Cohesion and coherence

Cohesion and coherence are what prevents something simply becoming a random jumble of words, or of words and images.  They are the ways that the numerous elements of a text interconnect to make it intelligible and satisfying.  The word ‘text’ itself (as in textiles) conveys the idea of a weaving together to create a whole.   For different genres (for example a history essay compared to a graphic novel compared to a set of DIY instructions) these ways of interconnecting will vary.   A simple example might be the use of a pronoun such as ‘it’ to refer backwards to a referent in a text (most usually) or to point forwards to a referent as yet to be introduced to the audience.  The latter use of a pronoun is more likely to be found in genres of entertainment such as plays or poems.  Cohesion can be thought of as the glue that specifically links one element to another to make it intelligible. Like the example of the pronoun above, it deals with smaller parts of the text and is responsible for local connectedness.  Coherence, alternatively, can be thought of as working at a deeper level, for example through themes and ideas and can encompass a text throughout its entire length, not just locally.

Either way, both set up patterns and expectations that help to define the identity of a genre or a specific text.  Sometimes creators of a text will set up their own particular codes.  For example, Kev established a couple of conventions specific to ‘Casanova in Paris’.  He uses white on black lettering within dialogue balloons to indicate second person voice.  He also switches to colour to indicate events that are either happening outside time (for example, dream sequences) or outside of the time-frame of our plot (for example, ‘The Prologue’ and our depiction of the seven years’ war).  Another pattern we set up which helps to give the text its own identity includes beginning each chapter with a chapter number, heading, quotation from an historical figure or text, a portrait and a monologue.  There are also the ongoing consistencies of plot, Kev’s drawing style, the relationships between the characters and their individual voices.  Inevitably, given that it is historical fiction, clothing, architecture and modes of travel are heavily involved in shaping the identity of the novel.  Then there are the iterated ideas and themes within ‘Casanova in Paris’, such as religion, gender, sexuality, family, being an outsider, social status, power and so forth.  To some extent, however, and more so than features of cohesion, these elements of coherence rely upon the sensitivity of members of the audience to be able to recognise them.  The subtler the allusions, parallels, and ideas, the greater the danger they will remain invisible.  On the other hand, they are likely to enrich the text further and afford more satisfaction to those who are sensitive to them.

‘The Prologue’, and chapters 1 to 7 of ‘Casanova in Paris: The Shadows of the King’ are now freely available here.

6 long form articles on Casanova’s life and times are freely available here.

#behindthescenes #storytelling #graphicnovel #cohesion #coherence