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Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies / Revue de l'Association Internationale de Sémiotique

Editor-in-Chief: Danesi, Marcel

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Volume 2014, Issue 202 (Oct 2014)


Heterosemiosis: Mixing sign systems in graphic narrative texts

Elisabeth El Refaie
  • Corresponding author
  • Cardiff University
  • Email:
Published Online: 2013-08-16 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2013-0094


This article introduces the notion of heterosemiosis to describe the overt juxtaposition of different sign systems in graphic narrative texts. Using Guibert et al.'s (2009) The Photographer as an example, I argue that heterosemiosis is typically signalled through the use of ellipsis, excess, and/or some form of metadiscourse. Heterosemiosis can be used to draw attention to the problematic nature of all representation, thereby disrupting the narrative power of the author(s)/narrator(s) and opening up the possibility of alternative meanings and story interpretations. I also explain why I prefer the new term heterosemiosis to the commonly used notion of “hybridity.”

Keywords: graphic narrative; heteroglossia; heterosemiosis; hybridity; photo­graphy; narrative power

About the article

Elisabeth El Refaie

Elisabeth El Refaie (b. 1968) is a senior lecturer at Cardiff University 〈RefaieEE@cardiff.ac.uk〉. Her research interest is in new literacies and visual/multimodal forms of metaphor, narrative, and humor, with a special focus on political cartoons and graphic novels. Her publications include “Visual modality versus authenticity: The example of autobiographical comics” (2010); “Subjective time in David B's graphic memoir Epileptic” (2010); “The pragmatics of humor reception: Young people's responses to a newspaper cartoon” (2011); and “Of men, mice, and monsters: Body images in David Small's Stitches: A Memoir” (2012).

Published Online: 2013-08-16

Published in Print: 2014-10-01

Citation Information: Semiotica, ISSN (Online) 1613-3692, ISSN (Print) 0037-1998, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2013-0094. Export Citation

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