A storyteller wants the audience to imagine a character, scene or situation in their mind's eye. The clearer the mental image is, the greater the connection and engagement with the story. A vague picture with little recognition is unlikely to hold a reader's interest. Detailed descriptions can be used to create a precise image, or a writer can achieve a similar outcome by allowing the audience to paint a picture that empowers a subjective frame of reference. In today's world, storytellers tend to rely more heavily on ‘high- resolution’ visual aids than on telling silhouettes. We have witnessed images of natural wonders, cultures, inventions and disasters and are able to envision lives and situations that are far removed from our own. We are bombarded with a constant stream of graphics, photographs and moving pictures. Some of these images are designed to build relationships, while others are destined to provoke a reaction.
Storytelling has always been about visualization and vicarious experiences. The level of detail needed to communicate has changed as culture and technology have developed. Visuality in the Novels of Austen, Radcliffe, Edgeworth and Burney is the first book to analyse how four of the most prolific late eighteenthand early nineteenth- century women novelists were able to articulate certain thoughts and conjure particular images through self- conscious narration. Despite their individual perspectives and distinct contributions to the evolution of the novel, Jane Austen, Ann Radcliffe, Maria Edgeworth and Frances Burney all relied on visuality – a continuum linking the visual and the verbal in a way that creates a shortcut between communication and understanding. As this book explores, their use of visuality served as a form of strategic communications, making their novels relevant to disciplines ranging from literature and diplomacy to art history and film.
Austen confined her writing to characters, situations and surroundings that her audience would be familiar with. She was a minimalist when it came to descriptive details, granting her readers the artistic license to paint their own mental images. We are merely given the following verbal portrait of Mr Darcy: ‘Mr. Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien’.