I've coined the word 'iconature' on the basis of 'literature' and I propose it as an umbrella term to encompass all the works of art where at least two images, or at least one image and one word, stand in deliberate juxtaposition. I believe it is superior to existing terms such as 'narrative art' or 'sequential art' in that it does not place any artificial restrictions on what its instances can comprise. The term 'narrative art', for instance, excludes any deliberate juxtapositions of two or more images that do not narrate a story but still form a meaningful ensemble (Fig. 1).
The term 'sequential art', on the other hand, excludes all the instances where:
A) only one image exists, but it is placed in deliberate juxtaposition with at least one word, which profoundly affects its meaning (Figures 2 and 3);
(Ernie Bushmiller's 'Nancy')
or B) it would be difficult to say that images stand in a sequence, but their juxtaposition is still meaningful (Figures 1 and 5).
(Needless to say, I am using this image only as an example to support my thesis. I do not wish to express any political views on the conflicts in the Middle East.)
Just as the term 'literature' does not include any artificial prescriptions as to what its instances can consist of, or as to what they do and how, but is open enough to include everything from one-word poems to extended sequences of novels such as the roman-fleuve, and is not even limited to written works alone, but can also include oral literature, so 'iconature' has the similar advantage of being a sufficiently flexible term. It hardly needs to be argued that the current lack of such a term has caused a profusion of interpretative, methodological, and theoretical problems, especially in the so-called 'comics studies'. I hope to show in a series of posts that most (if not all) of these problems could be easily circumvented, and fruitful new courses for exploration opened, by the simple adoption of such a term.
My ultimate goal is not to make terms such as 'comics studies' obsolete. It is rather to suggest that 'iconature' is the proper hyperonym to the hyponyms such as 'comics', 'storyboards' sequential sculpture', 'sequential painting' etc., just as 'literature' is the correct hyperonym to hyponyms such as 'novel', 'short story' and 'poem'.