation of emotional truths and affective states altered by illness.

Keywords: graphic medicine, comics, affordances, spatio-temporality, gestures, handwriting

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