Damaged Perspectives: Towards a Visual Reading of Donald Barthelme's Picture Stories
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America’s literary scene in the 1960s and 70s was a site of formal experimentation. Authors became discontented with the rational linearity of the written text and began to look for ways to disrupt it. Donald Bathelme is one of many authors of this time to incorporate images into his works, particularly during the composition of City Life (1970), Sadness (1972), and Guilty Pleasures (1974). My thesis focuses on three stories— “Brain Damage,” “At the Tolstoy Museum,” and “The Flight of the Pigeons from the Palace”—from this period of Barthleme’s work that incorporate images. I argue that these stories constitute visual-textual collages that operate under the same principles as those undertaken by modernist visual artists, and that they should be interpreted using the same framework. Moreover, an analysis of Barthelme’s visual semiotics demonstrates that these stories share the epistemological and aesthetic concerns of the modernist movement in the visual arts.