The Arrival’s Reader; A Visual Literary Criticism on The Arrival by Shaun Tan (2016)
  • Valia Rassa | London

  • Valia Rassa, 1 Valia Rassa, 2 Valia Rassa, 3
  • The Arrival’s Reader; A Visual Literary Criticism on The Arrival by Shaun Tan (2016)
  • Valia Rassa | London
  • Intrigued by the fragmented visual sequence, the shape and rhythm of Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, I analysed this type of wordless narrative and conducted multiple readings in order to try to understand the author’s logic and tools. I found myself in a constant dialogue with him and his work. A visual of the whole narrative prevailed in my head, and subsided only when it took the form of a map as concrete image.

    A critical reading of The Arrival, a graphic novel by Shaun Tan, became actualized in the form of companion work or reader. The physical object of this project contains a pamphlet that analyses the structure and visual and narrative composition of the original book. It is accompanied by a theoretical exploration of literary criticism focusing on structuralism and the role of the reader, as well as a self-reflective commentary that summarizes the process towards the development of a critical position in relation to the site. The Arrival’s Reader constitutes a visual version of literary criticism raising questions in terms of what constitutes a critical storytelling. It contemplates the role of the reader as co-creator and the interplay of reader and writer in the joint production of meaning.


    Valia Rassa is an architect, theorist and architectural researcher from Athens, Greece.

    Her work and academic interests are related to critical interpretations of architecture through investigating the relation between history and theory and their imprints in practice.

    She holds an MA degree with Distinction in ‘Architectural History’ from the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL where she explored the various aspects of narrative, historiography and criticism in architecture and art. She has also attended the MSc programme in Philosophy and History of Science at PHS Department of National & Kapodestrian University of Athens where she familiarized herself with a concrete philosophical and historiographical apparatus. An accomplished architect, she holds a Diploma in Architectural Engineering from the School of Architecture at the Democritus University of Thrace, Greece. As an architectural researcher, she has worked for a number of established companies and institutions in London.


    Exploiting the author’s material and tools, the aim of this site-writing project is to explore the potentiality of the critical act not in writing about the object, but in writing as the object.  I conducted close readings of this specific book in order to apprehend it. This engagement allowed me to go as far as to utilize it to the extreme – interfere with its materiality and reconfigure its fragments. Criticism as a process suggests to me an interaction with the artwork that allows a reformation of the criteria of criticism, rearticulating the critic’s position. The Arrival’s Reader manifests the experience of critical reading, as an invested activity, and criticism itself as a form of practice.

    Critical reading, narrative, fragments, migration, diagrams


    Judith Butler (2001). What is Critique? An essay on Foucault’s Virtue,
    Catherine Belsey, Critical Practice (London: Routledge, 2002)
    Janet Wolff, The Social Production of Art (London: Macmillan, 1993)

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