Purdue University Graduate School

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Reading Postmodern, Reading Images:A Visual Analysis of Postmodern Wordless Picture Books

posted on 2024-04-17, 17:20 authored by Mengying XueMengying Xue


This dissertation delves into postmodern wordless picture books, employing a multimodal content analysis across twenty-eight titles. It stands on a theoretical framework amalgamating concepts from multimodality grounded in social semiotics, critical literacy, and postmodernism. Among the corpus, three titles— Alien Nation (Bassi, 2021), and The Rabbits (Tan, 1998) and The Other Side (Bányai, 2005)— emerge as principal subjects of analysis, with the remaining twenty-five titles providing contextual support. Guiding this journey is Barthes' (1977) tripartite model of visual textual meaning at the literal, symbolic, and personal levels, illuminating the intricate layers of the analyzed picture books.

The analysis unveils distinguishing features of these books: 1) Disruption of boundaries of story worlds and reality; 2) Disruption of space and/or time; 3) Multiple levels of intertextuality; 4) Visual incongruity, visual metaphor and 5) Personal Narratives. Such characteristics are found to challenge narrative conventions, blur reality-fiction distinctions, and implore readers to cultivate personal narratives and critical interpretations.

However, the research's significance extends beyond feature identification. It births a postmodern literacy pedagogy that encompasses visual, critical, and postmodern dimensions. This pedagogy advocates for embedding postmodern wordless picture books in pre-service teacher curricula. The aim surpasses genre acquaintance, aspiring for a profound grasp of the books' visual nuances and ideological layers. As these visual dynamics play a pivotal role in shaping a reader's experience, they bolster critical reading and foster personal and emotive connections to narratives. By engaging with such books, pre-service teachers gain multifaceted insights into intricate social and historical issues. They're empowered to question prevailing narratives, embrace diverse perspectives, and champion social justice and educational equity. Viewed through this prism, postmodern wordless picture books serve as powerful tools, guiding future educators to see the world from diverse perspectives, navigate uncertainties, foster empathy, and empower varied voices, ultimately becoming advocates for change and inclusion.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Curriculum and Instruction

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Christina Wessel-Powell

Additional Committee Member 2

Jake Burdick

Additional Committee Member 3

Jennifer Kaufmann-Buhler

Additional Committee Member 4

Judith Lysaker

Additional Committee Member 5

Melanie Reaves

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