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Flows of Reading

Engaging with Texts

Erin Reilly, Ritesh Mehta, Henry Jenkins, Authors

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4.6 Moments Left Behind: Gaps, Gutters, and Silences in 'Flotsam'

We introduced gaps and silences when we discussed timelines. It is worth revisiting the idea of timelines and the structural elements of a text that invite gaps to be filled. For example, the connotation of the word, flotsam, suggests pieces and tokens, some of which we value, some of which are left to the tides of time.

Comic book artist and theorist, Scott McCloud, identifies the white space separating two panels as the "gutter" and stresses the importance of that space in shaping our emotional experience of the work. The reader necessarily finds a relationship between two images put side by side; the white space is the reader's cue to fill in the gaps.

Let's do an activity that challenges us to experience gutters (and other gaps) in a text.


1. Look closely at the gutters in the panel
of the image from Flotsam we introduced earlier.

Do you sense an emotion as you slowly move your eye from one panel to the other? See if you can isolate any emotions or feelings, or if other images flash before your eyes. Write these emotions down.

This exercise might take time. You may not immediately experience anything. Take a breath. Come back to the image after a couple of minutes, or after you have completed a chore.

2. Now consider the image below.

If you could  break up or reconfigure this image into various panels separated by gutters, how would you do so?  More importantly, what would be the reasoning behind your choices? For example, think whether you want the viewer/reader to experience a certain emotion by your gutter, or whether you want the viewer reader to fill in a gap.

Write a short paragraph outlining your ideas or click on the below PLAY! Challenge to participate in Flows of Reading Community of Practice.

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