Disturbing the text: typographic devices in literary fiction | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 1, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2042-8022
  • E-ISSN: 2042-8030


In conventional literary fiction, effective typography recedes. Grey rectangles of justified type are so familiar they are essentially invisible on the page, allowing the reader to slip into the world of the book unimpeded by the activity of reading. This article explores ways some novelists use unconventional typography as a literary device, visually interrupting the reader to make a specific point. A range of typographic devices are shown to effect pace, point of view, tone of voice, characterization and to imply ephemeral documents within novels. These typographic devices are illustrated with examples from a collection of novels including Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves (2000), Salvador Plascencia’s The People of Paper (2005), Joanthan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2005) and Steven Hall’s The Raw Shark Texts (2007). The article aims to illustrate ways authors have experimented with typographic devices to literary effect, and to encourage more experimentation with word-image interplay as a storytelling device.


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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): ephemera; literature; narrative; novels; paratext; readers; reading; typography
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