Visual Discourse of Comics in English Language Teaching

Razvan Radan


This article discusses the findings of theoretical research on visual communication and comic book discourse that aimed to identify viable approaches for English language teaching based on comics. Comics are one type of creative text that can have the same complexities or intricacies as for example a novel. One problem identified in SLT is that while creative texts are used in teaching, the focus is on the written word - novels, short stories, poems. Few if any teaching approaches promote the use of comics in the classroom environment. If comics are suggested as teaching materials, the recommended approach is very similar to that used when dealing with non-visual texts. As a consequence, students tend to ignore the images and thus miss out a possible avenue that can help with meaning making. There is then a need for a better understanding of how visual communication works in comics and how meaning is created from the interplay of image and text. This article examines how visual communication happens, what are the elements of a visual narrative and then continues to identify the elements that form the comic book discourse. Using a framework based on the theories that identify and explain the workings of the structural elements of a panel as well as the social function of visual communication this researcher discusses how comics communicate to their readers. The findings suggest that in order to develop a methodology and to successfully use comics in teaching, the educator needs to rethink the current practices when dealing with comics or any other "image + word" texts. Image and text cannot be separated and must be treated as a whole; only then will comics reveal their full potential as viable, creative teaching materials.


visual learning, multimodality, ELT, SLA

Full Text:



Brozo, W. & Flynt, S.E. (2010) Visual literacy and the content classroom: a question of now, not when. The Reading Teacher 63 (6): 526-528

Cary, S. (2004). Going graphic: comics at work in the multilingual classroom. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann

Cohn, N. (2013a). The visual language of comics: Introduction to the structure and cognition of sequential images. London: Bloomsbury.

Cohn, N. (2013b). Visual narrative structure. Cognitive Science 34: 413-452.

Cohn, N., Jackendoff, R., Holcomb, P. J., and Kuperberg, G. R. (2014). The grammar of visual narrative: Neural evidence for constituent structure in sequential image comprehension. Neuropsychologia 64: 63-70.

Eisner, W. (1985) Comics and sequential art. Big Bear City, CA: Poorhouse.

Eisner, W. (2008) Graphic storytelling and visual narrative. New York: W.W. Norton

Goldstein, B. (2016). Visual literacy in English language teaching: Part of the Cambridge Papers in ELT series. [pdf] Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Halliday, M.A.K., Matthiessen, C.M.I.M. (2014) Halliday’s introduction to functional grammar. Fourth Edition. London: Routledge

Kress, G., van Leeuwen, T. (2006) Reading images: the grammar of visual design. Second Edition. London: Routledge

McCloud, S. (1994) Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. New York: Harper Perennial.

Skorge, P (2008) Visual representations as effective instructional media in foreign language teaching. Poznan Studies in Contemporary Linguistics 44 (2): 265-281



  • There are currently no refbacks.

JELTL (Journal of English Language Teaching and Linguistics); Web:; Email:

Creative Commons License
JELTL by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Indexed and Abstracted BY: