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The Potential for Aesthetic Experience in a Literary App: An analysis of The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore



This analysis of the literary app The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is theoretically grounded in Wolfgang Iser’s theories of aesthetic response and multimodal social semiotics. The first part of the analysis shows how aesthetic meaning comes to the fore in different modes and in the interplay between them. The second part deals with the interactivity of the app and shows how the reader’s interaction with the tablet may influence the wandering viewpoint (Iser, 1984) and let it take different paths, transforming the reader into a real-time participant in the story. The article argues that touch interaction may enrich aesthetic experiences by evoking feelings in the reader, and that interactive tasks can prolong aesthetic experiences. In addition, the performing of interactive tasks may underline certain aspects of the story.
Barnelitterært forskningstidsskrift
The Potential for Aesthetic Experience in a
Literary App
An analysis of The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
Anette Hagen
PhD student, Faculty of Humanities, Sports and Educational Science, University of South-Eastern Norway.
Her PhD project is about aesthetics and multimodality in literary apps.
This analysis of the literary app The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is theoretically grounded in Wolf-
gang Iser’s theories of aesthetic response and multimodal social semiotics. The first part of the analysis shows how
aesthetic meaning comes to the fore in different modes and in the interplay between them. The second part deals
with the interactivity of the app and shows how the reader’s interaction with the tablet may influence the wandering
viewpoint (Iser, 1984) and let it take different paths, transforming the reader into a real-time participant in the story.
The article argues that touch interaction may enrich aesthetic experiences by evoking feelings in the reader, and that
interactive tasks can prolong aesthetic experiences. In addition, the performing of interactive tasks may underline
certain aspects of the story.
aesthetics; Iser; multimodality; interactivity; literary apps; picture book apps; digital literature; touch interaction
The story of Morris Lessmore begins as Mor-
ris sits on his balcony and writes his mem-
oirs. Unexpectedly, a hurricane descends and
destroys ever ything. A woman, referred to as
the «lovely lady», appears with a book, which
leads Morris to a magical library where he
lives among the book shelves until he com-
pletes his memoirs and leaves. A young girl
then enters, seemingly to be the library’s
new resident. The Fantastic Flying Books of
Mr. Morris Lessmore, hereafter referred to as
Morris Lessmore, was published in 2011 as
an animated short film (Joyce & Oldenburg,
2011). The app was released later the same
year. The following year, an augmented real-
ity (AR) app (Moonbot Studios, 2012) was
released along with a picture book (Joyce,
2012). The iPad app, the AR app and the pic-
ture book serve as remediations of the film.
In this article, I investigate the Morris Less-
more app (Joyce, 2011), using a combina-
tion of multimodal social semiotics and Iser’s
theory of aesthetic response. My aim, through
close reading, is to explore how literary apps
can be perceived as aesthetic works. I ask
two main questions: Which aesthetic poten-
tial may arise from the story as a multimo-
dal expression, and which aesthetic potential
may arise from the media-specific features of
the app?
Copyright © 2020 Author(s). This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons CC-BY-NC 4.0
License ( ).
Volume 11, No. 1-2020, p. 1–10
ISSN online: 2000-7493
Morris Lessmore has been the subject of
several analyses (Aguilera, Kachorsky, Gee, &
Serafini, 2016; Carlin, 2016; Engberg, 2014;
Linkis, 2017; Mygind, 2016; Schwebs, 2014).
My attempt is to contribute with the com-
prised perspective of multimodal social se-
miotics and Iser’s theory of aesthetic re-
sponse, thus considering literary form to a
larger extent.
The two abovementioned theories com-
plement each other. Social semiotics is a way
of understanding meaning making in so-
cial and cultural contexts (Halliday, 1978).
Multimodal social semiotics is based on the
different semiotic resources that are avail-
able for interpreting the world and creating
meaning (Kress & van Leeuwen, 2006; van
Leeuwen, 2005). Iser’s focus on aesthetics is
combined with the analytical tools for multi-
modal text presented by multimodal social
semiotics. Iser’s theory of aesthetic response
was directed at printed fiction, and using it
on a multimodal text may be taking it too
far from its origin. However, Iser was open
to the extension of his perspective, for ex-
ample to young readers and different types
of texts (Maagerø & Tønnessen, 2001). Iser’s
theories are suited to the mapping out of aes-
thetic potentials, which has not previously
been done in the same way in the research on
Morris Lessmore.
I refer to Morris Lessmore as a literary app
(aligned with Frederico (2017) and Henkel
(2018)). I identify «literary apps» as apps
that possess literary qualities in the sense that
they are narrative, fictional, and present aes-
thetic expressions through different modes
and the interplay between them. A mode is
«a socially shaped and culturally given re-
source for making meaning» (Kress 2011,
p. 54). When investigating different modes,
I use analytical tools especially developed by
Kress and van Leeuwen (2006) and van Leeu-
wen (2005). In addition, I study multimo-
dal cohesion (van Leeuwen, 2005), drawing
on the complex system of interrelation of
modes that Painter, Martin, and Unsworth
(2013) have mapped out based on picture
books. To understand the potential for
meaning making in touch, I draw on Jewitt
(2018, p. 87), who points out that touch ac-
tually can be considered a mode, as it re-
alises meanings in the three metafunctions
(Halliday, 1978). The ideational metafunc-
tion is concerned with how language is used
to represent content, the interpersonal meta-
function involves how language is used in
interrelation between humans, and the text-
ual metafunction refers to the inner coher-
ence of a text. Both Frederico (2017) and
Zhao and Unsworth (2017) have used ana-
lytical frameworks from multimodal social
semiotics on literary apps, but they employ
the framework with other aims. However,
Zhao and Unsworth look at interactivity in
particular; I will therefore return to their
work in my analysis.
In contrast to multimodal social semiot-
ics, Iser’s theory of aesthetic response does
not provide analytical tools. It rather re-
volves around the reading process and the
meeting between the text and the reader. Iser
does not understand meaning in a text as
something definable or objective, but rather
as a human experience (Iser, 1972). Aesthet-
ics is perception; aesthetic effect a form of
realisation through the senses. The fiction
reader’s understanding occurs through sen-
sory experiences. Gaps in the text occur
when text segments are indirectly connected
to each other and can also break the expected
order in the text (Iser, 1984, p. 302). Inde-
terminacies require the reader to make indi-
vidual decisions on textual meanings. In any
fictional text, such gaps and indeterminacies
are present to a greater or a lesser extent. The
reader must construct the connection be-
tween the text segments and fill the gap with
In this article, the concept of gaps is con-
sidered from a multimodal perspective.
I argue that the complexity of gaps in the
text can even occur on several levels, as there
are gaps not just between segments of ver-
bal language but also between verbal lan-
guage and images, images and sounds, and
interactivity and verbal language—between
all the modes and, at the same time, within
each mode. One might also argue that dif-
ferent modes close potential gaps, for exam-
ple, when images in a written text leave little
to the reader’s imagination. In literary apps,
however, these indeterminacies and gaps are
often used effectively as a device for a poten-
tial aesthetic experience.
A text is organised in structures that in-
vite the reader to read in a certain way. These
structures constitute the implied reader
(Iser, 1974), which calls for a response from
the actual reader. In the case of apps, it also
suggests a direct physical response through
the interactive elements. In addition, I will
argue that in the app, interactivity is inter-
twined with the wandering viewpoints, the
structures in the text that let the reader take
certain viewpoints and stances throughout
the reading (Iser, 2006, p. 65). In the case
of Morris Lessmore, I assert that these view-
points are strongly and directly influenced
by interactivity. Interactivity becomes a
guide for the reader because (as I elaborate in
the analysis) it hands out viewpoints as the
reader becomes a real-time participant in the
Characters and modes in Morris
The protagonist, Morris Lessmore, is present
in all spreads. He is the only human charac-
ter in the story with a name. The phrase «less
is more» connotes minimalism. Morris’s life
is minimalist; it involves only the books, with
no family, romance, or other aspects of a
normal life. Morris is dressed in a way that
leads the reader to place him in a decade
other than the present, perhaps somewhere
between the 1920s and 1960s. He has a walk-
ing stick and wears a grey suit and a «pork
pie» hat. Painter et al. describe such charac-
ter attributions as complementary ideational
meaning systems across images and verbal
language (2013, p. 138). In Morris Lessmore,
colour has a distinct meaning potential and
expresses the characters’ emotions. It is pri-
marily connected to affect, which is often
seen as an aspect of the interpersonal meta-
function (e.g., Kress & van Leeuwen, 2006,
p. 229). When the hurricane descends, the
colours present in the beginning of the story
change and turn darker; when the storm is
over, and everything is destroyed, the world
is in grey. Morris starts to wander through
this grey world until he looks up and finds
the lovely lady, carried by a group of flying
books, who hands him a copy of Humpty
Dumpty. Suddenly, the world is in colour
again – insisting on the importance of books
in people’s lives. The use of the grey colour
after the hurricane is effective because grey
has sad and boring connotations, as opposed
to colourful and happy. Morris himself ac-
quires colour as he enters his new home, the
magical library. The metaphor that connects
colour with the importance of books repeats
itself when Morris lends out books from his
library. The people standing in line are grey,
but when they are handed books, they are
also given colour. When they get hold of
their books, their voices change accordingly,
and they speak like one of the book char-
acters. Van Leeuwen (1999, p. 125 ff.) has
mapped out the dimensions of voice qual-
ity, which have potential for meaning. As one
of the library visitors becomes a pirate, his
voice is dark and rasping, connoting mascu-
linity and a rough life. It is just as much the
vocal quality that brings this meaning forth
as the verbal language spoken. In one image,
when the woman receives a copy of Trea-
sure Island, the sounds of seagulls, the wind
and the sea appear, enhancing the message
that people gain access to different worlds
through literature.
Music works in parallel with the use of col-
our. When everything is scattered, the music
stops. It returns with the lovely lady and
the colours, sounding almost sacral. Sound
time can be unmeasured or measured, ac-
cording to van Leeuwen (1999, p. 7). You can
typically tap your feet to measured sound
time, in contrast to unmeasured, which is
«a particularly apt signifier for ‘eternity’»
(van Leeuwen, 1999, p. 7). The music in
the spread that indicates the coming of the
lovely lady is unmeasured, thus expressing
the sacral, through a harmony of string in-
struments. When the lovely lady shows up,
they are accompanied by a choir singing har-
monies, connoting church music. When the
voiceover states that everything that Mor-
ris knew was scattered, Morris looks some-
what confused, but it is the pictures in the
background and their colours that express
the seriousness of the situation. Houses are
thrown up in the air, they land upside down.
When the hurricane is described, there is
a dissonance between the verbal language
and the calm voiceover. The lack of drama
is conspicuous in both its intonation and
the words expressed: «The winds blew and
blew». This dissonance marks a gap between
the oral verbal language and the visual
modes. The dissonance between the voice-
over and the images is an example of diver-
gent couplings, couplings defined by Painter
et al. as «the repeated co-patterning within
a text of realisations from two or more sys-
tems» (2013, p. 143). The lack of music and
colour expresses Morris’s state of mind. He
has experienced great loss and sadness, but
this is not recognisable in his facial expres-
sion. Thus, representation and absence are
equally significant devices.
The lovely lady is the second human char-
acter presented in the story. She is a classic
beauty in a 1950s or 1960s dress. Books lit-
erally lift her up. They are tied with ribbons.
She holds them in her hand like balloons.
The fact that she flies along with the sacral
music is reminiscent of an angel or a saviour.
She leads Morris towards a new life.
The sentences in the literary app are
mostly short and simple, with a few excep-
tions. At the turning point with the arrival of
the lovely lady, the language acquires a mu-
sical quality, such as «happy bit of happen-
stance», «lovely lady», and «festive squadron
of flying books.» The alliterations under-
line the importance of the musicality and
add to the connection between music and
verbal language. The convergent coupling
contributes to the joyful atmosphere in the
spread: the bright colours, the sacral music,
and the poetic alliteration. The lovely lady
scene forms a parallel to the end scene where
Morris leaves the magical library in a fashion
similar to that of the lovely lady, with bal-
loon-like books lifting him, the same posture
as hers, thus leading the reader to believe that
she was the previous resident of the magical
The life in the library is characterised by
books with human features. They are Mor-
ris’s friends. When he enters the library, they
sound like different actors reciting iconic
quotes from the English literary canon.
These magical books have voices of their
own, whereas Morris, the lovely lady, and the
little girl have none, which emphasises the
importance of books over human characters
in this story.
According to Painter et al. (2013, p. 137),
exaggerated size can realise the meaning po-
tential of force. Some images in Morris Less-
more have elements that are larger than nor-
mal. When Morris resumes writing his
memoirs, he sits on a gigantic open book on
a pile of equally enormous copies, accentuat-
ing the importance of books and the way
that Morris literally lives with them, as if the
books have power over him. The most unre-
alistic image appears when Morris is lost in
books—with the background colour in yel-
low, like the pages of an old book, the letters
passing by him, as if to place him in a world
of fiction. According to van Leeuwen (2005,
p. 61 ff.), colour may express identity. Mor-
ris Lessmore’s identity is connected to the
yellow pages that he flies through. They are
not bright, white, new book pages; they are
an expression of the nostalgia that surrounds
him. This point is underlined through the
accordion music, which is quite different
from the orchestral music that dominates
throughout the app.
This representation of «getting lost in
books» refers to a parallel world within the
reader. It is the inner, perceptible, and crea-
tive experience of fictional literature that Iser
(1974, p. 279) describes. The letters passing
by and the yellowed, old-book page colour
that Morris flies through support the inter-
pretation that he disappears into the read-
ing experience. In other spreads, the writ-
ten verbal language is separated from the
other visual modes with a line. The fram-
ing (van Leeuwen, 2005, p. 9) of the ver-
bal language marks a separation between the
modes. However, in this particular part,
when Morris gets «lost in books,» the line
disappears. The reader’s world and the world
of books merge.
The music is otherwise characterised by
a recurring theme, which constitutes varia-
tions of the old children’s song «Pop! Goes
the Weasel». In the end, when Morris be-
comes young again and leaves the house, the
music changes to ritardando,graduallyslo-
loud. The arrival of the little girl also under-
stockings, like a 1950s or 1960s schoolgirl.
As she enters the magical library, the light
shines on the books and presents her like a
shadow on the doorway pointing towards the
books as a source of enlightenment. The next
gantic building filled with books. The books
again seem to be given more weight than the
human characters. At least they last longer,
as is certainly visualised when Morris later
throws his memoirs back to the building as he
flies away from the little girl. The book lives
on in the library even though Morris does
cating that Morris’s life is over.
The assumption that the lovely lady is the
former proprietor and the little girl is Mor-
ris’s successor as the library caretaker is cer-
tainly a gap-filling activity. It is not explicitly
explained what the little girl does in the li-
brary; in the same way, the reader does not
know whether the lovely lady was an earlier
inhabitant of the library. Morris has mini-
mal contact with the other characters. Even
more striking is that the reader hardly knows
anything about the human characters at all.
There are almost exclusively gaps and in-
determinacies, in Iser’s view, surrounding
the female characters. They make only fleet-
ing appearances in Morris’s life; hardly any
communication exists between them. The
female characters stay undetermined as aes-
thetic figures because they contribute to the
feeling that Morris is alone in the world, dis-
tant from human relations. In this way, they
fill certain functions of the narrative and the
coherence of the text more than they repre-
sent actual characters. They are present to il-
lustrate the cycle of the library, the books,
and the stories that are handed down from
one generation to the next. What is left un-
said about Morris may also be called a gap.
There is very little information about his life,
except the facts that he likes to read, lends
out books, and writes his memoirs. Years
pass in the story, but what transpires dur-
ing most of those years is a mystery. The
books are all-important; other human activ-
ities that do not involve books are not really
worth mentioning.
The lines between the person of Morris
Lessmore and his memoirs are blurry. The
only aspect indicating that Morris has a
family or a past is his memoirs, of which the
reader catches a glimpse at the end of the
story. In the memoirs, there is a drawing of
metonymically representing Morris himself.
In the case of his childhood, the visual modes
have a greater semantic load (Painter et al.,
2013, p. 141 ff.). The book on the swing calls
attention to essential aspects of Morris’s life.
The app opens and ends with his memoirs.
When tapping the red book in the opening
picture of the app, it seems to open a book
with a drawing of Morris Lessmore; however,
it immediately changes into the «real» (ani-
mated) Morris, sitting in the exact same po-
sition on the exact same balcony. The verbal
language states, «His life was a book of his
own writing.» The book that he is writing
or reading in this picture might well be the
book that the reader «opens» when starting
to read the app. In the end, when he leaves the
book of his memoirs in the magical library,
the resemblance is also striking. The book’s
red leather cover has a golden «M» on its
back, and the front is the stylistic icon of the
app. Tapping one of the pictures in the book
leads the reader to a picture of Morris writing
his memoirs. What do these blurry lines be-
books. Interpersonal relationships are absent,
close relationships with books are present.
A common aspect of the characters in the
book is that they all appear in a nostalgic
setting. Their clothes and accessories are at-
tributions (Painter et al., 2013, p. 64), with
symbolic significance. Morris Lessmore’s
character attributions express bygone times.
In addition, the voiceover sounds like a radio
host from the 1940s or 1950s, underlining
the ring of nostalgia (Linkis (2017) elabo-
rates on the aspect of nostalgia). The voice
quality expresses levels of social distance
(van Leeuwen 1999, p. 24). This is a full
voice, not too personal, which contributes to
the radio host connotation. It is hard to date
the story, which illustrates the timelessness
of fiction. Judging from the clothes worn by
the human characters and the appearance of
the books, the story might be set in the 1950s
or 1960s. However, several articles draw a
line between the hurricane in the app and
Hurricane Katrina, which struck the United
States in 2005 (Carlin, 2016; Schwebs, 2014).
This section has dealt with the story as a
multimodal text, and serves to illustrate how
the different modes and the modes in com-
bination bring forth possible aesthetic ex-
periences. By pointing out and interpreting
some of the gaps in the story, it shows how
aesthetic potential can be realised in a multi-
modal story. As the analysis is based on the
characters, parts of it are relevant for several
of the versions of the story, such as the film
or the book. The next part, however, concen-
trates on the media-specific feature of the lit-
erary app: the interactive element.
Zhao and Unsworth (2017, p. 94) distinguish
between two types of touch design. One type
of interactive element is the «hotspot», which
menu, changing the language, recording, etc.
Such features are called extra-text interactiv-
ity. Aligned with Zhao and Unsworth, I am
more interested in the intra-text interactiv-
ity, which calls for an interpretation within
the narrative context. As the app instructs
reader needs to take a stance. In the follow-
ing, I elaborate on how the viewpoints are
wandering and how this affects the reading
experience. The interactive features in some
sections let the reader do the actions of Mor-
ris. The reader can take Morris’s perspective
For instance, as the reader gets to pour ce-
real and milk into bowls, which is what Mor-
ris does in the morning to feed his books, he
or she playfully assumes Morris’s perspective.
As he sits in his study, mending the books,
the reader can suddenly do so him- or herself,
participating in the activity. In this way, the
app creates an empathetic viewpoint towards
the books; the reader takes care of them the
way Morris does. Jewitt (2018, p. 87) elabo-
rates on how touch can meet the interper-
sonal metafunction. In this case, the touch of
the screen meets this function by evoking em-
The reader also enters into Morris’s per-
spective as he or she lends books to the peo-
ple visiting the library. As the reader partici-
pates in the scene, the impression of what
happens can appear stronger. The subjective
experience of reading books is emphasised
as the separate characters react differently to
the same books.
Apart from this, the reader sometimes has
the opportunity to take the wind’s perspec-
tive through the wandering viewpoint. For
instance, in the beginning of the app, the
reader starts the wind blowing, which leads
to the hurricane. The reader also twirls Mor-
ris’s house, playing the role of the hurricane
and thereby taking the position of the ini-
tiator of misery. This is a sensory experience
that may cause a reaction of empathy or even
a little guilt. Through the lens of social se-
miotics, touch in this case creates meaning
through the interpersonal metafunction (Je-
witt, 2018, p. 87). However, when the hur-
ricane is over, the reader can try to write
in Morris’s book. Nonetheless, the words of
the book disappear, indicating the emptiness
of Morris’s inner life after the devastation.
The frustration with the disappearing words
is experienced on a different level when the
words that the reader has written also van-
ish. Such frustration is quite tangible and is
perceived without a verbal description. The
realisation is sensed through an aesthetic ex-
perience of frustration. The representation is
visual and tangible, but none of this would
be as effective and experienced as signifi-
cantly different without the disappearance of
what the reader might have created.
A few times, the reader performs the task
of underlining some of the gaps in the story.
For example, when Morris resumes writing
his book, the reader decides whether it is
night or day (the transition is gradual) by
swiping a finger over the screen, which leads
to a change in the surroundings. The reader
shifts the time for Morris and, in this way,
feels how day and night pass for him when
he is caught up in writing. The reader senses
that time is passing without knowing the full
extent of what is happening. Similarly, as
the verbal language states, «The days passed.
So did the months. And then years.» The
reader’s interaction with the medium this
way becomes a performance of the verbal
language. Morris sits outside under a tree
with a book, and the reader can switch the
seasons with a finger for as long as he or she
wants, from spring to summer to autumn to
winter, and so on. Again, the reader has the
possibility to stay for longer, and to linger in
this aesthetic experience.
As Morris walks around in the colour-
less world, the reader can touch the sky to
make it blue. The colour disappears as the
reader moves a finger; it is volatile. Sim-
ultaneously, musical sounds are heard. Al-
though, as Schwebs (2014) points out, this
breaks with the metaphor of the colourless
world, it can also be perceived as an effec-
tive foreshadowing of the arrival of the lovely
lady. As Morris looks up in the next spread,
he sees her. This puts the reader in yet an-
other position and with another viewpoint,
almost magical, with God-like omnipotence;
he or she unveils something that Morris does
not know. Additionally, it underlines the sa-
cral in the lovely lady character. The music
and the tilt towards the sky form an angelic
image of her.
When Morris arrives in the magical li-
brary, the reader can steer the books into the
house. As the reader does so, parts of «Pop!
Goes the Weasel» are played. This musical
theme is part of what makes the app a coher-
ent whole, as it is a recurring motif through-
out, though the key changes from major to
minor and the tempo shifts. This contrib-
utes to different expressions of feeling: sad
or happy, for instance, connoted by the keys.
Upon Morris’s arrival at the library, as well as
in a piano-playing scene, the reader can start
the music and participate in its binding to-
gether of the aesthetic work.
At one point, the interactivity encourages
the reader to take the book’s perspective,
learning how to play the piano. It seems to
be the book playing for Morris; suddenly, the
reader has the opportunity to play the piano
him- or herself. Both this exercise and the ce-
real pouring are quite time consuming, and
perhaps they do not even support the narra-
tive, as Sargeant (2015, p. 462) claims. In my
opinion, they still have an aesthetic function
in affecting the wandering viewpoint; in the
case of the piano playing, this also empha-
sises the musical theme in a profound way.
The interactivity in many of the situations
(e.g., piano playing, getting lost in books, ce-
real pouring) introduces a «here and now»
perspective that is not possible in a printed
medium; these activities occur in the reader’s
real time.
The reader initiates the books’ talking.
When the books are tapped, on several occa-
sions they speak out or perform other
human-like activities. In this case, the reader
performs the task of initiating what makes
the books more human-like. On one level,
it makes the life of the books more vigor-
ous for the reader, creating aesthetic mean-
ing. Initiating the event emphasises it. Thus,
the books’ human-like features do not be-
come mere ornaments of the story; they be-
come more crucial to the narrative. It also
has symbolic, if not realistic, value that the
books need the action of a human to come
alive. As Iser argues, the literary text does not
come alive until it is read (Iser, 1981, p. 103).
A reading of the Morris Lessmore app entails
participating in the story. The interactivity
causes the reader to dwell on certain spreads,
augmenting the experience, possibly giving
the reader the chance to notice further de-
tails in the music and the visual modes more
carefully than he or she would if they had
just turned a page. This strongly applies to
the episode where Morris gets lost in books.
The effect of «getting lost in books» seems
more intense as the reader has to be present
in the story and activate the elements on the
screen, which in this case, gives the reader
the feeling of actually being in the situa-
tion. When the reader tilts the tablet, Mor-
ris leans in different directions. The reader’s
feeling in doing so constitutes a different way
of realising aesthetic meaning than what is
possible in, for example, the paper book me-
Towards the end of the app, as Morris
leaves the library, the reader has to tap on
him to let him throw his book down to the li-
brary. It is as if he hesitates to do so—to leave
behind the library and his life. The fact that
the reader has to start Morris’s movement of
throwing the book evokes empathy. A feeling
arises through the action, and thus the inter-
activity is part of the aesthetic experience.
Concluding remarks
This article’s aim has been to contribute to
a broader understanding of the aesthetic as-
pects of literary apps, specifically in look-
ing at the media-specific interactive features
of the app and the aesthetic potential of the
multimodal story. The analysis has thereby
shed additional light on the different aspects
of Morris Lessmore compared to previous re-
search (e.g., Linkis, 2017; Schwebs, 2014).
There will always be differences in how
readers come to aesthetic experiences. Inter-
active tasks invite the readers to participate
in certain activities without always forcing
the reader to do so. The readers might also
do the tasks just to get to the next page, or
they might find them so amusing that they,
for example, play «Pop! Goes the Weasel» for
so long that they forget the narrative con-
text. My aim, however, has been to map out
some of the potentials for aesthetic experi-
ence through a rich multimodal text with
interactive features. This does not suggest
that every reader experiences the app in the
same way. The aesthetic potential will also be
diverse in different literary apps, and analy-
ses of other apps will most probably unveil
other ways of realising aesthetic potential.
Literary apps are rich multimodal texts
that are perceived through several senses.
However, the representations through visual
modes, touch, music, or other sounds re-
quire a redistribution through the work of
imagination to create an aesthetic experi-
ence within the reader. Through the analysis
of how the characters come forward in the
multimodal text, I have shown how, for in-
stance, voice quality can influence aesthetic
meaning just as much as the written ver-
bal language. I have also shown how, in a
rich multimodal text, the interplay between
the modes may form the aesthetic experi-
ence. The key to the potential for aesthetic
experience in a literary app lies in the inter-
play between the modes more than in one
mode after the other, and the combination of
modes bring forward a unique potential for
interpretation. There are gaps to fill, but they
may differ from the ones we find in a paper
book. Traditional literary devices come for-
ward in the app, but through a combination
of modes. In Morris Lessmore, the app’s many
different modes offer a unique opportunity
to bring out and lend lustre to the traditional
book, insisting on its importance. A meta
comment on this is made through one of the
spreads in the app that presents a piano with
book legs. This illustrates how the modes
and the media support each other by liter-
ally doing so, creating an aesthetic unity that
none of the modes can hold up alone. This
acknowledgement is key to creating interest-
ing multimodal aesthetic experiences.
The fact that the whole of a multimo-
dal text is different from the parts, how-
ever, is well known. The narrative analysis of
the characters in Morris Lessmore forms the
basis for the analysis of the interactivity in
the app, which brings new insight by show-
ing how interactivity may influence aesthetic
experience. It does so by letting the wan-
dering viewpoint take different paths, letting
the reader be a real-time participant in the
story. Touch interaction may also enrich aes-
thetic experiences by evoking feelings, such
as empathy or guilt. Interactive tasks can
even prolong aesthetic experiences by letting
the reader perform different activities for as
long as he or she wants. Performing interac-
tive tasks underlines and emphasises certain
aspects of the story. Lastly, interactivity may
let the reader take part in the cohesion of the
app to create an aesthetic whole. The interac-
tive tasks are not mere ornaments or distrac-
tions, but influence the aesthetic experiences
of reading a literary app.
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... Literary apps gained popularity as a textual medium around 2010 -the time that tablets became ubiquitous, presenting a relatively new field of research with theoretical and analytical perspectives yet to be explored and developed, particularly in terms of rhythm. Literary apps, as digitallymediated, multimodal texts that have different textual features from printed picture books, present new literary and aesthetic experiences (Hagen, 2020); hence, there is a growing body of research in literary genres that are supported by mobile digital applications (Frederico, 2017;Zhao and Unsworth, 2017). Literary apps may be seen as a subcategory of digital literature, defined as lit-erature produced by authors who utilize digital technology in the production, distribution, and reception processes (Rustad, 2012: 11). ...
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This article addresses how rhythm may function in literary apps. The article has two aims: increasing the knowledge of how literary apps work as texts, by exploring their aspects of rhythm, and developing the understanding of the theoretical term of rhythm. The authors propose a rhythmanalysis in which two different types of rhythm – reading rhythm and narrative rhythm – are taken into account. The two types of rhythm may both occur at different structural levels in the text. This approach is applied to the analysis of rhythm in the popular literary app, Florence (Wong et al., 2018, Florence Tablet application software), drawing on concepts from multimodal social semiotics (Van Leeuwen, Introducing Social Semiotics, 2005), although leaning towards a more reception-oriented approach than the traditional text-oriented analysis in social semiotics. Literary apps are defined in this context as multimodal fictional narratives that can lead to an aesthetic experience for the reader (Iser, 1984, Der Akt des Lesens); however, non-narrative apps, such as poetry, may also be defined as literary apps. These apps may be read on a tablet or a smartphone. This article elucidates some of the many facets of rhythm related to the multimodal design of a literary app, which invites different forms of interactivity than the linear reading and pageturning of print-based picture books. The findings of the analysis show how rhythm not only contributes to the multimodal cohesional aspects of literary apps, but is fundamental to the meaning potential of the literary app.
Interactions between image, written text and sound are especially prominent in children’s literature, just as children’s literature tends to be embodied in a variety of media. Accordingly, it is highly relevant to use theories of intermediality that focus on relations and interactions between different forms of expression and media, and theories focusing on the relations and interactions between texts and readers that are prompted by these conditions. However, intermedial theories have been only sparingly applied in research into children’s literature and even less as an analysis strategy. Still, in the age of digitalization the intermedial understanding and analysis of children’s literature deserve greater attention because digital literary texts for children often employ a combination of writing, pictures and sound involving film, animation and interactivity. This article aims to present an understanding of children’s literature from the perspective of intermedial theory and method, and to offer a model for intermedial analysis. Drawing on Elleström’s theory of intermediality combined with concepts relating to literary materiality and videogames, the model focuses on four intermedial and cross-aesthetic analytical levels: material, sensory, spatio-temporal and semiotic. The model will be exemplified and employed in an intermedial analysis of the born digital story NORD by Hübbe, Meisler and Olsen (2018). NORD is a coming-of-age story in the fantasy genre, as well as being a contribution to the eco-critical tradition. This will be exemplified in the article, although the main focus will be on the way NORD is positioned intermedially in-between forms of expression, content and media.
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Rosenblatt’s (1994) concept aesthetic reading is applied to explore how the transaction between app and reader is expressed in the readers’ engagement and immersion. We have made a strategic selection of examples froman empirical material of 24 videotaped reading events in kindergartens, focusing on incidents where the children individually and as a group show a great engagement. The analysis aims at exploring what creates this engagement among children in the digital reading event, and how the experience is taken care of in interaction with the kindergarten teacher who designed the reading event. In the analysis the characteristics of aesthetic reading are elaborated through Marie-Laure Ryan’s (2015, 2019) concepts of immersion and storyworld, developed with special regard for digital literary reading, and her discussion of the interplay between immersion, narrativity and interactivity. Immersion may appear in response to different dimensions of the story: the setting (spatial immersion), the story that unfolds in time (temporal immersion), or the characters (emotional immersion). The analysis shows that different stories carry different potentials for immersion: When the plot is causally driven, the soundtrack emphasizes suspense in anticipation of what appears in the next picture. A more lingering plot, on the other hand, lends more space to explore the storyworld e.g. by tapping hotspots, without disturbing the unfolding story. Digital reading may add multimodal meaning resources and interactivity to the aesthetic experience, at best in interplay with the unique traits of the story.
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"Il y a eu une telle fertilisation réciproque des idées de la sémiotique de Saussure, centrée sur le code et le langage, et de la sémiotique inspirée par Peirce, qui est pragmatique et interprétative, qu'il est difficile de trouver aujourd'hui un sémioticien qui ne croit pas à la nécessité de développer une socio-sémiotique, interprétative et pragmatique ». S'il fallait donner l'illustration de cette conception ouverte des avancées en sémiotique, l'ouvrage de Gunther Kress et Théo van Leeuwen : Reading Images - The Grammar of Visual Design, en serait la meilleure preuve.
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“Children’s Literature Erupting. Transmedia Movements in Contemporary Children’s Literature”The rise of large transmedia storytelling systems such as Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones suggests that transmedia storytelling is the most important narrative mode of our time. However, transmedia storytelling also exists and works on other scales. This article focuses on a growing transmedia storytelling practice that has remained underexposed as such in the field of research due to the dominance of the large transmedia franchises. This practice is indeed related to transmedia storytelling but it also challenges existing theories. With a number of different media publications all named The Numberlys produced by Moonbot Stu- dios as its point of departure, the article explores the underlying structures, relations and mechanisms in and between these publications in order to elucidate aesthetic consequences of the transmedial ‘eruptions’ in contemporary media entertainment products for children.
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Children’s literature is increasingly being realized in app format, with its possibilities of combining text, music, sound effects, stills, animated movies, verbal language and, not least, interactivity. This digital and medial literary development calls for new analytical approaches to explore its manifestation in children’s literature – its materiality in particular. Exploring and analyzing the app Sofus and the Moonmachine by Burup et al. (Sofus and the Moonmaschine, The Outer Zone, Copenhagen, 2016), which integrates various art forms and sensory appeals and prompts different reading paths and types of interaction, this article suggests how a materiality approach can shed light on the formation of meaning in literary apps for children. The analysis is founded on three aspects of the materiality of literary apps: its manifestation as text, its embedment in a medium, and its manner of being and interacting with the world. The scholar of literature and technology, N. Katherine Hayles, has particularly emphasized the materiality of literature, and her theoretical framework will be combined with cultural theory on materiality and theory in children’s literature in order to examine how the concept of materiality may be used in approaching an understanding of literary apps for children and cross-media reading.
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This essay answers the question of the meaning of life. It does so from the perspective of pastoral theology by turning to a children’s story: William Joyce’s award-winning The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. After the introduction, this essay has two basic parts. The first part describes the context of The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, summarizes its narrative, and explores its reception. The second part articulates three ways in which The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is suggestive for pastoral theology with regard to questions of meaning—existentially, psychologically, and morally. In doing so, the essay builds on Donald Capps’s insights in The Poet’s Gift, assumes the perspective of Victor Frankl as articulated in Man’s Search for Meaning, and suggests that the reframing technique of dereflection is especially useful with regard to the preservation of meaning. This essay also includes a considerable amount of primary source material from an interview with William Joyce conducted by the author.
This chapter sets out a multimodal social semiotic agenda for understanding touch communication practices. It outlines how multimodal social semiotics can provide a framework that can be used to explore the materiality of touch, how these are shaped into touch based semiotic resources and modes, and how their take up by people to communicate is culturally and socially patterned and regulated. The chapter draws inspiration from Theo van Leeuwen's early interdisciplinary explorations of emergent modes (i.e. sound and colour) by asking how a multimodal social semiotic approach might be complemented by insights on touch from psychophysics, anthropology of the senses, and sociology. It articulates the relationships across these increasingly blurred disciplinary boundaries towards mapping the landscape of touch as 'semiotic resource' and 'mode(s)'. The chapter identifies and examines touch-based modes: their semiotic principles and meaning potentials. It characterises people's use of touch for communication with attention to the cultural and social norms and power relations that shape their use.
This article explores the notion of polyaesthetics as a contemporary media condition that relates to questions of production, reception and analysis of media objects. Primarily, the paper is concerned with understanding the aesthetics of digital media works that remediate existing genres of creative practice and ultimately move towards creating new digital media forms that are conditional and provisional.The three digital works that the article analyses – The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, Upgrade Soul and The Vampyre of Time and Memory – exemplify contemporary strategies and changing patterns of creation, distribution and reception evidenced in how we create, read, listen to, engage with, play and understand contemporary digital works.
Research on the nature and impact of book apps or e-reading in general is still limited and informed by diverse assumptions about the nature of these new “texts,” the varied forms of engagement and meaning-making associated with them, and their implications for understanding literacy and learning in the digital age. The purpose of this article is to explore the affordances and constraints inherent in an examination of children’s picturebook apps through multiple analytical frameworks—in this case drawn from social semiotics, film analysis, and game studies. After outlining these frameworks in the context of our evolving new media landscape, we move on to more detailed analyses of the children’s picturebook app The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore from each of these perspectives. We conclude with lessons that might be learned from juxtaposing these analytical frameworks and suggest implications for literacy education, research, and practice.
In a relatively short time, apps have become highly popular as a platform for children’s fiction. The majority of media attention to these apps has focused on their technical features. There has been less focus on their aesthetic aspects, such as how interactive elements, visual-verbal arrangements and narration are interrelated. This article investigates how a reading of a «picturebook app» may differ from readings of the narratives found in printed books and movies. The discussion will be anchored in an analysis of the iPad app The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore . This app, which is an adaptation of an animated short film, relates the story of a book lover who becomes the proprietor of a magical library. Keywords: children apps; adaptation; remediation; aesthetic; affordance; interactive fiction; iPad; augmented reality (Published: 12 March 2014) Citation: Nordic Journal of ChildLit Aesthetics, Vol. 5 , 2014