Focus | Theories of the Phototext

Geoff Dyer’s Ways of Seeing


In this paper I will try to show how photography informs Geoff Dyer’s novel and essay writing, not only by affecting its contents, but mainly by playing a part in the structures and modes of his works, both on the narrative and non-narrative level. Taking the lead from Dyer’s early essay on John Berger, Ways of Telling (1986), I will try to show in what way Berger’s photographic theory shapes Dyer’s most famous novels, The Colour of Memory (1989) and But Beautiful (1991). I will then first follow the steps Dyer trod in perfecting his knowledge of photography up to his producing a substantial and innovative work on the history and criticism of American photography, The Ongoing Moment (2005); then show how, in one of his most recent works, White Sands (2016), he managed to create a form of essay in which his foremost passions, photography and jazz, become an essential feature of the text, just like he did in But Beautiful, yet, this time, without relying on themes and contents.

Parole chiave

Geoff Dyer, Photography, Fiction, Essay Writing, Jazz.

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