Scenarios of countercultural representation: An analysis of inventory books’ visualities

2019-11-22T09:31:10Z (GMT) by Leah Henrickson
This paper explores the social implications of the page layouts of ‘inventory books’, a series of non-fiction mass-market paperbacks published during the 1960s and 70s that employed eccentric printing strategies characterised primarily by a proliferation of imagery and nonlinear text layout and argumentation. Inventory books all use text and imagery in unique ways, appearing to include visual cultural references with connotative value that would have appealed to readers’ understandings of self and society. Drawing from scholarship from medieval, visual, and literary studies, this paper argues that inventory books’ visualities represented and affirmed the countercultural movements of 1960s/70s America. They did so by accentuating each individual reader’s power for meaning-making, and by (figuratively and literally) turning conventional reader expectations upside-down. Not only do inventory books reflect the nature of their contexts of production, but they also serve to establish and perpetuate contemporary readers’ senses of connection with countercultural identities.