Writing Without Words: Visualizing Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road”
Literature as a canvas, a book as a living organism, and rhythm as a texture.
By Maria Popova
London-based artist Stefanie Posavec has a gift for words. Or for the lack thereof, to be exact. Her Writing Without Words project explores the literary world when its most important building blocks are removed by visually representing text.
The project uses Jack Kerouac’s iconic On The Road and takes a number of different approaches in dissecting its content visually. One examines “literary organism patterns” through simple tree structures that divide each of the book’s three parts into chapters, which divide into paragraphs, paragraphs into sentences, and sentences into words. All these elements are color-coded based on key themes in the book.
Another visualization technique looks at sentences, representing them by lines organized according to the number of words per sentence and color-coded to the theme.
Finally, there’s an exploration of rhythm textures — visualizing sentences by using their punctuation to create circular diagrams. Each line represents a word, with the thickness of the lines and the space between them representing the cadence, pauses and emphasis created by the punctuation.
So if you fancy yourself a fan of the written word and an advocate of visual literacy, now’s your chance to nail both — to your wall, that is: The work is available as on-demand posters here.
More about Stefanie and her work from NOTCOT.
Published May 7, 2009